Blacktown's visitor economy

Local government

Client

Blacktown City Council

Challenge

Understand tourism and visitation trends in Blacktown.

Highlights

Demographics can be an important factor in tourism and the diversity of a council can be an economic asset.

Results

Economic and marketing strategies should reflect the visitor economy, which is driven by visiting friends and relatives.

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.id was engaged by Blacktown City Council to analyse tourism and visitation trends in Blacktown. Yes, you read correctly, tourism in Blacktown!

While Blacktown does not feature in TripAdvisors Best of 2016 list, our analysis revealed that Blacktown is not a traditional holidaying destination but instead plays a different role in the visitor economy.

What did the data show?

Blacktown’s primary tourism function is that of a visitation hub, attracting friends and relatives both domestically and internationally.
Blacktown’s role as a visitation hub: Visiting relatives and friends to Blacktown LGA, 2008 – 2016 (3 year moving average ‘000)
visiting-relatives-friends-blacktown-lga

This chart illustrates that Visiting Friends and Relatives is a dominant market for Blacktown which has experienced strong growth over the past five years. The figures published by Tourism Research Australia, show that there was an average of 476,000 visiting friends and relative visitors to Blacktown in the 3 years to 2015/16. This represents 51% of all visitation and an increase of 37% on 2007/08 levels.

What is driving growth?

Rather than go through all the drivers (including exchange rates), I would like to draw your attention to the importance of Blacktown’s demographic past in driving this growth in visitation. I identify three below.

  1. The Return of NSW – Net Overseas Migration

NSW and Sydney are once again attracting a high share of net overseas migration (NOM). This growth in NOM appears to have supported strong international visitation to NSW (and Blacktown) over the last five years.

Net Overseas Migration, New South Wales

overseas-migration-nsw

  1. Population born overseas

Analysis from profile.id shows that Blacktown’s community is characterised by a relatively high share of residents born in Philippines, India, New Zealand and Fiji. Blacktown actually has the largest Filipino community in Australia (see this blog).

Blacktown City – Persons born in NZ, Philippines, India and Fiji are dominant groups 

blacktown-residents-by-birthplace

And when you look at the Tourism Research Australia data, there has been strong international visitation from these overseas markets to Blacktown. Blacktown’s demographic profile supports a strong foundation to drive future growth in the visitor economy.

International Visitors: Where they came from by region, 2015/16 (5 year average)

blacktown-international-visitors-by-region

  1. Migration profile

The TRA research also showed stronger visitation growth from Queensland and Victoria. This can be partly explained by historical out-migration trends in Blacktown. As illustrated in the image below from forecast.id, between 2006 and 2011, a large number of former Blacktown residents moved to Queensland and Victoria. The good news for tourism (and the Blacktown economy) is that they appear to return to visit friends and relatives.

historical-migration-flows-blacktown

The bigger picture

At the local government level, the visitor economy is significant because it is an export sector. Exports are sales of goods and services to non-resident households, businesses and other organisations, outside the LGA boundaries (e.g. for Blacktown this includes international visitors; inter-state visitors and intra-state visitors such as regional NSW, Penrith, Blue Mountains and Parramatta, etc).

As illustrated in the figure below, export-led growth is important as it brings external earnings into the local area. By doing so, exports increase demand for local services through multiplier effects, creating a virtuous cycle of economic growth. This means the economy can grow without the constraint of population growth.

economic-importance-tourism-visitation

Our analysis for Blacktown also showed that while the Visiting Friends and Relatives market are not big spenders, the size of the Visiting Friends and Relatives market makes it a major contributor to the economy. Almost 50% of tourism expenditure in Blacktown is due to visiting family and friends.

Broader significance

While Blacktown is the focus of this case study, this story is relevant to many Councils across Australia who have a high share of overseas-born population. The research shows the importance of our diverse communities as an economic asset. This diversity helps our local communities tap into the global economy, creating relationships, providing business opportunities and sharing knowledge.

But the message in our local economy needs to be right. Let’s talk more about the visitor economy rather than tourism which evokes images of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and Bondi Beach. And if your visitor economy is driven by Visiting Friends and Relatives, then this visitation role should be reflected in the development of economic strategies and marketing efforts.

One strategy could be to empower local residents to become ambassadors for the visitor economy. This could include local databases, marketing material, leader groups, niche events, etc. These strategies could be further informed by better understanding your community. Using .id’s Social Atlas for Blacktown can show you clusters of different ethnicity groups. In the map below we highlight the hot spots for where the Filipino community live. Your next visitor economy ambassador may well live here.

blacktown-people-born-overseas

Want to know more about your tourism and visitor economy?

Information about the tourism and hospitality sector, as well as visitation levels is available in economy.id. This information is vital for understanding tourism and visitation trends and developing strategies that make the most out of your visitor economy. .id can work with you to help build a high-quality evidence base to support your strategy. The result? More insight, informed decisions, and a strategy that works.

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