Centennial Parklands demonstrates appeal of great outdoors

The skyrocketing number of visitors to Sydney’s Centennial Parklands precinct is proof of the growing appeal of nature-based tourist attractions.

The grand old lady of Sydney’s open spaces celebrates her 130th birthday on Australia Day but has never looked better, as evidenced by the stunning 55 per cent increase in people visiting annually between 2013 and 2016.

A whopping 31 million people visited the precinct in Sydney’s east – which consists of Centennial Park, Moore Park and Queens Park – in 2016, up from 20 million three years earlier.

This correlates with the findings of the Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) report Unlocking Our Great Outdoors, which revealed strong performance in nature-based tourism across all sectors.

It found that international visitors to Australia are increasingly engaging with the great outdoors: in 2016 alone, 5.2 million international visitors – or over two-thirds of all the international visitors to Australia – partook in some form of nature-based tourism.

In addition, our natural attractions drew 20.1 million domestic overnight visitors and 23.6 million domestic day trip visitors.

“Nature-based tourism is one of the fastest growing sub-sectors of the tourism sector,” TTF Chief Executive Margy Osmond said.

“Indeed, growth in nature-based travel by international visitors, domestic overnight visitors and day-trippers outpaced the growth rate for overall visitation numbers in all three of these visitor-type categories.”

The report also found that international nature-based visitor numbers rose 12 per cent in 2016 and 49 per cent in the five years since 2012, outpacing total international visitor growth to Australia over the same periods of 11 per cent in 2016 and 43 per cent over the past five years.

Similar patterns were evident for domestic visitor numbers: the number of overnight domestic visitors who undertook nature-based activities rose 6 per cent in 2015 and 41 per cent since 2012 – stronger than the 4 per cent and 22 per cent respectively in total.

Nature-based day trip visitors rose a strong 15 per cent in 2016 and an astronomical 62 per cent over the past five years, which was significantly stronger than the 6 per cent rise in total day trip visitors in 2016 and 9 per cent since 2012.

Despite this strong growth in recent years and the amazing base product provided by nature, these areas also need to provide accessibility and amenities for visitors – and Centennial Parklands has excelled in this regard.

Botanic Gardens & Centennial Parklands executive director Kim Ellis has confirmed nearly $28 million has been invested in upgrading heritage assets, facilities, sports fields, horticulture, education, volunteering and programs across the board since 2015.

“The incredibly popular Ian Potter Children’s Wild Play Garden, Fearnley Grounds and the new accessibility upgrades and Driving Range at Moore Park Golf have seen numbers soar,” he said.

“Centennial Parklands is now a destination rather than seen a location to pass through.

“This research supports and verifies the work and funding we have invested to make Centennial Parklands a world-class destination.”

This is reflected in the 94 per cent satisfaction rate of visitors and the fact that more than half of all patrons attend on a weekly basis, along with an increase in the percentage of visitors aged under 35.

Of the 31 million visits to Centennial Parklands in 2016, 49 per cent were to Moore Park, 41 per cent to Centennial Park and 30 per cent to Queens Park.