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Arts a bigger drawcard for international tourists than wineries, casinos or sport

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Badu Gili, Sydney Opera House. Artist Alick Tipoti. Credit Daniel Boud

The arts are increasingly on the itinerary for visitors packing their suitcases to come to Australia, according to a new report from the Australia Council for the Arts: International Arts Tourism: Connecting Cultures.

Arts tourist numbers grew by 47% between 2013 and 2017, a higher growth rate than for international tourist numbers overall (37%).

Visitors from Asia were the biggest group of arts tourists, representing almost half (48%) of all international tourists engaged with the arts.

International tourists who engaged with the arts tended to stay in Australia longer than international visitors overall.

The research shows strong engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture. Nearly 830,000 international arts tourists (one in four) engaged with First Nations arts while in Australia.

International tourists who engaged with the arts were also more likely to travel beyond the east coast states and to visit regional locations, reflecting a demand for diverse and authentic cultural experiences.

Australia Council Executive Director for Strategic Development and Advocacy Dr Wendy Were said the research highlights the power of the arts in shaping international perceptions of Australia.

“The arts provide an important point of connection. 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.”

“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,” Dr Were said.

Visitors to Australia were more likely to engage with arts (43%) than to visit wineries (13%), casinos (12%) or attend organised sporting events (6%).

More highlights:


  • China is our biggest single-country market for arts tourism. Almost 620,000 arts tourists came to Australia from China in 2017.
  • The most popular activity for arts tourists was visiting museums and galleries (more than 2.5 million visitors in 2017).
  • More than one million international tourists attended festivals, fairs and cultural events in 2017, an increase of 61% since 2013.
  • One in four international arts tourists engaged with First Nations arts, and arts tourists who visited regional areas of the Northern Territory had particularly high levels of engagement.
  • The five countries making up the largest numbers of international arts tourists in 2017 were China, the UK, the USA, New Zealand and Japan.  Total numbers of arts tourists from Asia, the Middle East, Oceania, Europe, North America and South America have grown year on year since 2008.
  • Nearly half (43%) of the eight million international tourists to Australia in 2017 engaged with the arts during their stay.

Available for interview:

Dr Wendy Were, Director Strategic Development and Advocacy, Australia Council for the Arts

Rebecca Mostyn, Manager Research, Australia Council for the Arts

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Learn more about International Arts Tourism: Connecting Cultures



Brianna Roberts


(02) 9215 9030

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