Tourism Research Australia Today, tourism directly contributes AUD$47.5 billion to Australia’s GDP, employs 580,800 Australians and accounts for 9.6 per cent of Australia’s exports. But it was a different story 50 years ago when Tourism Research Australia (TRA) – Australia’s leading provider of tourism intelligence located within Austrade – first started collecting data!In 1966, a flight to Sydney from London took between 29-32 hours and made five to six stops. In 2016, a flight to Sydney from London takes 21 hours with one stop.According to Janice Wykes, TRA assistant general manager, Australia’s tourism is growing three times as fast as the rest of the economy, driven by record levels of international visitors choosing Australia as their holiday destination – and it’s an attractive destination underpinned by “… the country’s appeal as a safe, transparent and stable investment environment … figures released last week … showed Australia had welcomed more than eight million international visitors for the first time ever – an increase of 11 per cent over the previous year,” Wykes said.Wykes said the need for evidence-based planning is more important than ever before, as Australia vies for its share of the increasing global tourism dollar.“Much of the growth in international visitors has come from emerging countries in Asia such as China and the recovery of the Japanese and South Korean markets, driven by increasing household income and a growing middle class. This is in contrast to past decades where the majority of tourist arrivals came from traditional markets such as the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand, Japan, Canada and Europe,” she added.In 1966 visitor arrivals consisted of: New Zealand and Oceania (45 per cent); the United Kingdom and Europe (22 per cent); United States and Canada (17 per cent); Asia (12 per cent) and only 200 visitors arrived from China. Fast forward 50 years and it’s a completely different picture. China is now the second largest source of international visitors, after New Zealand, with over one million visitors for 2015-16.