Research into strategies to boost backpacker tourism in Australia has recommended the introduction of new short-term working holiday visas for international students on completion of their studies.
Researchers at the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre (STCRC) estimate that nationally these students represent a potential new market larger than the half a million backpackers who currently visit Australia every year.
Changes to the conditions of the existing visa – which a significant proportion of international backpackers obtain – are recommended.
In 2007-08 visitors using these visas were estimated to be worth $1.8 billion to the national economy.
The suggested changes include the ability to extend the visas and a reduction in required working hours.
Holidaying backpackers at eight popular Australian backpacker destinations were surveyed. For more than 40% of international backpackers the working holiday was basic to their trip to Australia.
The backpacker market has grown over the past 10 years, and STCRC commissioned the research to ensure Australia continues to not only maintain but build its international market share.
The research has delivered five short-term and seven longer-term strategies that can be implemented by individual backpacker businesses, destination managers and policy-makers.
Survey respondents were asked to assess the importance of seven emerging backpacker holiday trends and the ability for Australia to deliver product or experiences in line with the trends.
A dominating trend was travelling to experience intense physical adrenalin experiences such as skydiving, bungee jumping, skiing, rafting, diving, surfing and trekking. The top five countries listed as delivering such experiences were New Zealand (42%), Australia (36%), Africa (4%), Canada (3%) and South America (2%).
Australian Tourism Export Council Managing Director Matt Hingerty says the research is timely.
“In an extremely challenging economic environment, the backpacker sector is one of the few bright spots of the Australian inbound tourism industry..
As such it is an incredibly important segment of our industry, and one which will only grow in prominence in the future.
Reports into the backpacker tourism industry…are vital in guiding the sector towards both sustainability and prosperity…
We need to know what is working, and why, so we can apply these lessons more generally.”
James Cook University’s Professor Philip Pearce who conducted the research on behalf of STCRC says
“The research looked beyond the local scene and explored international trends as well and what it tells us is that Australia is competitive in a number of key areas but we have to keep working to develop new and fresh areas of interest as well.”