Yigi Yigi! Canadians Lead Australia’s Return to 2019 Tourism Levels

Cameron McCarthy explains the didgeridoo (yigi yigi in his language) at a Tourism Australia event in Toronto on 21FEB, 2024

Australia has nearly returned to 2019 visitation levels, and they have Canada to thank for a lot of their progress.

Tourism Australia held a splashy event for travel media in Toronto on 21FEB and said Canada is leading the way as The Land Down Under edges ever so closer to pre-pandemic tourism numbers.

Overall, Australia visits are at 81% of 2019 levels, said Georgia Harman, PR & Communications Director, The Americas, for Tourism Australia. Visits from the U.S. are at 85% of pre-pandemic levels, but Canada is at 89%, she said.

In terms of air traffic, the picture is even brighter. Harman said airlift from Canada to Oz is at 110% of 2019 figures.

Air Canada has been flying to Sydney for years, but also now flies to Brisbane, a city that’s rapidly building up infrastructure, hotels and restaurants as it gears up to host the 2032 Summer Olympic Games.

Southern Ocean Lodge reopened just a couple months ago. It's one of the top places to stay in Australia. Tourism Australia Photo

Tourism Australia officials laid out new and trending options for visitors and travel advisors to keep in mind when booking their next trip to Oz, including great hotels and resorts like the Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island in South Australia.

The lodge was destroyed in a fire a few years ago but reopened late in 2023, more elegant and luxurious than ever.

Sitting on the same footprint as its predecessor, the reimagined property features 25 suites along the wild Kangaroo Island coastline, plus the new ultra-premium Ocean Pavilion. There’s also a wet-edge pool and more spaciousness to the Southern Spa than the previous incarnation. As with the original property, all food, drinks and signature experiences are included.

Other top lodging options include Longitude 131, a super-luxury property with five-star cuisine and amazing views of Uluru, Qualia Resort in the Whitsunday Islands in Queensland, the stylish Ritz-Carlton in up-and-coming Perth, and the Park Hyatt in Sydney, which offers spectacular views of the Sydney Opera House.

Luxury Lodges of Australia has sensational properties across the country, including Southern Ocean Lodge, Longitude 131, Capella Lodge on beautiful Lord Howe Island in New South Wales, and Saffire Freycinet in Tasmania’s Freycinet National Park.

SWIFTIES DOWN UNDER

Tourism officials also highlighted major events that are bringing visitors to Australia.

Taylor Swift recently drew 95,000 fans per night for her three concerts in Melbourne, when the city sold more hotel rooms than it does for the yearly Australian Open tennis tourney. Swift’s Eras Tour touches down in Sydney from 23FEB to 26FEB and is expected to attract 320,000 giddy fans; 100,000 of them from outside the city.

Sydney hosted WorldPride last year, and Australia played host to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023.

ABORIGINAL TOURISM

Nick Abraham is an aboriginal Australian who runs great tours of Perth with a company called Warrang-Bridil. Jim Byers Photo

Australia’s aboriginal peoples have been living on the land for at least 65,000 years, and they have remarkable stories to tell about their culture, and about living in harmony with nature.

Tourism Australia has curated 170 aboriginal experiences across the country, which can be found at their Discover Aboriginal Experiences site.

Your Open Jaw correspondent has taken four aboriginal tours in Australia over the years. In Western Australia last year I had a fabulous visit on the Swan River in Perth with Nick Abraham from Warrang-Bridil, learning about his people’s way of life. I also had a great nature tour in Esperance, WA, with Annie Dabb of Dabungool Cultural Experiences, who told me about plants and animals that were essential to local aboriginal people and added a generous dollop of humour.

In Sydney, I had a terrific tour of the Rocks district with a couple years ago with The Rocks Aboriginal Dreaming Tour group. I also visited the Margaret River wine region of Western Australia and had a marvellous tour with Josh Koomal Whiteland of Koomal Dreaming, who also put on a fine musical performance.

Tourism Australia had aboriginal musician Cameron McCarthy play the didgeridoo (a yigi yigi in his language) at their Toronto event, and he was spectacular.

WINE TOURISM

Vasse Felix was the first winery in Western Australia's Margaret River region. They make superb chardonnay and terrific Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as fine sparkling wine. Tourism Western Australia Photo.

Attendees at the 21FEB event were served a five-course meal cooked up by Sydney chef Dan Churchill and Toronto chef Marvin Palomo from Vela restaurant, along with matching Australia wines.

Harman said Tourism Australia has made a big push with wine tourism. I tasted spectacular wines in Tasmania and the Margaret River region on my last visit, and also sampled some excellent wine from the Swan River region in Perth.

South Australia’s Barossa Valley is probably the best-known and most highly-regarded wine area in the country. Bonus: it’s only a few minutes from downtown Adelaide.

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