The Griffith Institute for Tourism recently worked with the Western Downs region on an economic assessment of tourism to the region.

Below is a summary of the project, prepared by A/Prof Tien Pham and Dr Tramy Ngo

Regional economic profile

  • The population of the region in 2017 was approximately 34,000 people.
  • The labour supply has mildly contracted, showing a sign of an aging population in the region. If this persists, it can further affect the labour supply for tourism.
  • A decline in the number of businesses, in contrast to a slight increase in the Accommodation and food services, indicates an increasing importance of the tourism sector in the region.

Tourism Market Growth

  • The number of visitors to the region had increased at 3.5% p.a. since 2008/09 to reach 785,000 visitors in 2017/18.
  • The major market segments: domestic overnight visitors (68%) and Daytrip visitors (23%).
  • 1 in 2 overnight domestic visitors to the region were business visitors.
  • Domestic business travellers experienced the fastest increase, at 18,8% p.a. since 2010/11 and they also stayed longer than other overnight domestic visitors.
  • 2 in 5 overnight domestic visitors to the region were for holiday or VFR.
  • Inbound visitors accounted for a very modest share of just 9% .
  • New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States are key inbound markets.

Tourism Economic Values

  • Total tourism spend in 2017/18 was $162.13 million, of which 26.8% was for fuel (reflecting the self-drive and FIFO travel demand nature to the region).
  • Tourism contributed $42.57 million of Direct Tourism Gross Value Added, and $46.26 million of Direct Tourism Gross Regional Product to the region.
  • 789 persons were directly employed by the sector, contributing 5.5% to the total employment of the region.

Way Forwards

  • In the short term, maximise benefits from the domestic segment, particularly overnight domestic visitors on business trips.
  • Continue to attract more visitors from traditional markets (New Zealand, US and UK).
  • In the longer term, steer toward the dominant market of Chinese visitors, perhaps more so on the FITs segment.
  • The region, as well as other regional councils, need to liaise with the state government to market the FIT visitors to the regional areas more effectively.

**Feature photo from Tourism and Events Queensland.