Regional areas bag $3.3b from international tourists

INTERNATIONAL visitors spent almost $3.3 billion in regional Australia in the year to March, figures released by Tourism Research Australia show.

The latest International Visitors Survey released on Wednesday found more than 5.7 million overseas visitors came to Australia in the 12 months to March 31 - an increase of 5% on the previous year - spending more than $19 billion.

Of these almost two million people visited regional Australia, with Tropical North Queensland the most popular destination outside the capital cities.

It attracted 691,00 visitors who spent $877 million, followed by Hobart and the South ($176 million and 130,000 visitors) and the Sunshine Coast ($171 million and 220,000 visitors).

New South Wales attracted the most overseas visitors of all the states (51%) and the highest spend ($6.5 billion, up 5%).

More than a third of overseas visitors (36%) visited Queensland, second behind NSW, and spent $3.9 billion, a rise of 4%.

Of the total expenditure more than 80% was spent in the capitals, including the Gold Coast, led by Sydney on $5.8 billion.

The Northern Territory the most reliant on regional expenditure (69%) followed by Queensland (38%).

Meanwhile, visitor arrivals from China and the United States hit record numbers during the March quarter.

The survey found Chinese visitor numbers for the quarter jumped to 213,383, eclipsing the previous record of 185,355, achieved in the March quarter last year.

TRA chief economist and general manager Dr Leo Jago said the results were an encouraging sign the overseas tourism market was bouncing back.

"Along with China's record numbers for the quarter, the year ending March 2013 saw a 17% increase in numbers from China and a 21% increase in spend," Dr Jago said.

"The record number of US arrivals this quarter, paired with similar results for the December 2012 quarter is notable considering the strength of the Australian dollar.

New Zealand remained Australia's largest source of visitors for the 12 months with almost 1.1 million, followed by China with 620,197 and the UK with 559,882.

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