Australia last year reported another record year for international tourism, a trend that travel experts say is being fueled in part by Americans eager to explore its growing list of unique and far-flung luxury destinations.
Recently released numbers from Tourism Research Australia show that international visitor arrivals climbed to 7.1 million last year, an increase of 9%. And visitor spend was up 17%, for a record total of $37.9 billion in 2015.
The number of Americans heading Down Under was up 12%, an increase that was second only to China, and spending by U.S. visitors was up 22% during that timeframe.
As the country heads into its peak summer season, tourism experts expect 2016 to be another banner year.
Australia ranked fifth on the Fall Luxury Travel Trends survey of luxury travel agents released this week by the Travel Leaders Group, trailing only Italy, European river cruises, the U.S. and Mediterranean cruises.
That beat out most European destinations as well as South Africa, New Zealand and even Cuba, which came in at No. 15 in the ranking. Results were based on bookings and inquiries reported by the 785 Travel Leaders Group luxury travel agents who responded to the survey.
Kirk Demeter, president of the Seattle-based travel wholesaler Down Under Answers, says Australia is a safe, fun destination with diverse and growing offerings that meet luxury traveler demands for new, exotic adventures. His company is seeing booming interest in the country, particularly southern and western Australia.
"The dollar is strong in Australia. The infrastructure is still able to support the increase in travelers, and different opportunities and markets continue to open," Demeter said.
While Americans tend to hit Sydney and other better-known cities, new and repeat travelers are venturing to luxury hot spots and resorts in the southern and western parts of the country, including Kangaroo Island, Adelaide, Perth and beach destinations along the Indian Ocean, "places they wouldn't have gone in the past. These areas are really for people who don't want the beaten-path tours."
In South Australia, Rodney Harrex, chief executive of the South Australian Tourism Commission, says visitor economy has hit a record high of $5.9 billion, an increase of 11.4% since June 2015.
"At the moment, we couldn't be at a better place with some of the world's most impressive luxury resorts and bespoke tour offerings led by truly authentic people," Harrex said.
There are also an increasing number of options for getting there, said Demeter, including luxury packages with Emirates Airlines from the U.S. East Coast.
Among the specials Down Under Answers is running through the end of this month with Emirates are the Perfect Australian Experience and a Journey From Adelaide to Margaret River.