Sydney Harbour tourists EDITED

Tourism Research Australia (TRA), Australia’s leading provider of tourism intelligence located within Austrade, is celebrating the golden jubilee of delivering tourism data this year.

A nostalgic look back over previous decades gives an insight into the changing composition of Australia’s international visitors.

TRA Assistant General Manager, Janice Wykes, said a lot has changed in the last 50 years. Tourism now directly contributes AUD$47.5 billion to Australia’s GDP, employs 580,800 Australians and accounts for 9.6 per cent of Australia’s exports.

“Australia’s tourism industry is growing three times as fast as the rest of the economy, driven by record levels of international visitors choosing Australia as their holiday destination,” said Wykes.

“This is highlighted by figures released last week which showed Australia had welcomed more than eight million international visitors for the first time ever – an increase of 11 per cent over the previous year.”

This milestone was achieved just 18 months after visitor numbers exceeded seven million annually. This is substantially faster than the ascent from six to seven million visitors, which took almost two and a half years.

“Much of the growth in international visitors has come from emerging countries in Asia such as China and the recovery of the Japanese and South Korean markets, driven by increasing household income and a growing middle class,” Wykes said.

This is in contrast to past decades where the majority of tourist arrivals came from traditional markets such as the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand, Japan, Canada and Europe.

In 1966, visitor arrivals consisted of: New Zealand and Oceania (45 per cent); the United Kingdom and Europe (22 per cent); United States and Canada (17 per cent); Asia (12 per cent) and only 200 visitors arrived from China.

Fast forward 50 years and it’s a completely different picture. Current statistics demonstrate the importance of the Asian markets, particularly China.

China is now the second largest source of international visitors, after New Zealand, with over one million visitors for 2015-16.

“Traditional markets such as the United States, United Kingdom and New Zealand all grew for the 12 months to July 2016, however, the Asia region is the fastest growing region,” said Wykes.

Other factors such as changes to the aviation industry, including increased capacity, have also contributed to the growth of the industry.

In 1966, a flight to Sydney from London took between 29-32 hours and made five to six stops. In 2016, a flight to Sydney from London takes 21 hours with one stop.

These results reflect Australia’s attractiveness as a tourist destination, underpinned by the country’s appeal as a safe, transparent and stable investment environment.

Wykes said the need for evidence-based planning is more important than ever before, as Australia vies for its share of the increasing global tourism dollar.

TRA’s international tourism and research data, including the International Visitor Survey (IVS), the National Visitor Survey (NVS) and the Tourism Satellite Accounts, helps Government and industry to gain valuable insights.

This information also provides the basis for industry measurement and support for policy formulation, business planning, investment and marketing – essential if we are to keep Australia’s tourism industry growing and thriving.

James Wilkinson

Editor-In-Chief, Hotel Management