Skip to main content

Business Envoy February 2022

Reimagining Australia's visitor economy

Worth more than $166 billion in 2019 and our fourth largest export sector, Australia's visitor economy was one of the first casualties of COVID-19. When borders closed, it ground to a near-halt, losing tourists, international students and business travellers overnight. In the two years since, total visitor spend (domestic and international) has almost halved and tens of thousands of jobs have been lost. A clear long-term strategy will support the sector to rebuild and sustain healthy growth long into the future.

Positioning the sector to THRIVE

THRIVE 2030 – the draft strategy for the ReImagined Visitor Economy was released in late November 2021 for consultation prior to its final consideration by government. It builds on substantial industry consultation to set the visitor economy on a path from the challenges of the pandemic to long-term sustainable growth.

The strategy outlines three priority areas for action:

  • Modernisation – building a strong, resilient workforce, improving business practices, enhancing visitor infrastructure and embracing technology.
  • Diversification – developing new products and experiences and attracting new market segments.
  • Collaboration – between businesses, and between industry and governments at every level.

Adapting to a changing landscape

Several factors unrelated to the pandemic are also driving the need for the visitor economy to adapt and modernise. Many of these had begun to emerge prior to 2020 and have been brought into even sharper focus during the past two years.

The sector is experiencing significant labour shortages. Building workforce capability will require multiple streams of work, including finding ways to attract a range of cohorts to the workforce (mature workers, people with a disability, women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples), as well as developing tourism as a career of choice.

Traveller preferences are also undergoing a shift. Increasingly, travellers are seeking authentic, sustainable experiences where they are fully immersed in the culture and natural environment of their destination. A growing cohort of older travellers and travellers with disabilities require accessible infrastructure. And there is a growing segment of the market seeking luxurious, ‘bucket list' experiences. Australians, as well as international tourists, see many parts of Australia as their dream holiday destinations.

Regaining lost ground

The first phase of the proposed strategy focuses on recovery. This is not a simple task. The international market has lost significant momentum since Australia necessarily closed its borders in March 2020, and it will take time and effort to rebuild the sector to its previous level. In the immediate term, the focus will continue to be on expanding the domestic market – encouraging Australians to explore their own backyard and actively discover their many great local experiences.

During this initial period, the draft strategy proposes a focus on rebuilding the capability of the visitor economy workforce, developing compelling destinations, and improving the availability of data to support business and attract investment.

As the sector gains momentum, focus will shift to rebuilding and expanding international visitor markets and improving business practices. We will also support the sector to build resilient, modern businesses offering exciting destinations and experiences.

Finally, THRIVE 2030 proposes to foster the conditions for long-term sustainable growth, ensuring our visitor economy businesses are competitive, innovative and unique.

Australia's visitor economy already possesses the attributes needed to succeed. Industry-led and government-enabled, THRIVE 2030 as the draft long-term strategy aims to help the visitor economy regain its footing and stride with confidence into the future.

More information can be found on Austrade's Tourism policy and strategy page.


The Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney
The Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney. Image courtesy of Archie Sartacom.


Back to top