The hottest Australian tourist destination has been revealed as Canberra – with its spectacular roundabouts and Questacon

The Queen, looking less than impressed with Canberra. (Photo by Stuart Walmsley – Pool, Getty Images)
  • The latest set of tourism stats have shown that, spectacularly, Canberra is the fastest growing tourist destination in Australian for international visitors.
  • The Bush Capital welcomed more than a quarter of a million overseas visitors last year, and ranks as the number one domestic destination as well with 6.8 visitors per resident.
  • That’s likely buoyed by the fact that international flights are now bringing visitors direct to the city from overseas.

When you think of Australian tourism, there are so many destinations that spring to mind. Great icons like Questacon, Lake Burkley Griffith, and Mooseheads Hotel.

That’s at least the impression that the latest tourism statistics paint, with the ACT revealed to be leading the nation in more than just federal politics.

The number of tourists travelling to the federal capital grew by 7.1% to 266,000 in the last financial year, blowing away the rest of the pack like a well-timed query during Question Time. Compare that to Victoria and the Northern Territory for example, which came in tied for second. They grew at a far more modest 4% despite topping their tourism budgets up by 7% and 9% respectively.

Even more impressive is Canberra’s achievement given they slashed their tourism budget last year, by around $36 million. And yet, even without that money, overseas visitors know what they want — a bumper crop of roundabouts and not one but two Houses of Parliament.

It’s been helped no doubt by the fact international flights have been able to go straight there on international connecting flights. Both Singapore and Qatar Airlines now jet-in direct, cutting down the time required to get from France to the real Paris of the South — move over Buenos Aires.

Where international visitors are choosing to go (Source: Tourism Research Australia)

More likely though they’re coming from China — where 16% of all arrivals come from — or India, where there was an incredible 17.5% rise in tourist numbers. But be it Beijing or Bangalore, no longer must a visitor muck around in one of Australia’s inferior and, frankly, uglier cities when they can go straight for our crown jewel, our chef-d’œuvre, our Bush Capital.

I mean sure, it’s still not the biggest tourist destination in the country. That would go to New South Wales, where more than 4.3 million people flock every year. It’s followed by Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and in fact every other state and territory in the country before you get to the ACT. All of them growing besides Tasmania, by the way.

But to be fair, the ACT is the smallest region in the running, with the budget to match. And yet, it’s also leading on the domestic front as well. Last year it drew in a country-leading 6.8 local visitors per resident, leaps and bounds ahead of the national average of 4.5, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). You just can’t argue with those kinds of figures.

That’s all despite being given Telstra Tower instead of the Harbour Bridge and the Murrumbidgee River instead of the Margaret. And yet even with the cards it’s been dealt, it’s still outpacing the rest of the Commonwealth by a country mile. It must be doing something right.

It’s a real shame for Australia at any rate. As Canberra sucks up the bulk of tourists, locals will be left with dull destinations like, you know, the Great Barrier Reef.

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