ACT News

Canberra's visitor numbers soar as city rides centenary wave

Canberra is bursting with more visitors and more attractions than ever before but it seems some Australians still aren't feeling the love.

Domestic and international visitor numbers have soared since Canberra's centenary celebrations two years ago, and while a new report shows tourism in the ACT is still riding the wave, it also reveals Australians' glowing pride in Canberra has dimmed slightly.

The centenary year unearthed in Canberrans a new-found pride in their city and icons.

Ninety per cent of those surveyed in the immediate aftermath felt proud or extremely proud of Canberra throughout 2013.

As a result, about 2.2 million overnight visitors visited Canberra in 2015, around 100,000 more since the centenary year, the ACT's chief minister and minister for tourism Andrew Barr said.

"The centenary demonstrated that investment in major events will lead to increased tourism, driving economic growth and supporting employment sectors across the local community," he said. 

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"Tourism institutions including the Canberra Theatre Centre have indicated that the centenary year has helped spark stronger participation levels from both the Canberra community and interstate travellers."

But in the 2014, post-campaign evaluation revealed the good sentiments had dropped slightly. 

University of Canberra's Dr Naomi Dale likened it to "a bit like a bride after her wedding day".

​"The centenary had a huge impact on the people living here, working together as a community and celebrating all of the wonderful things we have here," Dr Dale said.

"I think it had a terrific impact locally and that sense of pride and community really came out of the woodwork.That after-party come down is inevitable after you have huge celebrations."

Mr Barr said that drop was to be expected.

"It was always anticipated that all of the events combined would lead to a really high rating in 2013," he said.

"By the time the 2014 results were surveyed, the centenary events had been over for a number of months, and it was expected that it was likely to reduce because we couldn't sustain the vast array of events and activities that we had in the 2013 centenary year."

For him, the true measure of the centenary's success are the  projects that have lasted in the years beyond 2013.

Eleven initiatives from the centenary year were still in operation at the end of last year, even though the Skywhale has floated onto more favourable skies in Brazil and Ireland.

"The adoption of a range of centenary projects including Boundless, The Centenary Trail, Fashfest, Parties at the Shops, Windows to the World  and the National Arboretum, which is celebrating its third birthday, demonstrates that the legacy of the centenary will continue to be a part of our city well into the future," he said.

Dr Dale said while most locals have now embraced Canberra post-centenary, the city still suffers from "image issues" from  other centres. 

Her solution?

"In the end it is really up to the locals to spruik [Canberra]," she said. 

"We have a lot of research that indicates people will believe the social media of friends and relatives before they would believe even celebrities or glossy brochures. If a mate says to them 'this is a great place to go to dinner' they'll try it out as opposed to reading  some strangers comments about it.

The final verdict on how the centenary celebrations changed the way people see Canberra will be  presented in March next year. 

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