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Beyond the Great Barrier Reef: Why luxury travellers are heading to Australia

Tourists want to check out more than the usual Australian icons.

Tourists want to check out more than the usual Australian icons. Photo: Getty

Cashed-up travellers have their sights set on Australia, but they’re increasingly looking beyond the usual tourist attractions.

High-net-worth travellers from Asia Pacific (APAC) countries are looking at Australia as their top destination of choice in the next 12 months, followed by Japan and Hong Kong, according to research by Marriott International Luxury Group.

For affluent travellers from Australia, Hong Kong topped their dream APAC holiday destinations for the year. Japan and New Zealand rounded out the top three.

The chance to be immersed in nature and try new food were among the most important factors in choosing a destination for travellers among the wealthiest 10 per cent of residents in Australia, Singapore, India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan.

Kathie Sikkes, director DMC – Australia and New Zealand at luxury travel agency Abercrombie & Kent Australia, said high-end tourism had rebounded quickly post-pandemic.

She said interest in travel to Australia was fully recovered by mid-2023, with the country proving popular due to its relative safety and reputation for beautiful scenery.

Affluent tourists are also keen to stray further off the beaten path, with increasing interest in regional areas in states such as Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland.

“They’re doing the Great Barrier Reef, but they’re also going into regional parts of Queensland as well,” Sikkes said.

“It’s more about the authenticity of seeing something that’s not touristy.”

She said South Australia’s Kangaroo Island and Barossa Valley were big drawcards, while Tasmania was popular for its wilderness, wildlife and food and wine scene.

Overall, affluent tourists want to meet “real Australians”.

“They want to get off the tourist track, go to the local pub in outback Australia, or they want to give back to society or to the environment,” Sikkes said.

“People want to spend more time on their holiday relaxing. It’s not about just ticking off the icons and moving from A to B to C to D; they actually want to spend more time immersing themselves in that destination.”

Changing face of tourists

Marriott International Luxury Group identified three categories of affluent travellers, including:

  • The venture travelist: The next-generation bleisure, prioritising holiday destinations that will generate business opportunities by forging connections with members from the local community
  • The experience connoisseur: Predominantly millennials, these people use holidays as an opportunity for personal enrichment. With a focus on investing in mental and physical wellbeing, they want to deeply explore a destination and chase exclusive one-of-a-kind experiences
  • The timeless adventurer: People in their silver years who won’t settle for resting comfortably on the couch at home, instead chasing unique and memorable experiences outside of tourist attractions.

Australia was the top APAC destination for venture travellers and experience connoisseurs. But it lost its position to Japan for timeless travellers.

Sikkes said the timeless adventurer category would represent the majority of Abercrombie & Kent Australia’s clients, but the experience connoisseur client base was growing.

“We’re seeing a lot of younger people coming to Australia who enjoy being in the outdoors. They are taking the opportunity to include active experience, such as hiking and cycling,” she said.

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