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Capital tourism figures best in a decade

ACT Tourism Minister Andrew Barr.

ACT Tourism Minister Andrew Barr. Photo: Jay Cronan

Canberra has enjoyed its best result in more than 10 years for international visitors with the tourists also spending millions more while they were in the national capital.

And China is the powerhouse behind the figures with Chinese tourists spending $81 million during the year, more than three times the expenditure of visitors from other countries.

Other high-spending tourists to the ACT were Korean visitors, who spent $24 million during the year.

International tourists to Canberra were also generally high-spending with each on average parting with $2189 - the third-highest figure in the nation after Perth ($2659) and Melbourne ($2408).

Tourism Research Australia's latest International Visitor Survey found there were 177,093 international visitors to the ACT for the year ending March, 2013, up from 162,190 the previous year.

ACT Tourism Minister Andrew Barr said the 9.2 per cent increase in international visitor numbers was the best result in more than a decade.

Nationally, the rise in international visitor numbers was only 5 per cent.

''This represents Canberra's strongest year-ending March result since 2002 and further demonstrates Canberra's capacity to grow its international leisure, education and business tourism markets,'' Mr Barr said.

There was also a $44 million or almost 13 per cent increase in expenditure by the tourists - up from $344 million to $388 million. The results come as the ACT government this week committed $500,000 in its 2013-14 budget to help attract international flights to Canberra.

''This funding will support a new international marketing campaign to complement new direct international flights when they begin by promoting Canberra as a tourism and leisure destination,'' Mr Barr said.

The latest tourist survey for the year ending March 31 encompasses Canberra's major centenary celebrations, including the city's One Very Big Day event on March 11.

Mr Barr said it was difficult to comment on whether centenary promotions had affected the visitor figures.

''The increase in tourism numbers this year was considerable, and well above the Australian average - this is a great result for Canberra's tourism sector,'' he said.

''However, it is too early to look at overall figures for the centenary year, particularly given the program of events is year-long.''

The survey also found the Visiting Friends and Relatives sector in the ACT was up by 11.9 per cent, holiday visitors were up by 8 per cent and visits for ''other purposes'' including employment and education were up by 12.1 per cent.

''The survey shows an increase in visiting friends and relatives particularly in the March quarter, a time when many families and friends schedule visits to align with graduation ceremonies for international students studying in Canberra,'' Mr Barr said.

The top five source markets for international visitors to Canberra in terms of visitor numbers were China (12.1 per cent), the US (11.8 per cent), Singapore/Malaysia/Thailand/Hong Kong (10.7 per cent), the United Kingdom (9.6 per cent) and New Zealand (8.0 per cent).

International visitors who stated education was their main reason for visiting the ACT spent the most for the year - $152 million, followed by visiting friends and relatives ($67 million) and holiday ($51 million).

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