AUSTRALIA’S domestic travel sector has been restored to pre-global financial crisis levels, with regional cities including Ballarat benefiting from increased trade.
A federal government report on travel by Australians in the March Quarter released last week showed overnight trips had increased five per cent to 73 million and total tourism expenditure grew by 10 per cent to $50 billion.
Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson said the figures were a positive sign that Australia’s $73.3 billion tourism industry was also recovering from recent natural disasters and that the lucrative visiting friends and relatives component had increased.
“The fact we are now seeing results reach pre-GFC levels for domestic travel is excellent news for our tourism industry, particularly since the high Australian dollar continues to make international travel attractive for Australians,” Mr Ferguson said.
“The growth we have seen in domestic overnight travel was underpinned by an increase in people travelling to visit friends and relatives.
“These trips were up nine per cent to 25 million, which lead to a 16 per cent increase in expenditure, taking it to $10 billion for the year.”
University of Ballarat tourism expert Dr Elisa Backer said spending for visiting friends and relatives represented 48 per cent of Victoria’s travel market.
“In Ballarat, VFR is the biggest travel market at 54 per cent and these travellers as a group are active tourists that expend money across a wide range of categories,” she said.
“In addition, the local resident generally incurs additional costs as a direct result which is an added economic stimulant.”
Dr Backer said 22 per cent of those visiting friends and relatives used Ballarat’s commercial accommodation sector.