Tourism de force:
Why Brisbane is a global destination on the rise

Brisbane’s global destination appeal has the region’s visitor economy on the cusp of unprecedented growth, with a wealth of opportunities for investment in new visitor experiences.

Brisbane has recorded its highest domestic visitor spending since the start of the pandemic, according to the latest data released by Tourism Research Australia for the year ending June 2022. 

Total expenditure was up 26.5% over the year to $4.1 billion, while total visitors climbed 3.8% to 5.8 million. The spend per visitor also increased significantly over the year, up 21.8% to $710. 

It’s clear that travel confidence has returned to the city, with visitors once again flocking to enjoy Brisbane’s incredibly diverse range of attractions, from world-class dining and urban adventures to natural wonders and a jam-packed events calendar. 

The data shows Brisbane’s visitor economy continues to be powered by both leisure and business tourism. Holiday visitors were up 2.8% to 1.8 million, while business visitors were up 11.4% to 1.1 million, driven by Brisbane’s global reputation for delivering business events and conferences.

Visitors from Sydney to Brisbane were up 61.2% to 535,000, while visitors from Melbourne were up 44.2% to 268,000. This is in keeping with a wave of migration from the southern states that’s made Brisbane the fastest-growing capital city in the country, with a population projected to grow by 43% by 2041. 

The city’s accessibility to visitors has been bolstered by the completion of the second runway at the award-winning Brisbane Airport, which now boasts the highest aviation capacity in Australia. 

Located just 20 minutes from the city centre, Brisbane Airport connects to the largest domestic network in Australia, with 53 domestic ports, as well as direct connections to major international hubs including Singapore, Doha, Dubai and Los Angeles. 

Brisbane Airport Corporation is investing almost $3 billion over the next five years to build a sustainable airport city, making BNE the premier hub for the Asia-Pacific region. The airport is expected to facilitate 50 million passengers a year and generate $8.3 billion by 2040.

Brisbane’s strong visitor numbers are also reflected in the growth of the city’s accommodation market. Now boasting 26 premium hotels from leading international and boutique Australian brands, the Brisbane accommodation market is trading at 63% occupancy, with an average daily rate of $218 and Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR) of $136 in 2023. 

Another four luxury hotels – providing an additional 1,100 hotel rooms – will come online by 2024 as part of the $3.6 billion Queen’s Wharf integrated resort. The Queen’s Wharf development highlights a more than $25 billion infrastructure pipeline on the city’s green and gold runway to 2032. 

Seven visitor experiences with growth potential for Brisbane

As visitor numbers continue to rise, there’ll be no shortage of opportunities for investors to tap into Brisbane’s growing tourism sector. 

The Brisbane Tourism Investment Guide identifies seven key experiences with growth potential for Brisbane. Further investment in these seven key experiences will give visitors to Brisbane and its surrounding regions even more to see, do and experience, with the opportunity to generate an additional $6.5 billion per annum in visitor expenditure by 2031. 

History and culture 

Brisbane is a region steeped in history, giving visitors the chance to experience the world’s oldest living culture first hand. Brisbane is currently home to more than 15 First Nations experiences, ranging from dance and art to traditional foods, but according to the Brisbane Tourism Investment Guide, visitors want more of these experiences. 

Brisbane is also home to a thriving arts community, and boasts world-class cultural spaces. A new $175 million theatre in the city’s South Bank cultural precinct is set to open in 2024, making the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) the largest of its kind in Australia. 

Coupled with the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) and the Queensland Museum, which rank among the most visited Australian cultural venues, Brisbane’s cultural scene is one to watch. 

Food and wine

Brisbane is perfectly positioned at the centre of a 360 degree food bowl which provides unrivalled access to an enviable pipeline of fresh, healthy ingredients. 

Brisbane is servicing global consumers’ demand for wellness, sustainability and convenience, and is a world leader in food innovation and technology. The Food Pilot Plant at Brisbane’s Health and Food Sciences Precinct is a state-of-the-art facility designed to help local food and beverage businesses experiment with and trial new products and processes under industrial conditions. 

The diversity of choice in Brisbane’s food offerings also reflects the city’s multicultural make-up, with one in three residents born overseas. The city has become known for award-winning restaurants, stunning rooftop bars and sprawling outdoor markets serving up globally acclaimed local produce, but research conducted for the Brisbane Tourism Investment Guide found that visitors want even more places to enjoy local gourmet food and beverages. 

Brisbane’s local food and beverage businesses benefit from access to the Future Food Initiative, which pairs these companies with industry-leading experts and mentors to explore the potential for continued domestic expansion and entry into international markets. The Future Food global accelerator is an initiative of the Brisbane Economic Development Agency (BEDA). 

City-based attractions

Home to a mix of distinctive and unique precincts, including Howard Smith Wharves, South Bank, Fish Lane, Fortitude Valley and James Street, Brisbane is a subtropical hub of laneways, green spaces and local experiences. 

The city is connected by close to 6,000 kilometres of paths, walkways and bikeways. But Brisbane’s infrastructure pipeline includes transformative projects that will make the city even more accessible for visitors, including new Green Bridges to connect popular inner-city precincts, and major public transport projects, such as the high-capacity, turn-up-and-go Brisbane Metro (from 2024) and Cross River Rail (from 2025). 

While Brisbane’s accommodation market is thriving, the Brisbane Tourism Investment Guide found that visitors want even more iconic accommodation in the city. 

Aquatic and coastal 

The closest eastern seaboard capital city to China, Japan and South Korea, Brisbane provides international and domestic visitors alike with a gateway to the world-famous Gold and Sunshine Coasts. 

But that’s just the beginning of the region’s aquatic and coastal offering. Just 20 minutes from the city, Manly offers visitors the opportunity to sail from the southern hemisphere’s largest marina. 

Within an hour of the city, visitors can go surfing at North Stradbroke Island/Minjerribah, or immerse themselves in the Moreton Bay Marine Park. The closest marine national park to a capital city, Moreton Bay offers visitors experiences that could rival the Great Barrier Reef, with whale, dolphin, dugong and manta ray habitats to discover.

The Brisbane Tourism Investment Guide found that visitors want more access from the city to the Bay, islands and beaches; more attractions and accommodation; more marine tours; and more Indigenous Sea Country experiences. 

Natural experiences 

Surrounded by beautiful green spaces, Brisbane is Australia’s nature capital. Just 10 minutes from the city centre, Mount Coot-tha Reserve offers more than 1,380 hectares of natural bushland and botanic gardens to explore. 

Just an hour beyond the city, visitors can take a step back in time as they marvel at the ancient flora and fauna of the World Heritage Gondwana Rainforests, filled with rare and exotic creatures, plants and breathtaking scenery. 

The Brisbane Tourism Investment Guide found that visitors are looking for more accommodation and more opportunities to enjoy local gourmet food and beverages when they explore the natural wonders surrounding the city. 

Wildlife experiences 

Visitors to Brisbane can take a trip to the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary, located just 15 kilometres from the city centre, to get up close and personal with Australia’s most famous marsupials. 

But koalas aren’t the only wildlife that Brisbane is known for. Famed for its rich biodiversity, Brisbane is home to more than 3,330 species of wildlife and 44,000 hectares of natural habitat, creating an abundance of opportunities for unique wildlife encounters.

Sports and adventure 

The eyes of the world are on Brisbane in the lead-up to 2032, but the city already has a great reputation for hosting global sporting events, including international rugby clashes and tennis tournaments; showcase rugby league events, including the 2021 Grand Final; the International Cricket Council Men’s T20 World Cup; English Premier League matches and more. 

Brisbane is also home to a range of world-famous sporting venues, including Suncorp Stadium, which consistently ranks in the top five rugby stadiums globally, and the iconic Gabba stadium, which is undergoing a $2.7 billion upgrade.

But visitors to Brisbane aren’t just spectators – they also have the opportunity to join in the city’s outdoor and active lifestyle, and go kayaking, canoeing, or cruising along the Brisbane River or in local waterways. According to the Brisbane Tourism Investment Guide, visitors want even more of these exciting river experiences. 

How BEDA can help 

As the Regional Tourism Organisation (RTO) for Brisbane and the six surrounding regions of Redlands, Scenic Rim, Moreton Bay, Logan, Ipswich and Somerset, BEDA supports the development of new tourism products to ensure a warm welcome and memorable experiences for all visitors. 

BEDA can provide businesses and prospective investors with key insights into Brisbane’s tourism industry; help to develop and execute your business case and investment strategies; advocacy for local and state developmental approvals; critical introductions to industry stakeholders and our local advisory network; confidential assistance with market and off-market property site selection and more. 

Learn more about how BEDA can help you make your mark on Brisbane’s visitor economy here.