The latest Tourism Research Australia national and international visitor survey data reveals Canberra is still a “destination of choice”, Chief Minister and Minister for Tourism Andrew Barr said this week.
The data also suggests Canberra’s tourism industry is for the most part making a steady recovery after COVID-19 halted travel.
In the year to March 2023, 5.57 million people visited the ACT, broken down into roughly 5.4 million domestic visitors and 130,000 overseas travellers.
“Not only did visitors come in droves, they also spent up big,” Mr Barr said. Canberra recorded its highest ever visitor expenditure of $3.33 billion over the 12-month period, surpassing the previous record annual high for the year ending December 2022 by $300 million.
“This demonstrates we are on track to reach our target of $4 billion in expenditure by 2030 under T2030: ACT Tourism Strategy 2023-2030.”
Canberra recorded the highest growth in domestic overnight visits, overnight stays and expenditure of all Australian states and territories during the 12-month period, Mr Barr said.
The results of the National Visitor Survey highlight that domestic travel to Canberra has largely returned to pre-COVID levels: 3.2 million domestic overnight travellers visited the ACT, up 5 per cent from the year to March 2020 and roughly equal to the year to December 2019.
This group has also been spending more on their trips than before the pandemic. Domestic overnight visitors brought in $2.4 billion, up 32 per cent from the year ending March 2020.
“The data shows that compared with December 2019 (pre-pandemic), the domestic leisure and visiting friends and relatives market is fully recovered,” Mr Barr said.
He noted the number of business travellers to Canberra had fallen, but their expenditure had risen in comparison with pre-COVID.
However, international travel is still lagging far behind. The number of international visitors is at about 48 per cent of what it was in the year to December 2019, when 270,000 people travelled to the ACT from overseas.
This may change soon, though, with the announcement of direct flights to Fiji opening up new avenues for international visitors to reach Canberra.
“Our international visitation is also set to increase with Fiji Airways due to start their direct service from Canberra this month which will open up the North American market,” Mr Barr said.
He said the ACT Government was committed to continuing to invest in tourism and initiatives to improve Canberra’s appeal as a travel destination.
“This includes continuing our investment in the Aviation Stimulus Fund to attract more direct domestic and international flights to and from Canberra, extending the successful Tourism Product Development Fund for another year and supporting our year-round destination marketing,” he said.
The 2023-24 ACT Budget includes $11.4 million over the next four years to support the tourism and events industry, which includes further investment in destination marketing, domestic and international airline routes. It will also extend the Tourism Product Development Fund and Industry Event Sponsorship, as well as additional funding for the Major Events Fund.