INTERNATIONAL visitor numbers for the Gold Coast have breached one million annually for the first time, although it is business travellers rather than holidaymakers that have recorded the biggest percentage growth over the past year.
The latest International Visitor Survey conducted by Tourism Australia reveals that 1.014 million international travellers visited the Gold Coast in the 12 months to the end of September, a rise of 16.2 per cent increase on the previous year.
While leisure travellers accounted for the bulk of the numbers (807,000), the largest growth area in percentage terms for the tourism city has been business travel, which is up 21.9 per cent to 34,000.
Visits to friends and relatives accounted for 141,000 travellers, while student numbers also rose 13.9 per cent to 23,000.
China is now the clear leader in international arrivals to the Gold Coast, accounting for 295,000 visitors, up 38.4 per cent on the previous year. The numbers have swamped former international flagbearer New Zealand with 195,000.
The growth in Chinese visitors to the Gold Coast reflects similar growth in the broader Australian market, with the tourism capital now accounting for almost one in three Chinese tourists entering the country.
The rise in international visitors to the Gold Coast was accompanied by a 15 per cent rise in international visitor expenditure to $1.267 billion.
Visitor nights are also up 27 per cent, with international tourists staying 10.7 million nights.
"More international tourists are visiting the Gold Coast and they're are staying longer and spending more," says Federal Tourism Minister and Gold Coast MP Steven Ciobo.
"We're a tourist town, so we need more visitors spending more to create and sustain local jobs."
The Australian tourism industry's resurgence has gathered pace in recent years and the sector is now growing at three times the rate of the broader economy. Growth is now at its fastest pace since the mid-90s.
Chinese tourism numbers are also defying a moderation in income growth among the Chinese middle class, according to a recent Deloitte Access Economics report. It says the travel bug is part of a broader trend globally, including a renewed love affair by domestic travellers flocking to regional destinations across Australia.
"The Gold Coast is going from strength to strength and continues to cement its position as Australia's most popular holiday destination," says Gold Coast Tourism CEO Martin Winter.
He says big events and conventions are driving some of that growth, while Chinese growth has benefited from Gold Coast Tourism's dedicated office in Shanghai.
"The Gold Coast has demonstrated it is capable of attracting the world's largest incentives, as demonstrated by Infinitus China, which will see more than 8000 delegates here in May 2018 immediately after the Commonwealth Games.
"This is expected to generate more than $50 million for the city."
Apart from China and New Zealand, the Gold Coast remains a top travel destination for the British with 70,000 visitors in the past year, the Japanese (56,000) and Americans (38,000).
Help us deliver quality journalism to you.
As a free and independent news site providing daily updates
during a period of unprecedented challenges for businesses everywhere
we call on your support