INTERNATIONAL visitors spent $1.48 billion in regional Queensland last year, accounting for almost half of the $3.3 billion splurged outside the nation's capital cities.
Figures contained in the International Visitor Survey 2012, released on Wednesday, showed a record 5.691 million people visited Australia from overseas last year - up 5% on the previous year. They stayed for a total 206,275,542 nights, an increase of 6%.
More than half visited New South Wales during their time in Australia, while 39% visited Queensland.
They spent almost $19 billion during their time here, with capital cities, including the Gold Coast, accounting for 82% of that expenditure.
Sydney attracted the highest spend with $5.6 billion.
But regional areas did not miss out on the largesse, with Queensland really cashing in.
In fact regional Queensland destinations made up a quarter of the list of top 20 areas in terms of expenditure.
Including Brisbane (4th) and the Gold Coast (6th) Queensland appears seven times on the list.
Of the regional areas, Tropical North Queensland was fifth on the top 20 list after raking in $873 million from 664,000 international visitors.
The Sunshine Coast was ninth on $186 million from 228,000 visitors; Whitsundays was 16th with 163,000 overseas visitors spending $108 million; $87 million was spent in the Northern region by 109,000 people, and; Central Queensland rounded out the top 20 after attracting 104,000 international visitors who forked out $74 million.
The NSW Northern Rivers was 17th with 191,000 overseas visitors spending $104 million last year.
More money was spent in NSW by international visitors than any other state with $6.3 billion - although Sydney accounted for all but $700 million of this figure.
Victoria was second on $4.4 billion, including Melbourne's $4.1 billion windfall, while Queensland was third on $3.8 billion.
Regional areas accounted for 11 of the top 20 destinations in terms of total expenditure, but capital cities accounted for four of the top five with Sydney followed by Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane.
These four alone accounted for about $13 billion between them.
New Zealand again had the highest number of visitors with 1.093 million making the trip across the ditch.
China was second with 592,169, followed by the United Kingdom (560,437) and the United States (452,765).
This represented a record number of visitors from the US, up 6% compared to 2011.
Asia continued to drive the increase in international visitation.
Holidaymakers accounted for 44% of all international visitors, while a quarter came to visit family and friends.
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