Nicole Hasham May 19, 2012
Show time ... Emma Spillett from the Illawarra, who is heading to New York to shop and see four Broadway productions. She will join the almost 1500 Australians who visit the city every day. Photo: Sylvia Liber
AUSTRALIANS are pouring into New York at a rate of almost 1500 a day and are the Big Apple's third-biggest overseas spenders, spurred on by the favourable exchange rate and new work opportunities.
Figures show 800,000 Australians travelled to the United States last year, 17 per cent more than the previous year and more than double the number in 2004, making it our third most popular overseas destination, behind New Zealand and Indonesia.
One-third of overseas visitors to the US head to New York. For Australians, surveys show shopping is top of their itinerary, said Chris Heywood, a spokesman for the city's tourism body, NYC & Company.
"They love the name brands, visiting the department stores and visiting Fifth Avenue and Soho … and they are getting great value," he said.
About 533,000 Australians visited New York last year and spent an average $US2700 each - or $US1.4 billion - lagging behind only the British and Brazilians.
An economist at BIS Shrapnel, Richard Robinson, said the exodus of Australian dollars to international markets rivalled online shopping as a threat to local retailing.
"It is a serious negative on domestic retail spending … more money is getting sucked out of Australia and spent overseas, and people are coming back with their luggage loaded up [with overseas-bought goods]," he said.
The creation in 2005 of the E-3 visa, which eased entry restrictions for Australians wishing to work in the US, has also driven the expat invasion.
More than 2800 Australians took up the visa last year, bringing with them 1800 family members. But numbers have so far fallen short of the 10,500 annual quota.
A New York immigration lawyer, Michael Wildes, said his Australian clientele base had tripled in recent years.
Many who arrived as tourists later filed for a work or student visa, he said. "New York, specifically, is such an attractive destination because of the allure of the big city,'' he said.
''Its diversity, and its opportunities in the world of media, fashion, marketing and finance are second to none.
"It's a symbiotic relationship where both countries benefit from the cultural and economic exchange."
Illawarra theatre producer and journalist Emma Spillett, 25, will head to New York later this month to shop up a storm and get her fix of Broadway musicals.
She is rehearsing for the musical Crazy for You, which is partly set in New York. She has bought tickets to four Broadway shows, and plans to see six more during her stay.
"I'll probably spend about $5000 in the US, including accommodation," she said. "I love New York because of its vibrancy and diversity. I'm a huge Sex and the City fan and … [New York] is exactly the same in reality."