Andrew McEvoy Tourism AustraliaAustralian tourism officials were upbeat about U.S. visitors during the recent Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE), touting a year-over-year increase in American arrivals as proof of a building recovery from its fourth-largest international market.

"Last year was a difficult one," Andrew McEvoy, the managing director for Tourism Australia, said during the event, which was held in Perth. "Our U.S. arrivals were down 3.4% in 2011, but this year we are running about 4% up, so we're really getting back to where we need to be."

While fewer Americans traveled Down Under last year, they spent $2.2 billion while there, an increase of 5% from the year prior. And those 456,000 U.S. visitors stayed longer, accounting for more than 10 million total room nights, up 5% from 2010.

Linda Furber, marketing manager for the Bellevue, Wash.-based wholesaler Down Under Answers, said her company expects its business to Australia to jump 40% in 2012, adding that the American appetite for Australia is evolving.

"When I first started working in the U.S., it was always Sydney, Ayers Rock, Cairns," Furber said. "Now we're seeing people wanting to explore other cities, so they'll do Cairns, Sydney, Melbourne or Melbourne, Adelaide and Kangaroo Island. They're really diversifying from the iconic destinations of five or 10 years ago."

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.comTourism Australia hopes to further expand Americans' interest with a recent update to its "There's Nothing Like Australia" global campaign. Launched early in June, the marketing organization's newest advertisement, featuring footage from the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru (Ayers Rock), Tasmania, Kangaroo Island and the Bungle Bungles in Western Australia, has generated an impressive Internet response.

"In the first 12 days, nearly 8 million people have downloaded the ad," said Nick Baker, Tourism Australia's executive general manager for consumer marketing.

The U.S. has also been bright spot for the suffering international division of Qantas Airlines. Earlier this summer the carrier said it expected its international sector to lose $450 million for the fiscal year that ended last month.

However, Qantas increased its formerly four-times-weekly Dallas-Sydney service, which debuted in the spring of 2011, to a daily flight July 1, strengthening its existing partnership with American Airlines.

"That actually has opened up 60 gateways within the Americas where we can code and partner with American Airlines," said Stephen Thompson, Qantas' executive manager. "We're getting new customers from new markets we've never [served] before."

Destination photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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