Nearly 1.5 million Australians would like to visit Canberra within the next two years, according to new research.
Market research company Roy Morgan recently asked 14.6 million Australians over the age of 14 (or 68 per cent of the total population) where they would like to spend at least one night within the next two years.
The biggest cohort of 2.8 million named Melbourne as their next domestic holiday destination, just ahead of the Gold Coast mentioned by 2,728,000 and Sydney at 2,727,000.
Brisbane and Hobart came next, but in sixth place was Canberra, beating Perth, Adelaide and Darwin.
The full data goes back to March 2018 and picks up on a resurgence in visitor numbers since COVID-19.
Canberra has stayed in roughly the same place the whole time, except for a brief spell in 2019 when it ranked higher than Brisbane. There were also slight upticks in June 2020 and March 2021.
Peak tourism body Canberra Region Tourism Leaders Forum (CRTLF) says the survey doesn’t reflect the full picture because many of Canberra’s visitors come from nearby on the back of spontaneous decisions, not those thought about two years in advance.
“Two-thirds of our visitors come from Sydney and regional NSW,” chair Dr David Marshall says.
“They’ll sit there on a Monday and say, ‘Why don’t I go to Canberra on the weekend?’ … And what drives them are the blockbuster exhibitions, special events and sporting fixtures such as the Kanga Cup.”
Dr Marshall says it’s a “great” result for the capital nonetheless, even if it could be a lot better. Key to the forum’s lobbying efforts is a new convention centre, at least “three times the size of what we’ve got” at Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC).
“We are losing millions of dollars not having a new convention centre,” he says.
“If we had a brand new stadium, and a precinct which included the convention centre and entertainment venue, it would do huge amounts to the visitor numbers coming into the ACT. It would dramatically increase visitations.”
Despite calls for it to be located in Civic, the ACT Government has announced plans for a new 30,000-seat rectangular stadium at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Bruce “within the decade”. The fallback option is EPIC.
A new entertainment precinct and convention centre is also earmarked for the open-air car park on the corner of London Circuit and Constitution Avenue. The first stage will be able to hold at least 7500 people, but the whole project won’t be finished until the mid-2030s.
Dr Marshall says no matter where the new venues are located, they’re not happening fast enough.
“We’re urging the government to fast-track these developments. We just want them to start building them.”