Tourism is an important economic driver for the Northern Territory (NT) and a significant industry in regional areas. Tourism’s contribution to the NT economy is captured in a range of industries. These include accommodation and food services, retail trade, culture and recreation, and transport. In this section, analysis is provided on domestic and international visitor numbers and their habits, cruise ships and visitors, accommodation, aviation, attractions and infrastructure, and marketing initiatives.
Economic contribution | Contribution to employment | International visitors | Domestic visitors | Accommodation | Aviation | Cruise ships | Explanatory notes
Tourism is an important economic driver for the NT and a significant industry in regional areas. Tourism’s contribution to the NT economy is captured in a range of industries, including accommodation and food services, retail trade, culture and recreation, rental and hiring, construction, and transport.
Tourism Research Australia (TRA) reports the direct and indirect impact of expenditure and employment of tourism at the state and territory level based on data from the ABS’ National Tourism Satellite Accounts. The Department of Treasury and Finance work closely with the Department of Tourism, Sport and Culture (DTSC) to compile information on the NT’s tourism industry.
For more industry and tourism related data, including visitor factsheets, marketing, sector development and initiatives, visit DTSC’s Tourism NT Corporate website. Unless otherwise stated, the following analysis is based on estimates published by TRA.
- In 2019-20, the tourism industry in the NT is estimated to have directly contributed $852 million or 3.3% to gross state product.
- For further information visit the TRA website for the Tourism Satellite Accounts publication available in the economic analysis section.
Contribution to employment
- In 2019-20, tourism was a large employer in the NT with the sector directly employing about 7,300 people, which increased to about 12,500 people when the indirect contribution is accounted for (about 5,200 people).
- For further information please go to the TRA website for the Tourism Satellite Accounts publication available in the economic analysis section.
- In the year to December 2020, international visitor numbers to the NT decreased by 83% to an estimate of 50,000 visitors (Chart.1).
- The decline in international visitation was mainly driven by a decrease in visitors travelling for the purpose of holiday or leisure (down 84%) and visiting friends/relatives (down 75%).
- By region, Greater Darwin experienced a decrease of 89% in international visitation to 10,000 visitors. Alice Springs MacDonnell and Lasseter international visitation declined 84% and 83% to 26,000 and 16,000 visitors respectively.
- Holiday and leisure visitors make up the largest proportion of visitors to the NT regions, with about 49% of all visitors to the Top End and 42% of all visitors to Central Australia.
- Key source markets that experienced a decline includes the United States of America (down 75% to 9,000 visitors), United Kingdom (down 80% to 6,000 visitors), Germany (down 82% to 5,000 visitors), China (down 79% to 4,000 visitors) and Scandinavia (down 60% to 3,000 visitors).
- For a detailed breakdown of the data, please go to the research section of TRA, with additional analysis available at Tourism NT.
- In the year to December 2020, 936,000 interstate and intrastate overnight visitors travelled to and within the NT, decreasing by 45% (Chart 3). NT domestic visitors make up about 1.3% of national domestic visitors.
- The decline in domestic visitors reflects decreases in holiday and leisure (down 45% to 415,000 visitors), visiting friends and family (down 57% to 92,000), business travel (down 45% to 377,000) and other purposes of travel (down 39% to 72,000) over this period.
- Domestic visitation by all purposes of travel decreased by 42% to 699,000 visitors to the Top End and visitors to Central Australia decreased by 56% to 260,000 visitors over the period.
- There were an estimated 603,000 Territorian visitors within the NT, down by 3.3% compared to the same time the previous year. Interstate visitation to the NT decreased by 69% to 333,000 visitors over the same period. Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland represent the largest interstate source markets for the NT (Chart 4).
- For a detailed breakdown of the data, go to the research section of TRA, with additional analysis available at Tourism NT.
- The NT, Darwin and Alice Springs region monthly accommodation reports are sourced from daily data provided by participating hotels to the STR (formally known as Smith Travel Research) Global survey. For detailed information on accommodation, visit the research section on the Tourism NT website.
- NT occupancy rates for March 2021 were higher compared to March 2020, supported by the NT Government’s Territory tourism voucher scheme along with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions compared to 2020.
- The Territory’s tourism industry relies heavily on aviation due to large distances between major tourist attractions within the Territory and the remoteness of Darwin and Alice Springs from major metropolitan areas in other jurisdictions.
- The Territory is serviced by five domestic airlines and five international airlines.
- The cruise sector plays an important part in the NT’s tourism sector through its contribution to regional economic and business activity. In 2018-19, the cruise sector generated an estimate of $59.7 million of total expenditure, resulting from 73 ship visits to Darwin which carried 49,550 guests. Through 2019, there were also a number of expedition cruise ship visits to remote and regional locations across the Top End including the Tiwi Islands, Elcho Island and Yirrkala.
- NT tourism data is based primarily on data sourced from TRA. Their international visitor survey is conducted by computer-assisted personal interviewing in the departure lounges of the eight major international airports: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin and Gold Coast. Survey results are weighted to data provided by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship on international visitor numbers with the assistance of the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
- TRA revised international visitor survey estimates from 2005 to 2018 with the release of year ending December 2018 data. The revisions focus on purpose-of-visit estimates, with minimal change to visitor, nights and spend estimates. As results have been revised back to 2005, they cannot be used or compared to previously published data.
- The national visitor survey (NVS) includes any Australian resident who is 15 years of age or older and has lived in their current residence for at least three months. Up to the end of 2013, the NVS sample only included residential landline phones, but from January 2014 onwards the sample design was modified by the addition of mobile phones.
- For further information on the methodology used by TRA for their international and national visitor surveys go to TRA website .
- The NT, Darwin and Alice Springs monthly accommodation reports are sourced from daily data provided by participating hotels to the STR Global survey. This data is accumulated and averaged for the month and used as the basis for the analysis.