Cruise passenger arrivals have helped the NSW visitor economy surpass the $50 billion mark in expenditure for the first time in history.

Data from Tourism Research Australia (TRA) shows domestic and international travellers contributed a record $51.4 billion to the NSW visitor economy in the year ending December 2023.

NSW, including the Overseas Passenger Terminal and White Bay Cruise Terminal plus regional ports, welcomed the most international visitors. Plus nights spent and visitor expenditure nationally during the period contributed $11 billion to the visitor economy. 

NSW also saw the largest absolute growth in international visitor numbers (up 1.8 million), nights (up 42.8 million) and expenditure (up 6 billion) of all states and territories.

International arrivals reached 78 per cent of pre-pandemic levels with visitor nights at 90 per cent and expenditure at 96 per cent in comparison to 2019. 

Top arrivals

Furthermore, the top three arrivals came from the US, New Zealand and UK with China showing strong recovery as the fourth largest. South Korea saw the fastest visitor growth, while Indonesia excelled in both nights spent and expenditure and Singapore led in expenditure growth.

Sydney was on top of the Australian capital cities as a visitor economy leader attracting 53 per cent of all international visitors. They stayed a combined 73.1 million nights and spent an estimated $10 billion, representing 40 per cent and 44 per cent of total nights and expenditure respectively.

“The NSW visitor economy is leading the country’s recovery from the pandemic and attracting the majority of international visitors to Australia as well as setting new benchmarks domestically,” Destination NSW CEO Steve Cox said.

“The diversity of natural and cultural experiences in NSW is unrivalled and puts our state in a unique position to attract visitors from around the world.

“These results are a testament to the world-class visitor experiences on offer in NSW from Ballina to Broken Hill and Narooma to Newcastle. 

“Congratulations and well done to the thousands of people working hard each and every day to grow our visitor economy, support local jobs and inject billions into our state.”