Bridging the regional tourism divide
Warm beaches, crystal waters and world-class surf – Australia’s coasts have
it all. It should come as no surprise, then, that our coastal regions are
among the most visited in regional Australia.
The latest figures produced by
Tourism Research Australia
highlight this fact. Over 1.4 million international and 16.1 million
domestic overnight visitors stayed in one of the big four coastal tourism
regions: the North and South Coasts in New South Wales; and the Sunshine
Coast and Tropical North in Queensland.
These figures indicate a huge concentration of visitors in narrow tourist
strips. Counting both domestic tourists and international arrivals,
approximately one in six overnight stays takes place in just four tourism
regions – out of a total of 67 tourist regions across Australia.
Dealing with the divide
But while tourism is blossoming in some areas, others have yet to benefit.
Approximately two-thirds of international tourists did not travel
to regional Australia on their most recent trip. Of those that did, most
travelled to regions that adjoin capital cities. Fewer still reach the bush
With tourism’s pulling power concentrated in a handful of places there are
only a few regional winners in Australia’s tourist boom. The big four
coastal tourism locations, for example attract, more than one-quarter of
An unevenly spread visitor dollar means that tourism businesses in
Australia’s heartland struggle to succeed, so investors look elsewhere. As
investment dwindles, supply fails to meet demand and tourists look
elsewhere as well.
Over-concentration causes problems in hot spots too. Excessive visitor
numbers can upset locals, damage fragile environments and disappoint fellow
visitors. Communities in
Great Ocean Road
have all experienced issues as a result of congestion and ‘overtourism’.
Regional tourism fights back
Over the past three years, however, growth in tourism regions in the bush
and beyond has outpaced coastal counterparts – in terms of spend and
As underlined by Figure 1, domestic tourism is the main driver. With our
highly urbanised population, Australian tourists see the value in getting
away from it all to explore something different in their own backyard.
Promoting regional visits
Tourism Research Australia’s ‘Beach, Bush and Beyond' report shows plenty can be done to influence these behaviours. The
objective: to shift the international visitor dial in favour of regional
For example, domestic family road trippers are most open to a trip beyond
the cities. Within the international market, Gen Y and Gen Z visitors from
traditional markets are more likely to disperse. Showcasing the diversity
of offerings around a marquee regional attraction can then be highly
effective in turning a daytrip into an overnight stay, and a weekend trip
into a week-long stay.
For the less adventurous traveller, education is important. For example,
telling visitors they can see rainforests within two hours of Brisbane
breaks down perceived barriers of time and distance.
A dispersal strategy
Sun, surf and sand can’t sustain regional tourism alone – especially since
travellers’ expectations are rising. Developing transport infrastructure,
upgrading attractions, diversifying accommodation options and improving
WIFI access all make regional Australia more appealing.
Persuading more people to go to our regions can support regional
communities while easing the burden on tourism hot spots. What’s more, a
successful dispersal strategy will enhance and diversify the traveller