The new wave of tourism in Victoria, experience guaranteed

Grampians National Park, Victoria

Please note: Images in this article were taken before current COVID-19 safety measures were in place.

Nicki Kenyon smiling at the cameraHave you heard of experiential tourism?  Well, it’s a tourism 'thing' and with the help of Visit Victoria we have a summary of some of the best tourist 'experiences' for the upcoming holiday season.

'Experiential' tourism is emerging as a trend for the tourism industry, and according to Visit Victoria’s General Manager, Consumer Markets, Nicki Kenyon, it’s lucrative business for the state.

Experiential tourism is about immersion – think nature, culture, food, wine and Aboriginal-based experiences. According to Nicki, “It’s an emerging trend where people immerse themselves in culture and country, to understand its nuances and live like a local.”

"Victoria has incredible cultural, culinary, music and sport scenes that give visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the state, not just as an observer but often as a participant."

Nature-based tourism

Nature-based experiences are bringing in the greatest amount of tourism dollars, with a 16 per cent year-on-year hike in visitor spend in Victoria. "Nature-based tourism involves people travelling to engage in activities such as bushwalking or mountain-biking," says Nicki.

"Our regional driving routes are second to none, with the Great Ocean Road being one of the most visited landmarks in the country." This includes the "world-famous 12 Apostles." Not limited to the seaside, Nicki says that Victoria is an incredibly diverse and compact state with a breadth of natural attractions, including the Murray River, Gippsland Lakes and the Grampians National Park.

Unidentified people sightsee and taking photos of Twelve Apostles

Arts, theatre & culture

For the less outdoorsy, cultural experiences accounted for over 10 million visitors to Victoria last year. The centrepiece of Melbourne’s arts precinct is the National Gallery of Victoria. Celebrating 50 years since relocating to the current site on St Kilda Road, NGV is a marvel of design, architecture, and of course art. Whatever your fancy, visit for the Leonard French stained-glass ceiling, the reproductions of fashion photography staged in the great hall, or simply to covet the interior furnishings by Mary and Grant Featherston. Don’t stop there though.

Explore Victoria’s creative side at one of the many other art galleries, theatres and exhibitions this summer via the Visit Victoria website. Be sure to check the upcoming exhibitions at the homely and verdant Heide Museum of Modern Art in Bulleen, as well as Australia’s only national museum of film, video-games, and digital culture at ACMI.

A lady viewing paintings at one of the rooms in the National Gallery of Victoria

Event tourism

Less adhoc than a bushwalk or a gallery stroll, major events and festivals are memorable experiences responsible for over five million visitors last year. Summer brings us the Australian Open tennis (tickets already available), as well as the annual calendar of other major events, jazz and comedy, surfing tournaments and musicals including School of Rock and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.Exterior of the Regent Theatre at dusk. People surrounding the steps.

Aboriginal experiences

Supporting Aboriginal tourism is central to telling the story of Victoria’s history, growing the state’s tourism assets and supporting local communities through jobs and training.

This sector drew 5.7 million visitors last year. "Aboriginal Victoria is distinctive in the context of Indigenous Australia," says Nicki.

There are opportunities for visitors to experience Aboriginal culture at a number of cultural centres, national parks, wetlands, wildlife reserves and art galleries. There are also public events such as the immensely popular 'Dreamtime at the G’ [an annual AFL football match, providing recognition to Indigenous players during NAIDOC week], plus the opportunity to take a tour with a traditional owner, or dine at a social enterprise restaurant running traineeships with Aboriginal young people.

Aboriginal dancers dance in front a group of people

Food and wine tourism

We've seen food trends come and go, but one thing has never changed – the passion for food and wine that is the lifeblood of Victoria. Food and wine experiences drew 4.2 million visitors, a 12 per cent upturn on the previous year.

Along with natural springs, spectacular coastline and coffee, "Melbourne is the gateway to Victoria’s world-class wineries," says Nicki. "I believe the growth trend is likely to continue."

With more than 800 wineries and 600 cellar doors in 21 distinct wine regions across the state, there's a wine for every palate – a major drawcard for visitors.

Victoria’s compact size also makes our wine regions relatively local, with some wineries within one hour’s drive from Melbourne’s Central Business District.

Lunch setting outdoor at a winery

Future tourism trends

Nicki says experiential tourism will continue to gain momentum as desire for this type of holiday will only increase. "The industry is agile and will adapt to the needs of travellers coming to Victoria – if the demand is there then this type of tourism will flourish," she says.

"Whether that means more cultural, hands-on experiences, driving tours, camping or glamping opportunities, the sky’s the limit when finding new ways for people to enjoy the state."

For more information on experiential tourism and visitor trends, go to the Visit Victoria website.