Queensland is leading tourism out of the COVID-19 doldrums as domestic visitors splash millions of dollars around the Sunshine State.  

Data released by Tourism Research Australia shows domestic visitors to Queensland stayed longer and spent more, injecting almost $18 billion into the local economy.

In the year ending in March, 21 million people flocked to Queensland spending an estimated $210 a day during an average four-night stay. 

The visitor count includes more than nine million tourists celebrating the easing of travel restrictions, and another six million dropping in on friends and family.

Queensland Tourism Industry Council CEO Brett Fraser said the figures demonstrate the resilience of the state’s operators and regions.

“Coming after a year in which our industry essentially ground to a halt, today’s numbers are welcome news and a testament to how far our state has come,” he said. 

The data shows NSW welcomed a higher number of visitors with 24 million people but a lower average daily spend of $195, adding about $17 billion to its coffers.

Victoria welcomed 18 million domestic tourists to the Garden State, bringing in an estimated $11 billion.

Nationally the data reveals the massive hit suffered by the tourist industry, with domestic and international tourism losses of $156.8 billion since the start of the pandemic. 

International travel collapsed, with revenue dropping $81.9 billion.

The March 2022 figures reveal a 94 per cent decline in visitor numbers and an 89 per cent drop in spend compared to March 2019, Australian Tourism Export Council managing director Peter Shelley said.

These numbers “highlight the significant loss of capacity and income” experienced by the export tourism industry over the past two-and-a-half years, he said.

He warned international travel could be slow to recover in the face of staff shortages, fuel prices and international pressures including the conflict in Ukraine.

Domestic overnight trips fell 27 per cent to 82.1 million, with spending down 20 per cent, or $15.4 billion, to $63.3 billion.

Interstate trips were halved, down 51 per cent to 17.9 million. 

People travelling in their home states dropped 15 per cent but they spent 10 per cent more, increasing to $38.4 billion.

Regional areas fared better than capitals over the year, dropping 17 per cent compared to 42 per cent in the major cities.

Tasmania welcomed three million visitors, SA six million, WA 10 million and the NT posted around one million. 

Quarterly figures to March are also encouraging, showing domestic travel continuing to improve with spending on accommodation up 33 per cent, dining 23 per cent and shopping 22 per cent. 

Increased spending on holidays also contributed to the strong performance of the quarter, up 29 per cent or $3 billion on the March 2020 quarter.