Can sport help Australian tourism recover?

India and Pakistan fans at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup match between India and

A race that stops a nation, a bumper summer season of cricket, and an international tennis tournament on track to break attendance records. That’s a taste of the big sporting events luring international visitors to Australia this summer.

Beyond the warmer months, significant tourism investment is ensuring major sporting events are not only getting bigger and better, but playing a leading role in the nation’s tourism recovery for years to come.

The upcoming 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, 2026 Commonwealth Games, and 2027 Rugby World Cup are on track to bring in billions of dollars to the economy.

International arrivals are still at less than half of what they were pre-pandemic, down 56 per cent, according to the most recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Margy Osmond, chief executive of Tourism Transport Forum Australia, said sporting events will form a critical part of the nation’s recovery.

“Major events, but in particular the sporting events that are very high profile, have amazing global advantages in terms of bringing an audience that’s predisposed to want to be there,” said Osmond.

Tourism Australia’s last-minute $5 million funding boost to promote the ICC T20 World Cup seems to be paying off, with last Sunday’s cricket clash between India and Pakistan at the MCG recording the biggest crowd for an event not involving Australian participants, at 90,293 attendees. Osmond notes international visitor numbers off the back of T20 have been encouraging.

“The biggest number came from the UK, with about 22,000 [tickets sold], about 16,000 from India, 10,000 from the US, and 9000 from Pakistan,” said Osmond. 

With outbound tourism still banned in China, the Indian market is a key focus for marketers, including Tourism Australia. Behind New Zealand, they’re leading the sports tourism reboot Down Under.

 “As we’re rolling into a very big summer of cricket, that is going to have a big cultural connection. Aside from an already high level of interest out of India in coming to Australia, having the cricket on at the same time absolutely clinches it,” said Osmond.

Adding to the history-making sporting events in the pipeline: the Australian Open (January 16-29) is on track to hit an ambitious new target of a million fans over the three weeks; next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup is gearing up to be the largest in history, expanding from 24 to 32 teams; and the 2026 Commonwealth Games in Victoria is being held across four regional hubs for the first time – Geelong, Ballarat, Gippsland and Bendigo.

Rhianwen Seiter, owner and general manager of Bendigo lounge bar Ms Batterhams, said there’s excitement across the region about being part of the Games after a difficult pandemic period.

“Talks and plans are well under way to ensure we can make our city shine for this event, discussion around providing additional accommodation options is well under way too,” said Seiter. “Locals are really looking forward to showing the world what Bendigo has to offer.”

With $2.6 billion investment, the Victorian government is banking on the Games’ legacy benefiting the regions long after the crowds have dispersed.

Victoria is leading the sporting charge for the nation in 2022-23, too; its capital will soon lay claim to hosting the top 10 highest attendance post-pandemic sporting events following the T20 World Cup.

Victorian Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Steve Dimopoulos has dubbed Melbourne the sporting capital.

“Pillars including the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix, AFL Grand Final, Boxing Day Test and the Melbourne Cup Carnival have made us famous, and adding special events like marquee T20 World Cup games completes a pretty amazing package,” said Dimopoulos.

In other states, the United Cup (December 29 to January 8 in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth) will launch the global tennis season and see the return of the Brisbane International after last year’s COVID-related cancellation. International cricket fans will continue to arrive through to January for a several events, including the men’s One Day International series and test matches. And in motorsport, Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne will look to beat 2022’s record crowd attendance of 419,114.

Tourism Australia recently launched its first major global tourism campaign since 2016, starring an animated kangaroo named Ruby, voiced by actor Rose Byrne.


ICC T20 World Cup (October 16 – November 13, 2022). See 

Men’s ODI Series v England (November 17-22, 2022). See 

Men’s Test Series (November 30, 2022 – January 8, 2023). See 

Adelaide 500 (December 1-4, 2022). See 

Melbourne Cup Carnival (October 29 – November 1, 2022). See 

Sydney Hobart Yacht Race (December 26, 2022). See

Australian Open (January 16-29, 2023). See 

Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix 2023 (March 30 – April 2, 2023). See 

2026 Commonwealth Games (March 17 – March 29, 2026). See 

2032 Brisbane Olympics and Paralympic Games. See