Results released for the 2018 calendar year, show NSW is still ahead of the game with 34.6 million visitors and their $21.1 billion spend, (the latter up 13% on the previous year), while Victoria sits on 25.7 million visitors at $14.9 billion spend, (up 9%).
But Queensland are quickly closing in with 24.1 million visitors and a whopping $18.3 billion spend, a huge 16% increase in spend on last year.
A study for The Tourism and Transport Forum. "Unlocking the Great Outdoors" (2017) put nature-based tourism - which has grown faster than all other forms of tourism combined - at $41 billion across our country.
Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham recently noted in the media "ecotourism is on the rise in Australia".
Queenslanders are certainly reaping the rewards, with another example just announced of a new 2.2 kilometre Mount Vane walking track at Stradbroke Island, designed and built by the island's traditional owners, the Quandamooka People.
Queensland Tourism Industry Development Minister Kate Jones told media it was "one of the many new ecotourism experiences we're delivering on across the island over the next few years, as part of the economic transition strategy" and that research had revealed walking tourism alone has the potential to pump $16 million a year into the local community.
Of course here in Victoria, Phillip Island Nature Parks contributes $500 million a year and 2100 jobs to Victoria ($120 million and 800 jobs just to the local area). The Great Ocean Road $1.3 billion. Lake Tyrrell now sees up to 1000 visitors a day and Winton Wetlands - where they shoot birds with cameras - saw a whopping 44% increase in visitor numbers last year now at 52,000, about a quarter of Kakadu's visitation, just to one area near Benalla despite drought conditions. Credit to our State Environment Minister for this one.
But we need to see more, to sustain struggling rural towns.
Our Victorian Tourism Minister gets it; "we know regional Victoria has the best of everything and also untapped potential". And as he says, tourism already accounts for 1 in 10 jobs in regional Victoria.
With International overnight tourism relatively low and declining in many rural areas across our state, let's hope he strengthens the nature-based tourism trend which is booming elsewhere as soon as possible.
In so doing, he just may lift both domestic and international visitation, with our biggest International inbound tourist market - the nature loving Chinese - listing safety and nature as their most important travel criteria (Kantar Consulting).
Simon Birmingham just awarded $10 million to enhance Sovereign Hill and further investment has also been afforded to Kakadu given its tremendous success and popularity.
Waterways around rural Victoria each offer something unique to nature tourists. Home to rare and threatened species of birds (and the gainful pastime of birding is growing rapidly), rich in aboriginal culture and gold mining history, they remain largely undiscovered and crying out for inclusion in a regional nature- based tourism trail.
By protecting our precious natural assets including many native waterbird species unique to our country, we can realise the untapped potential of nature-based tourism, increasing lucrative overnight stays in our regions and securing our financial futures.
Recreational shooting of native waterbirds is banned in WA, QLD, NSW and ACT.
There's a better way for Victoria's waterways.
Picture courtesy Eleanor Dilley; Pink-eared Ducks, unique to Australia, form life long pairs.
New Bushwalk ecotrail reveals perfect views of Moretan Bay - Mirage News
Winton Wetlands Annual Report 17/18
Phillip Island Nature Parks Contributes $498 Million Media Release
Tourism Research Australia Domestic Overnight Tourism Results year ending December 2018
"A New Way Forward for Tourism in Regional Victoria" - Government Release March 2019