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Cultural tourism reached a high in 2012 with almost 3 million international tourists and 23 million domestic cultural and heritage tourists.

The 2012 International Visitor Survey showed that 48 percent of all overseas visitors had attended at least one cultural attraction while in Australia. Of these 58 percent had visited an art gallery or museum and 20 percent attended theatre, concerts or other performing arts events.


Australia imports more cultural goods and services than it exports

In 2008-09, Australia earned $747m through the provision of cultural goods ($584m) and cultural and recreational services ($163m) to the rest of the world. By comparison, in the same year Australia imported $3,259.9m of cultural goods and $1,329m of cultural and recreational services from overseas. [1]

[1] The ABS calculates data on Australia's international trade in services on a balance of payments basis. Please see explanatory note for ‘International Trade in Services by Country, by State and by Detailed Services Category, Financial Year’ (cat. no. 5368.0.55.003) for further details.


The value of art-related goods exports has been declining

The export of arts-related goods declined by 21 percent from 2005-06 to 2009-10. In particular, exports to the UK and USA have decreased, while the value of exports to China, Japan, Papua New Guinea and Canada has increased slightly since 2005-06.

New Zealand is our primary export market for arts-related products, including books, magazines, audio and video media, exposed photographic and cinematographic media and artistic works, and musical instruments.


Many Australian artists are engaged in interstate and international work

Australian artists are actively engaged in working outside their home state. Six in ten professional artists had engaged in interstate work in 2009, and around four in ten had engaged in international work.

Craft practitioners and composers are more likely to have done international work, whilst CACD practitioners and visual artists are the least likely.


Regularly funded arts organisations have increased international activity from 2010 to 2012

The estimated number of international performances and exhibitions from Key Organisations and major performing arts organisations funded by Australia Council with regular funding increased from 565 in 2010 to 1,068 in 2012.[1]

This increase has been fuelled by increased international activity for a number of organisations between 2010 and 2012.

The largest increases in number of performances from 2010 to 2012 were in Europe and North America.

[1] Arts organisations data is based on acquittal information and is subject to change based on updated data received from the Key Organisations and MPAs.

Figure 41 - Estimated number of international exhibitions and performances

Number of exhibitions352628
Number of attendances13,450,0902415,1181,448,702
Number of performances5301,0821,040
Number of attendances (paid)153,865305,470207,982
Number of attendances (unpaid)731,525435,232466,644
Total single ticket income (in 2012 dollars)3$138,156$1,496,036$517,396

[2] Shanghai Expo & Biennale of Sydney
[3] Indicative data only. Australia Council Arts Organisations Division internal reporting as optional data item


Cultural tourists spend twice as much as other tourists, creating important economic impacts

During 2012, Australians took 12 million day trips and 11 million overnight trips involving participation in cultural and heritage activities in Australia.

Overnight cultural and heritage visitors accounted for 15 percent of all overnight trips, and spent a collective 60 million nights at least 40 kilometres from home.

Visiting museums or art galleries was the most popular cultural activity for both domestic overnight visitors (46 percent visiting) and day trippers (38 percent visiting). Attending theatre concerts or other performing arts attracted 20 percent of overnight visitors and 22 percent of day visitors.

Just 2 percent of domestic overnight visitors experience Indigenous art or craft or cultural displays (compared to 19 percent of international visitors), and 2 percent visit an Indigenous site or community (compared to 9 percent of international visitors).

As with international visitors, domestic cultural tourists spend significantly more on their trips than other tourists, creating higher economic impacts. The average amount spent per trip was $1,008 compared with other domestic tourists, who spent on average $611 per trip.

Domestic travellers represent 89 percent of all cultural tourists, with over 20 million visitors in 2012. Across both international and domestic markets, the number of cultural visitors has grown at a rate of 3.7 percent per year since 2000.


Many tourists to Australia engage in cultural activities

The 2012 International Visitor Survey by Tourism Research Australia, showed around half (48 percent) of all overseas visitors attended at least one cultural attraction while in Australia, on par with 2009 levels.

Of these, 58 percent had visited a museum or art gallery and 20 percent attended theatre, concert or other performing arts.

Many also experienced Indigenous culture, with 19 percent ‘experiencing Aboriginal art/craft and cultural displays’, and 9 percent ‘visiting an Aboriginal site/community’.

International cultural and heritage visitors create economic benefits through longer stays and higher spending patterns than other tourists. In 2012, the average amount spent per trip was $5,956 compared with other international visitors who spent on average $3,779. This resulted in total spending of $16.3 billion in 2012.

In 2009, visitors from Asia (mostly China, Japan and Korea) accounted for 36 percent of all international cultural and heritage visitors. The United Kingdom and New Zealand accounted for a further 15 percent and 13 percent respectively.

The most popular destinations in 2009 for both international and domestic cultural heritage visitors were New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, while rates of participation in cultural and heritage activities were higher in the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania.