We have returned from a few weeks away over the New Year and now have a chance to take a look at the tourism data released by Tourism Research Australia (and available here) while we were away. The (delayed) International Visitor Survey was released at the same time as the National Visitor Survey for the September quarter.
Let’s start with the good news. The NVS showed overnight domestic tourism numbers up 7.0% for the year to Sept nationally. Queensland grew by a less impressive 3.1% but TNQ was up a thumping 14.9%. Not only were many more people coming to the Far North but they were spending up big too; expenditure increased by 20.3% for the year. Day trips (a less important sector) grew by 6.6% nationally, was up 6.8% for Queensland but the TNQ data spiked by 22.3% with expenditure up by (an unbelievable) 56.2%. All up this saw domestic tourism expenditure in the TNQ region grow by 24.5% for the year.
The domestic market has clearly been a stand-out performer for the TNQ region but unfortunately the international sector has been weak. While international visitor numbers to Australia grew by 5.7% (and expenditure was up 5.2%) and Queensland saw a 4.6% increase in visitors (and an impressive 11.5% jump in expenditures) the TNQ region continues to slide backwards. Visitor numbers to the Far North fell by 3.3% with expenditures down 2.1%.
The net result is that tourism expenditure in TNQ was up 15.6% for the year to September to $3.8 billion and TTNQ are well on track to meeting their 2020 $4.1 billion target. Nevertheless, when this target was first put in place it was forecast to be driven by substantial increases from the international, rather than the domestic, sector. From 2015 to 2020 the TTNQ Strategic Plan saw international expenditures double from $1 billion to $2 billion; this latest data shows them at just $1.06 billion.
We have been highlighting the decline in Chinese numbers to the region for some now and this has now been joined by some falls elsewhere. While Chinese visitor numbers fell 7.6% for the year (and are now down 12.4% from their Dec 2016 peak) we also saw the UK drop (-14.1%) as well as the US (-2.6%). The only major market to see an increase was Japan (up 1.1%).
The industry, and TTNQ, will be delighted with the way that domestic tourism appears to be doing in the region but the fact that, in the face of an international tourism boom to Australia, international visitor numbers continue to slide must be ringing alarm bells. The TNQ regions’ share of the international visitor market has now fallen to a new low of just 10.2% of all international visitors to Australia; bear in mind that this was as high as 15% just a decade ago. The decline in Queensland’s share has been driven by that fall to TNQ.