Tourism continues to be a bright star in the economic firmament of Queensland, and TNQ in particular.
International visitors to the state were up 13.1% for the year to Sept 2016; better than the national average of 11.5%. Even better, the growth into the Tropical North Queensland region was higher still at 16%. This takes us to a new high for the region and we now sit 1.3% above the previous high seen in June 2006. When combined with booming domestic tourism numbers we are seeing the industry having its best spell for many years.
Domestic tourism is by far and away the more important for the region bringing in 2 million visitors compared to 876,000 from overseas (domestic data is up to June 2016; the Sept 2016 data is due for release in a fortnight). Domestic tourists spend some $2.3 billion in the region while the international visitors spend just over $1.1 billion.
Even more dramatic is the rate of growth in the domestic sector. Visitor numbers are up 13.6% for the year with expenditure up 24%. Domestic visitor numbers to the region are now close to record highs after a slight dip from the March quarter.
International growth has been solid (visitors up 16% with expenditure increasing 11.7%) which when combined with the domestic sector is seeing the region’s tourism industry having its best spell for many years.
Within the international market Chinese visitors continue to grow very strongly. Visitors from China now account for a record high of 14.7% of all international visitors to the country, and an even higher 25% of all visitors to TNQ.
Chinese visitor numbers to TNQ grew by over 32% for the year to Sept. But the growth hasn’t been limited to China. We’ve also seen solid growth from the more “traditional” markets of the US (up 23.6%) and Japan (up 27.8%). Clearly this growth from Japan is very welcome but, as the chart below makes clear, numbers remain well below those we saw in the heydays of 2004 and 2005.
Indeed it’s worth noting that despite the exponential growth in visitations from China they are yet to reach the heights we saw from Japan over a decade ago.
A decade ago another significant market for the region was the UK. Unfortunately we have seen very little recovery from that market since the gradual declines seen from the GFC through to 2012 (up just 1.9% this year). Back in 2003 the UK accounted for over 14% Australia’s visitors; today that has fallen to 9%.
While the domestic sector has reached new highs in terms of visitor numbers and share of the market, the international sector is only slowly making up lost ground when we consider its share of the total international visitor market in Australia.
A decade ago over 17% of all international visitors were coming to TNQ; today that rate is still below 12% (although it has recovered from lows close to 11%). To put that loss of market share into some context; had TNQ maintained a 17% share of the total Australian international market our international visitor numbers for the year to Sept 2016 would have been over 1.2 million instead of the actual 876,000. These are enormous differences and give us some idea of how much more can be done to improve the region’s performance in the international market.
If the domestic market gains continue, and we can be more successful tapping into the growth in the international sector (in particular into some of the non-Chinese markets) then the future for the industry in the region looks rosy indeed.