HUNTER tourism has enjoyed one of the largest annual increases in domestic visitors to the region in years, according to data released by Tourism Research Australia.
The National Visitor Survey shows the Hunter had a 13 per cent rise in overnight visitors in 2017/18, and a 12 per cent increase in what those visitors spent in the region.
The strong results placed the Hunter in the nation’s top ten regions for both overnight and daytrip visitors.
Overnight visitors grew to 3.77 million in 2017/18, up from 3.34 million in 2016/17. They stayed for more than 9.88 million nights, up from 8.64 million.
Tourism advocate Will Creedon said the “dramatic” rise in overnight visitors was what the region’s industry had been building towards.
“We’ve worked hard over the last decade in the event space, creating events that ensure people come here for that reason,” he said.
“The other part is, we are slowly building the attractions and activities foundation that will give leisure guests in particular, other reasons to discover or rediscover us.
“That’s an area over the coming decade we have to continue to double down on to give people many varied reasons to come here.”
Mr Creedon said while the transition of daytrip visitors to overnight was pleasing, the rise in what they spent was most significant.
Overnight visitors spent $1.75 billion in 2017/18, up from $1.56 billion in 2016/17.
“Double-digit growth is tremendous; underpins significant job growth as well as diversity of product and the ability for the Hunter to articulate the many reasons why people should visit,” he said.
Newcastle lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said stronger relationships had helped to promote the region.
"Part of Newcastle being a smart city is about partnerships and collaboration and there's been a lot more in recent years between different institutions, like the uni, the city and the state and business groups, that have resulted in stronger promotion,” she said.
"We've also worked tirelessly to deliver major events like the Newcastle 500, and make major infrastructure improvements, like the Bathers Way, to put Newcastle on the map as a visitor destination, which is changing the perception of people who previously did not consider the city in that light.”
The Hunter’s growth came as NSW welcomed 32.9 million domestic visitors, who stayed 103.3 million nights and spent $19.8 billion.
NSW tourism minister Adam Marshall said travel outside of Sydney had boomed, with more people travelling to rural and regional towns to experience the state’s renowned hospitality and attractions.
“These results are the highest on record and show the work the NSW government is doing in delivering results for the tourism industry, which directly employs more than 171,000 people in our state,” he said.
“I’m very proud that rural and regional NSW leads regional Australia in domestic visitors and has achieved its highest number of domestic visitors, nights and expenditure on record.”