INTERNATIONAL visitor expenditure in the Hunter fell by $42 million in the past financial year despite a seven per cent increase in visitors, data from Tourism Research Australia shows.
The substantial financial hit came as expenditure dropped to $179 million in 2017/18 from $221 million in the year prior, according to TRA’s latest International Visitor Survey.
International visitors also stayed 164,000 fewer nights with the total dropping from 3,039,000 to 2,875,000.
However, the amount of visitors to the region jumped from 186,000 to 200,000.
“Numbers are up but dollars are down,” Gus Maher, Newcastle Tourism Industry Group general manager, said.
“We always prefer dollars to be up rather than numbers, but what we need to look at with numbers being up, particularly in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley, we have so many more disciples going back overseas saying to their friends, ‘you’ve just got to come and visit this place’.
“Expenditure down is not a positive but its not something to panic about.”
Mr Maher said the variety of travel and accommodation options was likely the reason behind the growth in visitor numbers but fall in expenditure.
The average spend per visitor was $895, while the average spend per visitor per night was $62.
“It can be explained by second-time visitors coming and doing things on more of a budget,” he said.
“It can be explained by people having greater options at their fingertips, such as options other than hotels.
“Whilst we are well placed to capture high-spending visitors, we are also well placed with things like Airbnb, with YHA [back packers], with things like the Holiday Inn Express coming online which along with Travelodge and options such as that are less expensive for travellers.”
Mr Maher said there was “huge potential” in the international market, particularly in Newcastle, but it would need to developed to fill new hotels opening in coming years.
NSW Tourism Minister Adam Marshall announced on Monday a plan to showcase the state’s wine regions to the world. The $2 million marketing move, spearheaded by the state government, is about boosting visitation to rural and regional NSW.
“This exciting new campaign will shine the spotlight on these regions and the wonderful array of activities and experiences on offer in order to entice even more visitors,” Mr Marshall said.
“We’ll be targeting high-growth international markets such as China and the USA, ensuring NSW gets an even bigger slice of the record international tourism pie.
“This is not only great news for our wine producers but also our regional communities, which will benefit from more visitors spending money in local cafes, restaurants, retail stores and hotels.”