With more Aussies choosing to holiday in New South Wales than ever before, it seems only one region of the state is going backwards.
Latest figures reveal that many holidaymakers – particularly those from interstate – are turning their backs on the Central Coast, north of Sydney, and instead are heading to other regions of NSW.
The Central Coast suffered a 15% drop in the daytrip sector and a 2.3% downturn in domestic overnight visitors in the year to September 2016, Destination NSW figures show.
Over the same period, total tourism expenditure in the region dropped by 6.9%, from AUD 893 million down to AUD 832 million.
The figures are a shock because other regions are doing so well, with more than 20 million visitors flocking to regional NSW and spending close to AUD 10 billion in the 12 months to September 2016.
NSW Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events Stuart Ayres said National Visitor Survey data released by Tourism Research Australia showed that in 2016, domestic holiday visitors to regional NSW grew by 10% with holiday interstate visitors up by 17.3%, the majority of growth from Queensland.
“This is fantastic news for our regional hotels, restaurants and businesses. Importantly this growth in tourism means more jobs for Regional NSW, and with Summer here, and more regional events to come, these results are expected to continue,” Ayres said.
“In total, more than 29 million domestic visitors travelled to NSW, staying 94 million nights, and spending AUD 16.5 billion with 60% of this expenditure in our regions.”
Outback NSW, Snowy Mountains and North Coast regions recorded strong increases in visitation and expenditure for the year, with visitors up by 28%, 16% and 11% respectively. Visitor growth and spend was fuelled by holiday travellers.
Other regions reporting strong visitation growth included New England North West (+15%), the Blue Mountains (+14%) and the Hunter (+9%). Riverina also achieved substantial growth of 37% in visitor expenditure for the year.
Despite setbacks, the Central Coast did well on the international front, receiving 49,500 international overnight visitors – +19.3% over the previous year. Their total spend, however, fell to AUD 38 million, 14% lower than the previous year, ending September 2015.
The NSW Central Coast stretches between Sydney and Newcastle, from the mouth of the Hawkesbury River all the way to the southern end of Lake Macquarie. A mix of beachside villages, bays, inlets, lakes and hinterland areas makes the region well worth visiting for those who know.
About half of domestic visitors spending nights in the NSW Central Coast do so alone or as part of an adult couple. Family groups make up just 23.5% of the total.
Predictably, Sydney was the largest source market for the Central Coast in terms of nights spent by domestic tourists in the region (56.6% of the total) , followed by regional NSW (25.7%) and Queensland (7.7%). Compared to the previous year, nights spent by visitors from Sydney grew by 1.5% while nights from regional NSW declined by 16.7%. Over the same period, Queensland nights slumped by 35.3% and Victorian nights dived by 62.2%.
The good news: visitors from Canberra (the ACT) just can’t get enough of the Central Coast. Nights by visitors from the ACT soared by a startling 162%, though visitors from the ACT still make up just 3.7% of total domestic overnight visitors there.
Sydney’s Daily Telegraph pointed out that Central Coast Council is set to increase its tourism funding and has has had 50 expressions of interest for a suitably qualified external organisation to provide tourism marketing and management for the Coast with an increased budget of AUD 800,000 from 1 July 2017.
Also, the NSW Government has announced the new Destination Network Boards, viewed as fundamental in growing a stronger regional visitor economy.
Written by Peter Needham