Economic contribution | Contribution to employment | International visitors | Domestic visitors | Accommodation | Aviation | Cruise ships | Marketing, sector development and initiatives | Explanatory notes
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, please go to DTSC’s website. Unless otherwise stated, the following analysis is based on estimates published by TRA.
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. In 2016-17, the tourism industry in the NT is estimated to have directly contributed $1.2 billion or 4.6% to gross state product. For further information visit the Tourism Research Australia website for the Tourism Satellite Accounts publication available in the economic analysis section.
In 2016-17, tourism was a large employer in the NT with the sector directly employing 9040 people, which increased to about 16 300 people when the indirect contribution is accounted for (about 7230 people). For further information please go to the Tourism Research Australia website for the Tourism Satellite Accounts publication available in the economic analysis section.
In 2018, international visitor numbers to the NT increased by 1.9% to an estimate of 298,000 visitors (Chart.1). Growth in international visitation was mainly driven by an increase in holiday and leisure purpose visitors (up 4.8%), which was partly offset by falls in the other categories of purpose including visiting friends and relatives (down 10.1%), business (down 32.1%) and other reasons (down 4.3%).
By region, Central Australia experienced an increase of 3.0% in international visitation to 212,000 visitors. However there was a decline of 5.2% to 129,000 international visitors who traveled to the Top End by all purposes in 2018. Holiday and leisure visitors make up the majority of overnight trips to the regions, with about 75.0% of all visits to the Top End and 97% of all visits to Central Australia.
In 2018, international visitation was underpinned by growth in Japan (up 56.0% to 35,000 visitors), greater China (which includes mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong) (up 55.5% to 27,000 visitors), and Germany (up 0.1% to 29,000 visitors). Other key source markets experienced a decline, which include the United States (down 13.0% to 40,000 visitors) and the United Kingdom (down 15.3% to 34,000 visitors).
In 2018, 1.6 million interstate and intrastate overnight visitors traveled to and within the NT, representing a 0.7% increase compared to 2017 (Chart 3). NT domestic visitors make up about 1.5% of national domestic visitors.
Growth in domestic visitors was driven by an increases in business (up 10.0% to 700,000 visitors), and holiday and leisure (up 6.7% to 652,000 visitors) purposes of travel over this period. These two purposes of travel are the largest contributors to total domestic visitation (44.3% and 41.3%, respectively). This was partly offset by a 22.4% decline to 199,000 visitors visiting friends and relatives, as well as 32.7% decline to 74,000 visitors for other purposes.
Domestic visitation by all purposes of travel increased by 7.7% to 1.2 million visitors to the Top End, which was partly offset by a 4.3% decline to 520,000 visitors to Central Australia in 2018.
Territorians took an estimated 651,000 overnight trips within the NT in 2018, representing a 1.3% decline when compared to 2017. Although there was growth in intra-Territory holiday and leisure visitors (up 4.5%), this was offset by a decrease in visitors travelling to visit friends and relatives (down 32%). Interstate visitation to the NT increased by 2.2% to 929,000 visitors. This was a result of increases in holiday (up 8.1%) and business visitation (up 13%) related travel, partly offset by decreases in visitors visiting friends and relatives (down 17%) and for other purpose of visit (down 61%) (Chart 4).
According to STR (formally known as Smith Travel Research), average occupancy rates for December 2018 decreased by 15.0 percentage points to 46.0% in the NT when compared to December 2017, with most of this decline driven by performance in Darwin. There was a 23.0% decrease in demand to 133,000 nights. The lower results were compounded by an increase in room supply at the end of the month to 9,524 rooms (up 140 rooms). In 2018, average occupancy rates declined by 3.0 percentage points to 68.0%.
In 2018, the average annual occupancy rate in Darwin decreased by 4.0 percentage points to 69.0%, compared to 2017. The decline was due to a decline of 3.3% in demand to 1.4 million room nights, combined with an increase in supply of 233 rooms in 2018. In contrast, Alice Springs’ average annual occupancy rate increased by 1.3 percentage points increase to 73.0% in 2018.
Increasing activity in the accommodation sector will help place the NT’s tourism industry in a position to attain its target to grow the visitor economy. In August 2016, he 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 March 2019, with plans to begin operations by early 2022. This new development will broaden the range of accommodation available in the Top End region and 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.
For further information on accommodation for the NT, Darwin and Alice Springs, visit the research section on the Tourism NT 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 six international airlines. Inbound seat capacity to the Territory in 2018 decreased by 2.7%. The decrease in inbound capacity was experienced across all airports in the Territory with the exception of Alice Springs and Yulara.
The cruise sector plays an important part in the NT’s tourism sector through its contribution to regional economic and business activity. In 2017-18, the cruise sector generated an estimate of $171.9 million of total expenditure, resulting from a total of 66 ship visits to Darwin which carried 50,192 guests.
During 2018-19, the largest vessel to pass through Darwin was the Explorer of the Seas which brought 4029 passengers in April 2019. In September 2018, the Majestic Princess cruise ship which repositioned from China to Australia and passed through Darwin, brought 3459 passengers to the economy, and retuned in April 2019 delivering an additional 3560 passengers. Through 2018, 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. During 2018-19, 74 ship visits are expected in total, bringing a capacity of 49,677 guests to Darwin.
To attract and grow the domestic and international visitation market, the NT government continues to support the tourism industry through a range of marketing and development strategies and stimulus programs. Some of these include:
In early 2018, the NT government announced a $103 million Turbocharging Tourism stimulus program that was intended to accelerate growth in the holiday and leisure visitor markets to the NT. The program’s associated funding and contribution to economic activity is expected to continue to flow through 2018-19 into 2019-20, reflecting timing between marketing and infrastructure activities. The initiative was delivered in three stages, which include:
Turbo2 is an additional extension to the initial turbocharging tourism initiative, over 2019‑20 and 2020-21 aimed at attracting more visitors to the NT, which creates local jobs and delivers expenditure into the community. The extended program is planned to deliver more investment into domestic and international visitor marketing activities, and will continue to support events and festivals to be held in the NT. For more information on the program, visit the Turbocharging Tourism website.
The Commonwealth and NT government’s master plan to redevelop Jabiru into a tourism hub provides opportunity for new tourism and infrastructure investment, fundamentally transforming the town into a nationally and internationally recognised tourism destination with the aim of increasing visitation levels and associated expenditure. The plan will include the construction of an Aboriginal-led World Heritage Kakadu Centre, significant road upgrades, new tourism infrastructure, and the remediation of Jabiru. The plan also proposes the removal of crocodiles from Lake Jabiru to offer year-round swimming.
In line with the Tourism Vision 2020 which is designed to grow the value of the visitor economy, address supply constraints and improve the visitor experience, the NT Government has released the China Ready Program. This program is aimed at placing the NT as a ‘China-Ready’ destination with a target to attract 30,000 Chinese visitors with an estimated expenditure of $46 million to the NT by 2020.
For more information on all tourism initiatives and actions, go to the marketing and development sections of the Tourism NT website.
NT tourism data is based primarily on data sourced from TRA. For their international visitor survey it 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 have 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 more 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.