By John Hart, executive chairman of Australian Chamber-Tourism
There are just so many terrible stories from our regional areas about the impact of the drought. The events in Parliament House this week were focused on the experiences of our farmers and how they are dealing with surviving this devastating time.
There were a few standouts for me in those regional businesses that had been able to diversify from agricultural production into tourism.
Agri-Tourism is a real business opportunity in regional Australia. There are great experiences in our regions that are exactly what both our international and domestic visitors want.
The trick is unlocking these experiences, enabling our farmers to diversify and getting the tourism product into the supply chain.
Visits to our regions are growing strongly. Sixty five percent of our domestic tourists visit a region and visitation is growing at over 10 per cent a year. One in three international visitors also go into a region and the number is growing, in proportion to overall visitation at four percent.
What holds a number of regional tourists back is the lack of real experiences for these visitors to engage in. Agri-tourism is the answer.
Regional visitors also spend big. A total of $43.5 billion is spent in the regions by our visitors.
The lion’s share of that is from domestic tourists but, working holiday makers, in particular, also spend a lot of the money they earn in the regions where they work. They will leave even more if there are more quality experiences for them to engage in.
Australia is a wide brown land and an authentic experience in a natural landscape is what our visitors expect. Many are looking to immerse themselves in activities that are quintessentially Australian.
In the 2019 Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report our nation ranks three out of 140 countries for our natural environment.
This acknowledges how blessed we are. International and domestic tourists alike crave getting a break from their urban lives and wish to live like their country cousins – let’s give them more ways to do this and extend their stay.
Regional experiences are our competitive advantage. For international visitors we rank overall seventh as a tourism destination.
Where we lose out, however, is for price competitiveness. On this score we rank 130 out of the 140 countries.
Regional destinations are more affordable and many experiences can’t be matched by similar experiences in our competitor countries.
Playing to our strengths is engaging regional and particularly agritourism experiences.
There are many examples where diversification of farm production into tourism has created iconic tourism products. Lavender farms, winery ventures and mustering tours to name a few.
To succeed as a rich tourism destination Australia must connect these experiences and bring them to our city folk and to the world.
In so doing, there is a real potential to support the profitability of our rural enterprises and, as a result, slow the rate of urbanization. Growing agritourism is a win win win.
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