Dispersal relates to spread, and in the context of tourism it relates to where people go. One itinerary may be considered more highly dispersed if it visits more locations than another, or potentially if it visits places off the beaten track rather than popular tourist regions. Understanding dispersal is valuable as tourism can be a major employer in regional areas.
Tourism Research Australia was interested in the dispersal of tourists from Asian countries of residence, as this segment of the market is growing and little was known about the dispersal of these visitors. Data Analysis Australia used Tourism Research Australia’s International Visitor Survey (IVS) data to investigate dispersal in this market.
The IVS has been running since the early 1970’s and is the longest continuously running tourism survey in Australia. The core questionnaire collects detailed information on the visitor’s itinerary, with key items being locations of overnight stays, length of overnight stays, purpose of visits, accommodation types used, travel modes used and trip activities undertaken. Visitors to Australia are sampled on departure through face-to-face interviews in the departure lounges of major international airports. Data Analysis Australia considered data from approximately 140,000 Asian visitors collected over the eight years of 2005 to 2012.
For each stopover respondents were asked where they stayed and this location was geo-coded to a tourism region. Each tourism region was classified by Data Analysis Australia into one of three types:
- major tourism region – the four capital cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth) and two other well-known tourism regions (Tropical North Queensland and the Gold Coast);
- other capital cities; or
Defining Three Dispersal Classes
Dispersal relates to how many locations were visited and the types of regions visited. Visitors were classified into three dispersal classes (High, Medium and Low) based on a principal components analysis. The variables placed into the analysis were based on numbers of stopovers, stays (any number of consecutive nights spent within a single tourism region) and nights in each type of region.
The low dispersal class is the largest, with 62% of visits from Asian countries of residence having low dispersal, the medium dispersal class has 22% of visits, with the majority of the visits being short, and the high dispersal class is the smallest of the classes. Those in the high dispersal class visit multiple places and visit regions outside the major tourism regions.
While this analysis aggregates the Asian countries, the first figure highlights the number of visitors in each of the three dispersal categories by country. China has a substantial number of visitors in the medium dispersal category compared to other Asian countries of residence and Japan has the largest number of visits in the low dispersal category.