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VFR Tourists the ‘Most Underestimated’ Segment in Australia

July 25, 2014 Statistics & Trends No Comments Email Email

A new report shows that people who visit their friends and relatives (VFRs) around the country are the unsung heroes of the tourism industry – and more should be done to encourage their visits.

An online survey in July by Sydney-based of 800 Australian residents who visited friends or relatives domestically in the last 12 months, showed that visitor information centres, regional and local tourism websites, council websites and search engines could do more to empower the sector which is worth an estimated $15 billion per year, according to Tourism Research Australia.unnamed (4)

“The survey shows that around 25% of people planning and going on trips to visit friends or relatives are not finding the information they would like as quickly and as easily as possible,” says Bronwyn White, co-founder of

“All around Australia there is massive potential for more and better programs to attract VFRs,” says White, who adds that around 45% also seek accommodation during the trip.

Only some smart operators are VFR-savvy. Carolyn Childs, fellow co-founder at, cites Paronella Park near Innisfail in Queensland, where tickets can be used all year round by locals. This incentivizes them to take out of town guests to the park. She also praises IHG and Marriott for having VFR programs.

The survey reported that 43% of VFRs who use social media post images of activities at the destination on social media. Some 34% post “beautiful” images of the scenery while there. Around 20% of the over 55s are already using social media on their VFR trips. Local attractions should be more aware of the huge marketing potential such social media exposure brings to the area. is running a workshop in Sydney on 30 July for travel industry operators, local businesses and government-related bodies that want to unlock the potential of what Childs calls, “Australia’s most underestimated market segment.”

The workshop will teach the travel industry information about the VFR market and how to connect with them, how to market directly to VFRs, what content messages they want to hear, clever ways to stimulate the local visitor economy via VFRs, how to increase local VFR market spend, how to engage the local community to champion local attractions, and how to change local residents’ and community perceptions about their area in order to promote attractions, events and sights of the region.

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