The arts are increasingly becoming a drawcard for international visitors to Australia, a new report released by the Australia Council has shown. Last year, nearly half of the eight million visitors to Australia engaged with the arts during their stay (43 percent), which proved more popular than wineries (13 percent), casinos (12 percent) or organised sporting events (six percent). The biggest arts attractions were museums and galleries, which welcomed more than 2.5 million international guests in 2017.

“The arts are a highly influential and powerful tool for building national identity and for sharing Australian culture, stories and perspectives with the world. The research highlights the growing potential for the arts to drive and support tourism activity, and for our artists to increase their engagement with the international tourist market,” said Dr Wendy Were, the Australia Council’s Executive Director of Strategic Development and Advocacy.

The report also shows that arts tourists have grown by 47 percent between 2013 and 2017, a higher growth rate than for international tourist numbers overall (37 percent). What’s more, those who engaged with the arts also tended to stay in Australia longer than international visitors who did not. Those from Asia comprised the largest group of arts tourists, representing almost half (48 percent) of all international tourists engaged with the arts. The five countries making up the largest numbers of international arts tourists were China, the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand and Japan.

While museums and galleries are the most popular arts activities for tourists, with three in every 10 having visited either in 2017, festivals, fairs and cultural events are also becoming important attractions. Over one million visitors attended a festival, fair or cultural event last year, an increase of 61 percent since 2013. This growth may be attributed to a number of factors, including the increase of festivals as well as the diverse array of events on offer.

Encouragingly, visitors also demonstrated a strong interest in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture, with nearly one in four tourists engaged with First Nations arts. Those visiting regional areas in the Northern Territory showed particularly high levels of engagement, with eight in 10 attending a First Nations arts activity in 2017. Unsurprisingly, the report also showed that those interested in the arts were more likely to travel outside capital cities.

“The arts provide an important point of connection,” said Dr Were. “We know that international visitors are drawn to Australia’s unique First Nations arts and cultures, and are connected to us through the extraordinary diaspora who have made Australia their home.”

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Limelight, Australia's Classical Music and Arts Magazine