National Visitor Survey for March; the recovery underway

The National Visitor Survey for the March quarter adds some detail to our understanding of the domestic tourism scene which the monthly snapshot release has been unable to provide.

It confirms that quarter-on-quarter domestic visitors are up 0.4% nationally with expenditures virtually unchanged. On a year/year basis visitor numbers are down 35.2%, which is no surprise given that the year to the March quarter last year included many months that were barely impacted by COVID. The monthly data shows that expenditure in March 2021 was up 58.3% from March 2020.

Queensland has performed rather better with visitor numbers down 31.1% y/y and expenditures falling 34.7%. The monthly data has been confirming that Queensland has been doing much better during the recovery period with March 2021 expenditures up 88.5% since March 2020.

While the monthly data has been showing solid outperformance by regional Queensland this is yet to be reflected in the data for the year to March in TNQ. Visitor numbers were down 31.9% (better than national but worse than QLD) and expenditures were likewise down 37.4%. Part of this apparent worse performance is a base effect due to strong domestic numbers in TNQ during the second, third and fourth quarters of 2019 which pushed up the year to March 2020 figures.

Anecdotal evidence is that domestic tourism has been performing strongly in the Far North since the middle of last year (supported by Cairns Airport data suggesting the same) and this, combined with an unwinding of the base effect from previous strength, should see the TNQ numbers improve relatively in coming quarters.

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