As we embrace the most active period on the calendar for Victoria’s tourism and events sector, our operators should be commended for the growth in business being done with international visitors over the past year.
Results from Tourism Research Australia’s recent International Visitor Survey show that expenditure in Victoria by international visitors increased by more than 25 per cent on the previous year, to $6.2 billion, for the year to September 2015.
Across the board demand for our world-class schools and higher education providers means international education remains a significant factor driving the growth of the Victorian market. International education spending grew nearly 40 per cent and accounts for over one-third, or nearly $2.3 billion, of the total expenditure.
The research shows that spending by international visitors on holiday, and those visiting friends and relatives, also contributed to this growth, with those categories increasing by 30 per cent and 16 per cent respectively on the previous year.
When we look at which nationalities spend the most, we see that spending by visitors from China tops the list, making up around a third of the total. China is our fastest growing source market, with both spending and visitor numbers growing faster than any other market.
This is not surprising given the range of attractions in Victoria popular among the Chinese market. Many Chinese travellers come to see family and friends in our large local Chinese communities, undertake education, experience our nature-based wonders such as the Great Ocean Road and visit our historical attractions such as Sovereign Hill.
Our guests from New Zealand, Singapore, India and Hong Kong also contributed significantly to the growth.
Importantly, Victoria’s share of spending by international visitors in Australia increased from just over 20 per cent to more than 25 per cent for the same period, which shows we match-up favourably against our interstate competitors.
It is heartening to achieve this strong return from the efforts of business and government to provide visitors from overseas with experiences, products and services that they desire. Many businesses of all sizes, throughout metropolitan and regional Victoria, work hard to adapt their offerings to suit the priority overseas markets and it is positive to see these results.
What can be done to build on this success?
Opportunity exists to drive greater spending growth to create Victorian jobs by improving our infrastructure, boosting marketing efforts and lowering business costs.
Infrastructure improvements are vital to support our visitors to move around our state more efficiently and to improve the amenity of our attractions.
A rapid rail link between Melbourne Airport and Melbourne’s CBD is needed so we can cater for the increasing influx of visitors in the coming decades.
VTIC welcomes the major road and rail projects that are underway and urges that they be delivered on time and on budget. These include the construction of the Melbourne Metro Rail Project and the Western Distributor Project; the widening of CityLink and the Tullamarine Freeway; and level crossing removal program.
Investments in key destinations, such as those identified in the recently released Shipwreck Coast masterplan, will provide for a better visitor experience. Victoria’s icon attractions such as the Great Ocean Road and the Phillip Island Penguin Parade desperately need reinvestment to ensure they remain high quality visitor experiences of an international standard.
The accessibility of our internet infrastructure needs to improve, particularly in regional areas, to allow visitors to easily go online throughout the state. Visitors must be able to share their photos and comments on their experiences with friends and family, as well as research their next destination, easily via their phones.
The State Government must boost its marketing investment nationally and internationally to draw visitors to Victoria and encourage regional dispersal. This investment has declined dramatically in recent years and must be increased if we are to compete with other states and global destinations.
Governments must also act to reduce the cost of doing business in Victoria.
Excessive penalty rates on weekends and public holidays mean cafes, restaurants, hotels and a range of other businesses throughout the state are forced to operate with a skeleton staff or not open at all on these days. Tourism businesses, who have already been hit hard by the introduction of two new Victorian public holidays, are calling for reform that allows for more flexible labour arrangements.
The tourism and events sector is to be commended for achieving this significant increase in spending in the tough international visitor market. Looking forward, significant opportunity exists for governments to support business to grow the tourism and events sector as part of the broader visitor economy and create jobs throughout Victoria.