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Record interstate visitor numbers drive Sunshine Coast tourism performance to new heights

The key to the surge in Sunshine Coast visitor numbers was the return – in force – of the interstate market

Record interstate holiday travellers and increased length of stay have driven the Sunshine Coast’s tourism performance to new heights in the year to September 2023, according to Tourism Research Australia in their latest National Visitor Survey (NVS).

For the year to September 30, 2023, the Sunshine Coast attracted $4.2 billion in overnight visitor expenditure (OVE), which was up 11.8 percent on the previous year and 53.7 percent ahead of 2019.

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A total of 4.2 million visitors travelled to the Sunshine Coast in the 12 months to September 2023, including a record 2.5 million holiday visitors, up 1.7 percent compared to the year before and up 12.9 percent compared to 2019.

Visitors also stayed longer, with over 15.3 million nights recorded, a 5.6 percent increase year on year (YOY), and 2.4 percent ahead of 2019 results.

The key to the surge in Sunshine Coast visitor numbers was the return – in force – of the interstate market.


With Bonza’s new services from regional NSW and Victoria coming online over the first nine months of 2023, interstate visitation grew by 14.3 percent YOY to 1.1 million, while interstate visitors coming for a holiday on the Sunshine Coast grew 21.5 percent YOY to 780,000 – a record number for the Sunshine Coast.

NSW visitors grew 9.5 percent YOY, while Melbourne – which is serviced by Bonza from both Tullamarine and Avalon airports – grew 21 percent YOY and the Victorian state growth was 13.1 percent YOY. And up 6.2 percent vs 2019.

Day trippers also grew strongly in the year to September 2023, with the 6.8 million visitors spending $907.9 million, up 39.9 percent YOY. And up 29 percent vs 2019.

Glass House Mountains, Sunshine Coast – For Real campaign

Encouragingly, while many destinations saw domestic traveller numbers plateau or slide during the most recent September quarter ( July 1 to September 30), the Sunshine Coast bucked the trend.

While the State saw an overall decline in visitor numbers for the quarter, the Sunshine Coast attracted 1.2 million visitors, which was up 29.8 percent compared to the September quarter in 2022. Total nights stayed on the Sunshine Coast grew 33.1 percent to 4.4 million compared to 2022, including 2.5 million nights from interstate visitors, up 35.8 percent YOY.

Commenting on the results, Visit Sunshine Coast Head of Industry & Trade Development, Andrew Fairbairn, said the whole of the Sunshine Coast tourism industry deserved congratulations for performing so strongly in a highly competitive tourism environment.

“Australians have increasingly chosen to travel overseas over the past year, which has made attracting premium visitors even more difficult, but the quality of the Sunshine Coast brand, and the desirability of our destination has enabled us to remain competitive, while other destinations have seen downturns,” said Mr Fairbairn.

Visit Sunshine Coast’s marketing campaigns were targeted heavily towards rebuilding the interstate market, and with a return of direct flights from key cities, as well as the launch of new regional services via the Bonza network, we have been very successful in attracting both new and return interstate visitors.

Alba by Kuruvita, Queensland’s Sunshine Pantry, Credit Visit Sunshine Coast

“While our beaches and climate are well known, we have been showcasing the increasing diversity of what the Sunshine Coast offers, particularly our renowned food and dining. Our most recent campaign ‘Queensland’s Sunshine Pantry’ is designed to tap into the rapidly growing interest in food tourism, just as our ‘Craft Beer Capital of Australia’ campaign highlighted the Sunshine Coast’s strengths in the craft brewing sector.

“We are constantly trying to excite the market with new reasons to come to the Sunshine Coast, and while competitive pressures continue to grow, the recent forecast by Sunshine Coast Airport of record passenger movements for the summer holiday period suggests tourism numbers will continue to grow both in the short and medium terms.” 

International visitor numbers saw gradual increases from some markets, but largely based on the return of visiting friends and relatives, who also stayed longer than traditional holiday travellers.

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