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Latest Tourism Data Highlights Rural Opportunity

As tourism directly employs 1 in 19 Australian workers and contributes more to Australia’s economy than agriculture, forestry and fishing combined, we ought pay attention to the trends.

Latest Tourism Research Australia data just released last month shows 8.6 million International tourists aged 15 and over, arrived year ending June 2019 and spent $44.6 billion.

Their top 14 activities (of 46 surveyed) based on the last three years of overseas visitor numbers were;

Of these,bushwalking / rainforest walks experienced the most growth in international visitor numbers, up 9.6% over two years, followed by guided tours / excursions up 9%.

Domestic travelers and their $102 billion, were interested in similar activities to International travelers, with visits to national / state parks and bushwalking / rainforest walks in their top eight.

While regional Victoria is attracting more tourists, it’s the usual contenders reaping most of the rewards. The Great Ocean Road, Twelve Apostles, Phillip Island, Sovereign Hill and so it goes.

But there’s so much more to rural Victoria!

Consider the fabulous Connewarre or Kerang RAMSAR wetlands of international importance or the beautiful Lake Corangamite or Lake Boort, rich in bushwalking, birdwatching, indigenous tour opportunities irrespective of water levels. Each of Victoria's stunning wetland habitats offers something unique.

While wildlife watching is not yet reported in our visitor survey publications, relevant trends in the US – Americans now being one of our top five inbound tourist markets – are worthy of note.

US Fisheries and Wildlife Service’ latest national survey (2016) showed while interest in hunting had declined, a whopping 86 million Americans (about a third of the population over 16 years old) watched wildlife, an increase of 20% since 2011. Wildlife watchers’ spend increased 28%, up to $75.9 billion USD and of all wildlife to watch the most popular were birds with 45.1 million people watching them, 36% taking trips away to do so. (To put this in perspective, around that time 24 million Americans played soccer and 18 million played tennis. )

Our opportunity here is clear. While we don’t all need to be as busy as Phillip Island, just a fraction of the year round job and revenue opportunity that nature tourism offers, will go a long way to assist financially struggling rural towns.

With the understanding of International and domestic tourists’ interests, comes the realization of the opportunity rural areas have with our offerings of wildlife, birdlife and parks.

By protecting these assets, many unique to our country, it’s our rural pubs, cafes, restaurants, shops and guided tour operators who will benefit.

Picture Great Egret courtesy Eleanor Dilley


  • Tourism Research Australia International and Domestic Visitor Survey data for the last three years

  • US Fisheries & Wildlife 2016 National Survey



  • “Soccor By the Numbers – A Look at The Game” NBC News May 2015



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