The Far North Queensland tourism sector was saved last year by backpackers.
The backpackers contingent are almost exclusively comprised of the youth market which grew by 3 per cent last year while overall, overseas visitor numbers slumped by 14 per cent from 757,000 to 651,000.
Tourism Tropical North Queensland (TTNQ) have analysed the figures from Tourism Research Australia’s 2009 International Visitor Survey to find that 224,074 backpackers stayed in the region, an increase from the 216,815 in 2008.
TTNQ chief executive officer Rob Giason said "We are the kings of the backpackers. International backpackers increased by 3 per cent and nights by 19 per cent, making this an important market for the region."
Representing 34 per cent of all international visitors, backpackers had accounted for 51 per cent of the total accommodation nights. Mr Giason said that as such, backpackers were the single most important segment for tourism in the north.
He also said that, contrary to popular belief, they were in fact big spenders.
He said, "These guys do stay longer, they buy the adventure attractions, they spend significantly, they may try to cut corners, such as sleeping in vans, but they skydive, go rafting, bungy jump, dive and do various Reef trips."
Mr Giason considers the far north the adventure capital of Australia and hence its attraction to the youth market.
He said that while the global financial crisis had caused a fall in overall numbers of travellers from overseas, the backpacker segment had shrugged off the financial troubles and continued to travel in bigger numbers.
The research shows that they are staying longer as well, averaging two weeks, up from 12 days with the Japanese staying the longest at 30 days, followed by the French with 18 days, Germany, Holland and Scandinavia on 15 days, the UK 11 days and the US eight days.
Mr Giason says he is expecting to see more Japanese and Asian backpackers on the budget airline flights in the coming year.
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