Topics: Latest international Visitor and National Visitor Survey results (Sept 2018 quarter)

Simon Birmingham: Thanks so much for coming along. It’s exciting news today for Australia that once again demonstrates what a fabulous country we are with the mark of endorsement from millions of international visitors who choose Australia as a place to come, holiday, recharge, refresh and enjoy all that our wonderful country has to offer. Today’s release of tourism statistics shows record spending, record visitation, records being broken because people are choosing Australia as a destination of choice to come and stay. One hundred and thirteen billion dollars injected into our economy in 2018 thanks to tourism. That’s underpinning and supporting around one in 13 jobs across our country.

And of course this is driven in part by record international visitation, around eight point four million international visitors who chose Australia as their destination of choice in 2018. This is a credit to our tourism operators, to those who run our attractions, our sites, our natural visitation destinations, our accommodation venues, our hospitality venues, the whole suite of the tourism industry that is so critical. It’s also a credit to those who go out and market Australia to the world. I acknowledge Tourism Australia and all of the state and regional tourism marketing bodies. Our Government is investing record sums in marketing Australia to the world and it’s yielding dividends through these record visitation numbers. We’re doing that because tourism dollars generate more jobs and they’re doing so especially in regional Australia.

What is most satisfying about these statistics is to see the boom in regional Australia as visitors coming to Australia are choosing to get out of the cities, head to the coast, head to the bush, experience all the natural wonders that Australia has to offer. And this is of course something that no other country can offer in the same way that Australia can. Our unique natural wildlife coastal and other experiences are things that we treasure, we value, and we highlight in our tourism marketing campaigns. A significant proportion, more than 40 per cent of our tourism marketing campaigns highlight regional attractions because we want to see that dispersal of visitors out into the regions creating more jobs, more opportunities, across small country towns, the breadth of Australia.

Journalist: If we just quickly look around the states minister, and look at New South Wales, they seem to be going through their own boom at the moment. Do you think it can be sustained and is there a threat that other states might start to stake their slice of the pie?

Simon Birmingham: Overall we’re seeing the tourism pie growing which means there’s room for every state to see growth without cannibalizing one another. And Sydney has always been Australia’s prime gateway destination, and it will still always be into the future I’m sure for many many years to come. But pleasingly we’re seeing visitors get out of Sydney as well and experience regional New South Wales as well as visiting other states in record numbers. So the position for New South Wales is a very strong one where Sydney remains a linchpin with of course iconic attractions such as the Harbour and the Opera House but more and more people choosing to experience some of the regional wonders of New South Wales too.

Journalist: Do you think that’s where some of the ongoing growth is going to come from, regional New South Wales?

Simon Birmingham: Pleasingly we see increased investment in accommodation and attraction across regional Australia and that really bodes well for increasing numbers of visitors to come back on a second or third stay having visited the capital city, they can choose to come back and get out into the regions, have new different experiences and it’s those second, third time visitors that really generate the lift in spending across the tourism sector.

Journalist: If we jump across the border and look at Queensland as an example. Do you think they should be able to maintain their upswing in 2019 given that in 2018 their stats would doubtlessly boosted by the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast?

Simon Birmingham: The Commonwealth Games were a great profiling opportunity for Queensland, I’ve got no doubt they will continue to see growth off the back of the profile generated from the Commonwealth Games. We also saw across Queensland over 2018, strong growth in the regions, strong growth in parts of north Queensland such as Townsville, which again demonstrates that there’s more opportunity for international tourism growth in Queensland and critical to that will be continued efforts that we’ve supported to get more direct flights into destinations such as Cairns.

Journalist: Looking at Townsville its domestic tourism numbers are up by 27 per cent what do you put that down to?

Simon Birmingham: Townsville, which I visited quite recently has seen really strong growth in tourism numbers both domestic as well as international. We see investment from major operators like SeaLink in Townsville providing new experiences to get out and experience the reef and other destinations using Townsville as a hub and so Townsville is future is very strong as a central hub for tourism in that part of Queensland.

Journalist: International visitation there is up 7 per cent how could they be improved do you think?

Simon Birmingham: We want to continue to make sure that flight access is as strong as possible to all our regional centres with strong connections linking up to international flights in those gateway hubs. So looking at flights into Townsville, how we can get the best possible connections out of Brisbane, out of Cairns, to make sure that those international visitors can get in there as quickly as possible. As well as of course our continued investment in regional tourism infrastructure. Our government over the coming months will announce more than 40 million dollars’ worth of extra investment targeted at regional tourism infrastructure and that’s going to really drive and boost the regions in terms of their opportunity to grow already record visitation numbers.

Journalist: Three local high end restaurants just closed in Townsville citing a lack of overseas tourists, so how can they really get onto the world stage and keep that industry booming?

Simon Birmingham: Well the numbers speak for themselves in seeing growth in Townsville in terms of international and domestic visitation and that’s really encouraging. Of course businesses have to make sure they’re tailoring to the experience that those visitors want. And what we want to encourage through our infrastructure investment in tourism is to make sure that it’s easy and possible for businesses to capture those international visitors to get them to spend locally, to invest locally, and really encouraging out of today’s statistics is the fact that we see not only that record visitation in regional Australia, but we also see record spending across Australia including in the regions.

Journalist: And in Mackay and the Whitsundays domestic numbers are up for both areas despite there being fires, shark attacks and cyclones. Why do you think that is?

Simon Birmingham: The resilience of our tourism industry is incredible and it really does demonstrate that that communities who offer a quality product, that give a quality experience to visitors can expect visitors to come back time and time again.

Journalist: If we briefly just turn our attention to South Australia, what were some highlights for you from your home state minister?

Simon Birmingham: South Australia right in the midst of the Tour Down Under at present of course is a great example of how major events can drive extra visitors to a state. The expansion to the Convention Centre is also something that demonstrates more conventions, more meetings, more exhibitions, mean more visitors coming here for business but tacking on leisure and travel trips and coming back and spreading the word now about what a great destination South Australia is. Regional SA has some fantastic statistics in terms of growth in the Riverland, in the Murray lands, around the Coorong as well as seeing growth in regions such as the Clare Valley and that’s something we want to continue to encourage visitors to come to Adelaide but to get out and see the regions and the Tour Down Under will of course encourage many of those visitors to get out and experience different regional centres around South Australia.

Journalist: Canberra has recorded the highest growth in spending and tourism after Tasmania. Canberra isn’t known for its tourism, why are more people going?

Simon Birmingham: Well I have to spend a lot of time in Canberra in my job and I can say that whilst I don’t get out to the tourism attractions all that often, when I speak to families, school groups, or others who visit Canberra, they always speak incredibly highly of the national attractions that are there, the War Memorial, Questacon, the museum, the gallery. These are fantastic destinations as well as Canberra being a hub for people to be able to access the ski fields in New South Wales and the like. So Canberra has much to offer and it’s pleasing to see that Australians and international visitors are discovering our national capital.

Journalist: How should Canberra deal with that growth?

Simon Birmingham: Every destination around Australia needs to make sure that their accommodation, their hospitality, is meeting the needs of those local communities. Now we’ve seen some phenomenal investment in new accommodation hotels and other facilities across large parts of Australia including Canberra. And that’s something we want to continue to be able to see so that it can house and welcome successfully record tourism numbers. Thanks guys.