13 January 2023

Canberra attractions draw in record numbers of summer visitors so far

| Lottie Twyford
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National Arboretum

Visitors, locals and tourists have taken advantage of Canberra’s national institutions and attractions this summer. Photo: James Coleman.

Canberra’s national attractions proved powerful drawcards for the Territory, with visitor numbers and patronage at many national institutions all up so far this summer.

And the influx of local and tourist dollars is being welcomed by just about everyone.

The Australian National Botanic Gardens was a particular success story, recording its largest-ever visitor month in December last year.

It was also the Gardens’ second busiest year ever, with more than half a million people through its gates in 2022 – only the fourth time it has ever exceeded the half-a-million mark.

More than 45,000 people attended in December alone.

A tour bus full of people traveling at The National Botanic Gardens in Canberra

The Australian National Botanic Gardens recorded its busiest-ever month last December. Photo: Australian National Botanic Gardens.

It was also a successful year in terms of student visitorship for the Gardens, with the highest-ever number of students from local and interstate schools visiting.

A total of 16,191 students (4,825 or 309 per cent from ACT and 11,366 or 70 per cent interstate visited the gardens. That’s an increase of 257 on the last pre-COVID year, but it’s also a 54 per cent increase in interstate students from pre-COVID numbers.

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The Gardens’ general manager Peter Byron attributed the increase in patronage to people feeling the urge to get out and about in nature following lockdowns.

“We’re seeing a lot more interstate travel which is really positive and helping to boost our numbers,” he said.

“I also think we’ve seen people have a renewed interest in gardening, so we see plenty of people coming in and looking at plants they could grow in their home gardens.

“There are many factors contributing to this, but it’s all positive.”

Mr Byron is hopeful this trend will continue this year and said new garden developments, which have previously helped to draw new and repeat visitors, will continue to be added, including a new Ian Potter National Conservatory later this year.

International visitation remains down, however, particularly from the Asian market.

Scott Saddler said the numbers of interstate-plated cars filling the Stromlo car park every weekend are a testament to how popular it is. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

People also turned out in droves to Stromlo Forest Park and the National Arboretum Canberra.

Executive branch manager of Stromlo Forest and the Arboretum, Scott Saddler, said visitation was up at both attractions compared to the pre-COVID period.

Like Mr Byron, Mr Saddler has attributed this to people wanting to get out and about following lockdowns.

“People want to experience things in the wide open space and the environment … they want to get their pushbikes out and take them out to both places,” he said.

“The numbers have been huge … it’s been amazing.”

He said it’s not just the bikers who are out in force, either, with many people opting to grab a coffee from the visitor’s centre and take a walk through the forest at the Arboretum.

It’s also hoped major outdoor concerts – including a February tribute band extravaganza – will encourage increased visitation to the park.

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But it wasn’t just outdoor attractions drawing people in.

The Museum of Australian Democracy recorded its best numbers over Christmas, with a 4 per cent increase in visitation compared to pre-COVID times.

Around 35 per cent of visitors to MoAD were locals, 30 per cent from New South Wales, followed by 20 per cent from the Northern Territory.

Chinese visitors were down when compared with the pre-COVID data, unsurprisingly, given the lockdowns in that country.

Visitation has also rebounded at Questacon, with visitors back up to the same levels as in the summers of 2018 and 2019, before the impacts of bushfires and the pandemic hit.

The ACT Government does not yet have detailed visitation figures for the summer months.

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Stephen Saunders6:27 pm 15 Jan 23

Wonderful attractions, that all say “Canberra” to me. Unlike the leering and mooning rev-heads who terrorised the city on January 7, obviously confident that the authorities would be sitting on their hands and doing nothing.

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