Records smashed as tourism spend outshines 2019 with Sydney still tops for overseas tourists

Sydney attracted more than half the number of international visitors.

NSW took the top spot for international visitor growth in Australia, attracting the most overseas visitors out of all the other states, with half of them heading to Sydney.

International visitors to Sydney spent an estimated $10 billion in the year ending December 2023, with the US, UK and NZ the three top markets, followed by China coming in fourth.

In total, domestic and international travellers contributed a record $51.4 billion to the NSW visitor economy.

“The NSW visitor economy is leading the country’s recovery from the pandemic and attracting the majority of international visitors to Australia as well as setting new benchmarks domestically,” Destination NSW CEO Steve Cox said.

“The diversity of natural and cultural experiences in NSW is unrivalled and puts our state in a unique position to attract visitors from around the world.”

Victoria’s tourism industry also reached a new record of $37.8 billion in tourism spending in 2023.

Melbourne was the nation’s top overnight interstate leisure destination on visitation, nights and spend. In 2023, 3.9 million visitors spent $5 billion in Melbourne.

Victoria’s domestic tourism market continues to go from strength to strength, with total domestic expenditure in Melbourne 27 per cent higher compared to the year ending 2019 and 39 per cent higher in regional Victoria. Global travellers generated $6.4 billion in tourism expenditure last year.

“This record tourism spend is proof that visitors come from across the globe to see our blockbuster events, experiences and destinations,” said Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Steve Dimopoulos.

International travellers heading to Brisbane have driven record-breaking visitor spend in the city. International visitors spent a record $2.9 billion in the city in 2023, up 1.7 per cent from 2019.

While overall international visitor numbers continue to recover, down 21.8 per cent from 2019 to 1.2 million, the average length of stay for visitors increased by 3.3 nights to 21.6 nights.

New Zealand, the UK and US had the largest numbers of international visitors to Brisbane in 2023, while record breaking numbers of visitors from countries including Canada, India and Thailand spent time in the city.

Domestic tourism in Brisbane has also continued to soar, with 7.3 million Australian travellers injecting a record-breaking $7.2 billion into the city in 2023, up 14.1 per cent.

“Brisbane has received some truly enviable accolades in the past 12 months and we’ve seen our overall visitor economy grow to $10.1 billion,” said Brisbane Economic Development Agency CEO Anthony Ryan.

“Brisbane is setting the pace and we’re excited to see this momentum and upward trajectory continue.”

The Gold Coast’s post-pandemic growth trajectory has continued, with visitor expenditure hitting $7.8 billion in 2023, up 31.1 per cent on 2019.

The number of visitors was down 13.9 per cent on 2019 levels at 12.2 million.

“Domestically, the Gold Coast outperformed the state and national result on a growth percentage basis with 4.1 million domestic overnight visitors,” said Experience Gold Coast CEO John Warn.

“This included strong intrastate growth from Brisbane with 1.4 million visitors surpassing 2019 levels by 5.9 per cent.”

Warn said the expected full return of international visitors is still being hampered by global events, with New Zealand still the top source market followed by the UK, South Korea, USA, and Japan.

“New Zealand continued its love affair with the Gold Coast as our number one international market with 200,000 Kiwi visitors – almost half of all New Zealand visitors to Queensland,” he said.

“South Korea had the highest growth of all our international markets with a 35 per cent lift to a record 46,000 visitors.”