Market Overview

    Yr/Yr % Chg
Visitors to California (2014) * 589,000 6.4%
Visitor Spending (2014) ** $914 million -7.7%
California Market Share (2014) 46.1% -
Average Length of Stay - nights (2013) 9.3 -
Weekly Non-Stop Flights (2015) 72 9.2%
Weekly Non-Stop Seats (2015) 25,356 9.0%
2015 Visitation Forecast (% change vs. 2014) 544,000 0.0%
2018 Visitation Forecast (% change vs. 2014) 610,000 12.1%

Source: Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, CIC Research, Tourism Economics, OAG

* Visitor volumes: The U.S. Department of Commerce started to count one-night visitors in 2014. This change inflated Yr/Yr visitation gains compared to previous years but delivers a more accurate picture of total visitation.

** Visitor spending: The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis made changes to their methodology in 2014 to include spending by students, temporary workers, and people traveling for reasons related to their health. Although this change increased total travelers, some Yr/Yr declines in spending per visitor have been seen which are more likely related to the gaining strength of the US dollar vs. foreign currencies in the 4th quarter of 2014.

Visitor Spending by Category 2013

  % spending $ Category Spending
Accommodations 26.4% $261 million
Entertainment/Recreation 17.1% $169 million
Food & Beverage 21.8% $216 million
Ground Transportation 3.8% $38 million
Shopping 19.9% $197 million
U.S. Air Transportation 8.9% $88 million
Other 2.2% $22 million
Total 100% $990 million

Source: U.S. Dept. of Commerce; CIC Research, Inc.; U.S. BEA; Tourism Economics


International Markets

California remains a popular destination for Australian travelers to the United States. In 2014, Australia was the third-largest source of visitors to California behind China and the United Kingdom. The Australia market accounted for more than 589,000 visitors to California, producing $914 million in travel spending. This represents steady year-on-year growth since 2003.

In 2014, Australian visitors spent an average of $1,553 per trip. The average length of stay was 9.3 days, more than one-third of the average stay of 24.6 nights in the United States, according to 2013 data.

California captured 46.1 percent of the market share of Australian travel to the United States in 2013. The visitation forecast predicts an increase of 12 percent percent through 2018.

While online travel agency (OTA) presence is growing, most Australians still book their holiday via travel agency, using OTAs as a source of research and price comparisons. Airfare prices continue to be the main driver for decision making, with the advance booking date averaging between 120 days to 180 days.



The mining boom of recent years has leveled and recent federal budget cuts are the toughest since 1996, however the Australian economy remains strong. Over the past six months, the economy grew at a solid pace led by exports, consumption and dwelling investment. Growth is expected to be reported at more than 3 percent for 2014.

Although there has been a slight downturn in consumer confidence in the wake of federal budget cuts and some decline in the strength of the Australian dollar, there appears to be no real threat to Australian outbound travel and travel to the United States. Research has shown that excluding 9/11 and the Bali bombings, international departures have only recorded negative growth three times in 22 years.

Because Australian outbound travel has grown in years when the dollar traded at both U.S. 48 cents and at U.S. $1.10, in its current level of U.S. 79 cents it is unlikely any noticeable effect on consumer visitation will be seen. Factors including the value for money when traveling, cheaper consumer items and “only in California” experiences continue to be trip motivators for travel from Australia. Any effect of a weaker currency is expected to be seen by the choice of accommodation, activities and length of stay. 


Nonstop Air Service Into California

    Avg. Weekly Flights Avg. Weekly Seats  
Airport Airline  73 25,400 Cities Served
LAX Delta Air Lines 7 2,037 Sydney
  Qantas Airways 31 12,829 Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney
  United  14 3,597 Melbourne, Sydney
  Virgin Australia  14 5,054 Brisbane, Sydney
SFO United  7 1,883 Sydney



Capacity increases made in September 2014 further invigorate strong competition on the highly profitable Trans Pacific route. There are 22,740 average weekly seats to California from Australia on 63 weekly non-stop flights.

  • United Airlines commenced a new non-stop service operating six times per week between Melbourne and Los Angeles
  • Virgin Australia withdraw from Melbourne in favor of daily flights between Brisbane and Los Angeles. United and Qantas continue to battle it out for market dominance in Melbourne.
  • Air New Zealand and Hawaiian Airlines also have increased capacity out of New Zealand, offering more choices for the Australian and New Zealand traveler.

Aggressive promotions from Trans-Pacific airlines to capture market share will ensure the United States remains a high profile destination in 2015/16. Interestingly in the first month of 2015, Virgin Australia responded to the recent slump in oil prices by passing the savings onto their customers. The carrier expects these prices to remain at record lows. Qantas has also reacted to the drop in fuel price by announcing their own reductions to frequent flyer members.


Trip Information and Booking Sources** (2013)

  Travel Information Air Travel Booking Methods
Travel Agencies 52.3% 58.2%
Airlines Direct 34.1% 33.4%
Tour Operators 9.3% 4.3%
Personal Computer/OTA 36.1% 15.1%
Corporate Travel Office 9.9% 7.8%
Personal Recommendation 32.0% n.a.
Travel Guide 12.0% n.a.

** multiple sources

Travel Trends

  • Event-focused holidays: Attending specific music, sporting or cultural events.
  • Focus on experiencing California’s style of luxury product, which is comparatively less expensive than in Australia.
  • Authentic travel experiences of discovering lesser-known destinations, cities and regions like a local.
  • An increase in holidays focused around exploration of the outdoors.
  • Increased demand for variety of accommodation, such as boutique hotels and value options with the falling AUD.


Market Strategies


  • Visit California’s strategy continues to focus on “only in California” experiences in California’s gateways and beyond.
  • With increased competition from new U.S. destinations (Travel South, New England, etc.) California’s “compact diversity” and unique travel experiences continue to be a main selling point.
  • Focus on training frontline travel agents, using Visit California’s online tools to ensure they are armed with the knowledge to confidently sell California.
  • Relationships with key partners and California Advisory Board members are leveraged to gain insights into maintaining California’s strong market presence – with a focus on playing a greater role in curating California experiences by audience segment and experience pillar.
  • A key programming focus was the Sales & Media Mission. Themed around the experience pillars and the Dream Big platform, the mission included concurrent and separate tracks for trade and PR.
  • Public relations efforts concentrate on identifying “only-in-California” experiences in line with experience pillars to encourage repeat visits, as well as relevant platforms and partnerships to amplify messaging and create broader reach. Target media include a heavier concentration of bloggers and media influencers to support digital activity. Northern California was integrated into relevant media opportunities to counteract the natural saturation of Southern California.


  • Australia will return to a Tier 1 market. The brand program that began in 2013 will be reinstated with a full range of paid media activity.
  • For the first time, both planning seasons consisting of late summer-early fall and February-March will be supported by paid media activity. Spot television in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane will provide the paid media foundation, enhanced digital support, including online TV, to tap into Australia’s younger target demographic, which is the youngest of all Visit California markets, to capitalize on online viewing.
  • Online content, social media and out-of-home in highly visible areas will be layered to provide additional reach.
  • Travel trade training efforts will expand to reach more travel agents across Australia and New Zealand, with a greater inclusion of secondary destinations in both countries.
  • Increased focus on segmenting the market and catering to niche audiences and first-time versus repeat travelers. A major focus will be on building and deploying extensive tool kits around California’s experience pillars based on insights and customer segmentation. Tools will be used to empower trade and media in marketing and promotion efforts and enhanced content opportunities.
  • PR opportunities and stunts will highlight California’s strengths and focus on securing TV integration and enhancing presence in the social and digital space.

2015/2016 Plan Highlights

Consumer, trade and PR plan highlights in the expanded budget environment will include:

  • Partnering with airlines and volume drivers to leverage owned media and creative assets, as well as use joint assets to push Dream Big messaging and further distribute Visit California content with a measurable call to action.
  • A continued layering of TV, digital and out-of-home channels and communications to increase brand awareness
  • Build on the digital influencer program and develop multi-channel media content partnerships.
  • Cooperative campaigns integrated across trade, PR and consumer audiences. Campaigns will be themed around specific experience pillars
  • Evolving toolkit of content assets developed each quarter for trade and media, highlighting key messages for the coming quarter and facilitating promotion.
  • Extension of training efforts into secondary destinations – including Adelaide, Perth, Tasmania and Tropical North Queensland – via face-to-face programs, webinars, incentivized online training program and conference sponsorship.
  • Host a Club California-style live training event in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
  • Expand trade hosting program to include social media posts by participating trade FAM agents to reach entire agency networks.
  • Continued association with Australians in Film with enhanced partnership benefits to strengthen digital presence and grow library of owned assets.
  • Focus on broadcast coverage and integration opportunities.
  • Major stunt creating only-in-California experience in-market to generate publicity and social media, as well as launch new California culinary and luxury product.

Familiarity & Interest of California Areas

  Like to Visit Like to Learn More About It I'm Not Interested
San Francisco Bay Area 76% 22% 7%
Los Angeles County 55% 28% 21%
San Diego County 51% 33% 21%
Deserts 45% 37% 22%
High Sierra 40% 46% 18%
North Coast 39% 45% 20%
Orange County 39% 38% 26%
Central Coast 32% 48% 23%
Gold Country 30% 50% 24%
Central Valley 24% 50% 28%
Shasta Cascade 21% 50% 32%
Inland Empire 19% 46% 37%

Source: Hall & Partners, August 2012

Top 10 Motivating California Features

San Francisco 56%
Disneyland 48%
Yosemite/Half Dome 36%
Hollywood 31%
Universal Studios Hollywood 31%
Napa Valley/Wineries 28%
Los Angeles 24%
Shopping Outlet Malls 21%
Golden Gate Bridge 20%
California Redwoods 20%

Source: Hall & Partners, August 2012


Jo Palmer
Managing Director
Laura Jones
Account Director
Kristy Meudell
Public Relations Manager
Phillip Haines
Travel Trade Manager
Kat Wanoa
Content Coordinator
Gate 7
Phone: 61 02 9361 0660
Fax: 61 02 9356 2001


Thank you to our Golden State Sponsors:
MeringCarson Time Inc