Rebecca Gredley and Belinda Tasker
(Australian Associated Press)
Record numbers of Chinese and American visitors are fuelling a tourist spending boom in Australia.
Nearly eight million foreign travellers flocked to Australia in the past financial year, splashing a record $40 billion on everything from accommodation and food to package tours, the latest International Visitor survey shows.
Chinese visitors swelled to 1.16 million and spent nearly $10 billion, while nearly $4 billion came from the wallets of a record 706,000 US travellers.
Rod Battye of Tourism Research Australia says the trend is expected to continue, with visitors from China tipped to hit about four million in the next decade while American visitor numbers could climb to 1.3 million.
Most of the Chinese and Americans who visited last year were holidaymakers.
However the number of Chinese visitors who came to study posted its biggest-ever gain of 28 per cent to hit 181,000, while another 73,000 were here for business.
“For China the numbers are continuing to grow across the board”, Mr Battye said.
Visitors from the US have steadily increased during past three years and are now nearly double what they were a decade ago.
Mr Battye said a drop in the Australian dollar, improved economic conditions in the US and targeted tourism marketing campaigns all helped entice more visitors from the US to our shores.
While here, Americans are more likely to explore outside the main tourist hubs.
“They visit areas like Western Australia, the Northern Territory and tropical far North Queensland,” Mr Battye said.
But while Chinese and American travellers are increasing, New Zealand remains our main source of foreign visitors.
Just over 1.23 million Kiwis came across the Tasman last year, but their spending flattened out and their trips were shorter compared with the previous year.
Chinese tourists stayed the longest, followed by visitors from the United Kingdom. But both the number of British visitors and how much they spent dropped.
NSW soaked up $10 billion of the overall spending by foreign visitors, thanks largely to the 3.75 million travellers who descended on Sydney and parted with $9 billion during their stay.
Spending by Chinese travellers in NSW exceeded $3 billion for the first time, with double-digit growth recorded by visitors from the US, Korea, Japan, India and Indonesia.
Holidaymakers accounted for half of all international visitors last year, yet education was the reason 550,000 people visited Australia.
Backpacker numbers also rose five per cent to 645,000, with their spending hitting $4.5 billion.
The survey was based on interviews with 40,000 international travellers who had stayed in Australia for less than a year and were surveyed in airport departure lounges before boarding their flights home.
FOREIGN TOURISM SPENDING STATE BY STATE
* NSW, up 11pct to $10b
* Victoria, up 11pct to $7.5b
* Queensland, up 3.0pct to $5.2b
* South Australia, up 12pct to $1b
* Western Australia, up 8.0pct to $2.5b
* Tasmania, up 24pct to $457m
* Northern Territory, up 16pct to $485m
* ACT, up 27pct to $535m