Visitors to Canberra are spending less.

Visitors to Canberra are spending less. Photo: Glen McCurtayne

International visits to Canberra increased by 12 per cent in 2013 although the spending of visitors fell by $33 million, according to new research by Tourism Research Australia. 

Despite an additional 20,000 people visiting the territory, the contribution of these tourists to the economy dropped by 9 per cent.

ACT Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Andrew Blyth said "it's most likely the high Australian dollar had a bearing upon how these visitors spent their money during this period".

Overseas visitors spent an average $1,795 in Canberra during 2013 which is a 14 per cent drop on the $2090 spent during visits in 2012. 

The national average expenditure was $3,453 with the most money being spent in Western Australia and Victoria. 

Mr Blyth said business travel to Canberra may be crucial for encouraging further tourism and expenditure in coming years.

“We know the business sector is a key source of tourism for Canberra and this is likely to encourage additional visits as people share their experiences with families and friends overseas," he said.

More than three quarters of international visitors came to Canberra for holidays or to visit relatives and friends. 

Those travelling to the ACT for education fell by 12.7 per cent in 2013, while the number of people travelling for business accounted for 13.6 per cent of overseas visitors. 

The ACT now ranks second last for international visits with 182,000 visitors recorded last year, which bests only Tasmania with 159,000 visitors.

Mr Blyth said the latest figures are encouraging for the ACT economy, although the future of Canberra Airport would be the ultimate influence on tourism in years to come. 

“We have to secure direct international flights to Canberra,” he said.

“Everyone in government and the private sector, including Canberra Airport, are doing everything they can to ensure this happens but the development will have a key impact on the ACT economy.”

The 9 per cent decline in expenditure in Canberra is a contrast to the 6 per cent increase in spending nationally, a figure Tourism Research Australia’s chief economist Leo Jago attributed to an increase in Asian tourists. 

The number of Chinese visitors to Australia grew by 13.5 per cent in 2013, while visitors from Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan increased between 12.3 and 13.3 per cent. 

China remains Australia's top trip expenditure market with tourists spending 4.8 billion in Australia during the year ending December 2013.

Chinese visitors now account for 20 per cent of all first time holiday visitors to Australia.