While most regions had an upswing in domestic trips, Western Australia had the best growth.
While most regions had an upswing in domestic trips, Western Australia had the best growth. Tourism Western Australia

Rise in domestic tourism is 'encouraging'

A BIG shift by domestic travellers to short day trips drove surge in regional tourism last year, analysis by Deloitte Access Economics reveals.

In its latest tourism and hotel market outlook, the economics firm found a big rise in domestic tourism in the first half of 2012 offset by a minor fall in the September quarter.

Deloitte Access Economics' Lachlan Smirl said domestic visitor nights fell 3.8% in the September quarter.

"However, the strong performance over the March and June quarters meant that domestic visitor nights still grew 4.5% over the year to September, while domestic visitor trips grew by 4.1% over the same period," he said.

"This was an encouraging outcome for the domestic tourism sector, especially given that domestic visitor nights declined by around 10% between 2004 and 2011 and many of the economic pressures that contributed to this trend remain.

He said the results showed the volatility of the domestic travel market, but day trips, particularly those tourists visiting friends and relatives, grew more than 10% in the year to September 2012.

Mr Smirl said domestic day trips had grown considerably since 2008, contributing to a significant shift toward shorter trips by domestic travellers.

"This shift is likely to have been an important factor impacting hotel occupancy rates in regional Australia, particularly those locations which are highly dependent on domestic travel," he said.

And while most regions had an upswing in domestic trips, Queensland and Western Australia had the best growth, followed by New South Wales and Victoria.

For international visitors, the standout performer was Western Australia with visitor nights growing by 26.4% over the year to September, largely driven by employment related travel associated with the mining boom.

Tasmania and South Australia also managed to capture reasonable growth in international visitors, albeit off a relatively low base.

By comparison, international visitor nights grew relatively modestly in NSW, Victoria and Queensland, in part reflecting weaker growth in the international student market.