Townsville could be Australia’s next “edu-tourism” capital

TOWNSVILLE could become Australia’s next “edu-tourism” capital as international students prove key to bringing millions in tourism dollars to the region.

Queensland’s peak international education advisory group is expected to meet in Townsville today to discuss how to attract more international students to North Queensland.

Tourism Industry Development Minister Kate Jones said it would be the first time the International Education and Training Advisory Group (IETAG) had held a meeting outside Brisbane.

“(International students) want to come to places like Townsville because they know they can get the best of both worlds – a world-class education in one of the greatest tourism destinations,” she said.

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Ms Jones said international education contributed more than $4.13 billion to the Queensland economy annually and regional locations such as Townsville were an “important part” of the sector.

“More than 30 per cent of the 111,501 international students in our great state are studying in regional areas,” she said. “By taking IETAG to Townsville we’re sending a strong message to education providers in North Queensland that we’re serious about helping them.”

Ms Jones said operators in Townsville were doing a “great job” of capitalising on the crossover between international education and tourism.

“There are opportunities to increase the visiting friends and relatives market, promote Queensland as an edu-tourism destination and evolve our study tour experiences,” she said.

International education expert Will Archer said understanding why students chose Townsville was crucial.

“The students could have gone literally anywhere in the world. It’s about understanding how they made the choice to (study in Townsville),” he said.

“Students can be valuable ambassadors for a region after they’ve spent time here … they go home and talk about their experience and encourage friends and family to visit.”

Mr Archer said Queensland’s strategy to attract more international students was “world class”.

“Queensland is such a unique state and what is great about the strategy is that it recognises the strengths and diversities of the regions,” he said.

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