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 2017-18, the tourism industry in the NT is estimated to have directly contributed $1.2 billion or 4.4% 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 2017-18, tourism was a large employer in the NT with the sector directly employing about 9700 people, which increased to about 17 100 people when the indirect contribution is accounted for (about 7400 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 September 2019, international visitor numbers to the NT increased by 7.3% to an estimate of 310,000 visitors (Chart.1).
- Growth in international visitation was mainly driven by an increase in holiday and leisure purpose visitors (up 6.0%), business (up 33.3%) and other reasons (up 8.6%). This was partly offset by falls in visitors travelling for the purpose of visiting friends and relatives (down 7.8%).
- By region, the Top End region experienced an increase of 5.0% in international visitation to 138,000 visitors. Visitors who travelled to Central Australia for all purposes increased by 5.9% to 214,000 international visitors in the year to September 2019. Holiday and leisure visitors make up the majority visitors to the NT regions, with about 69.6% of all visitors to the Top End and 96.7% of all visitors to Central Australia.
- International visitation was underpinned by growth in Japan (up 65.8% to 47,000 visitors) and the United States (up 16.5% to 42,000 visitors). Other key source markets experienced a decline, which includes the United Kingdom (down 16.0% to 32,000 visitors), Germany (down 8.4% to 25,000 visitors) and greater China (which includes mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong) (down 4.9% to 21,000 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 September 2019, 1.6 million interstate and intrastate overnight visitors travelled to and within the NT, increasing by 6.6% (Chart 3). NT domestic visitors make up about 1.4% of national domestic visitors.
- Growth in domestic visitors was driven by increases in business (up 9.5% to 679,000 visitors), and holiday and leisure (up 8.9% to 711,000 visitors) purposes of travel over this period. These two purposes of travel are the largest contributors to total domestic visitation (41.3% and 43.3%, respectively). Visitors for other purposes increased by 17.4% to 102,000. This was partly offset by a 8.1% decline to 205,000 visitors visiting friends and relative.
- Domestic visitation by all purposes of travel increased by 8.3% to 1.2 million visitors to the Top End and visitors to Central Australia increased by 9.6% to 558,000 visitors over the period.
- Territorians took an estimated 605,000 overnight trips within the NT, down by 8.9% compared to the same time the previous year. Interstate visitation to the NT increased by 18.0% to 1,038,000 visitors over the same period. New South Wales, Victoria 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.
- Despite the positive visitation results, lower occupancy rates are being experienced, more apparent in Darwin. This is attributed to a number of reasons such as declines in corporate and business visitors in hotels and an increase in accommodation available as more properties are rented for short stay accommodation and shared houses such as Airbnb are available at cheaper rates, rather than for long term tenancy.
- In August 2016, the Territory Government and Landbridge Infrastructure Group Australia signed an agreement for the development of a luxury hotel in Darwin at the Darwin Waterfront. Construction on the Westin Darwin Hotel commenced in early 2019, with plans to begin operations in 2022.
- This new development will broaden the range of accommodation available in the Top End region and can help attract more tourists and unique business events in Darwin. For more information on the project and development of the hotel, refer to the Landbridge Darwin Luxury Hotel website.
- 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.
- Coral Expedition’s Coral Adventurer will home port in Darwin which will provide an important injection into the NT economy with local businesses providing food and beverage supplies, technical services, fuel and other essential services. During 2019-20, Coral Adventurer is scheduled to make eighteen departures from Darwin carrying an estimated 2000 passengers plus a further 222 crew.
- During 2019-20, 87 cruise ships are expected to visit Darwin carrying a capacity of 67,800 guests, with six vessels expected to make their maiden voyages including the Explorer Dream, Carnival Splendor, Boudicca, Wind Spirit, Queen Elizabeth and MSC Magnifica. One of the largest cruise ships MSC Magnifica is expected to pass through Darwin in March 2020, with a passenger capacity of 3223.
- In September 2019, the Majestic Princess delivered 3560 passengers to Darwin and is also expected to return in September 2020. Furthermore, the AIDAvita, carrying 1266 passengers, will be visiting Darwin three times during December 2019 and March 2020, staying in Darwin for two nights on each occasion.
- 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.