Backpacking and Australia really is like fish and chips, or fush and chups for you weird people in New Zealand.
Australia hit gold when backpackers started descending upon the country. Everything about Australia made for the ultimate destination to travel to and backpacker tourism helped Australia's economy to grow.
Australia topped the lists of top destinations to visit time and time again but recent years have seen a shift in where backpackers are choosing to travel to thanks to economic fluctuations and evolving travel trends.
This then leads me to ask the question, has Australia lost it's shine for backpackers or will it always hold the crown and appeal of the ultimate backpackers destination?
Many factors contributed to Australia becoming a backpacker destination. It was really far away for most backpackers and in one country you could visit outback, rainforest, beaches, countryside and fashionable cities. The Australian relaxed lifestyle was what people were leaving their own lives for, and in Australia you could work and travel at your leisure, allowing backpackers to spend a year away rather than a few weeks holiday.
Most importantly backpacking was budget orientated and Australia offered backpackers cheap accommodation, drinks, food and activities. Australia's success at creating a backpacking industry, resulted inevitably in many other destinations craving the same. It is amazing to think of the sheer number of places that have opened their arms to visitors and acknowledged that backpacking is here to stay and evolving on a daily basis:
South America - In one continent you can visit the World Heritage Sites of Macchu Picchu, the infamous beaches in Rio, the bustling city of Buenos Aries, ski the mountains of Chile, spot unique wildlife in Galapagos and take on adventure in Bolivia. Similar to Australia, got you get home with more stamps on your passport and have experienced the different culture of all South American countries. With Colombia a must see destination for 2010 South America is only set to increase in popularity and the big difference is that South America is still relatively much cheaper to visit.
Central America - The tropics, birds, turtles, dolphins, beaches and chilled out lifestyles will only become more and more popular and it only take half the time to get there. South East Asia - known to all backpackers as cheap, it still is cheap for most backpackers. South East Asia was once a top place to stop for a few weeks on route to Australia, but now it has become a backpacker destination in itself.
China - China has well and truly tapped in to the backpacker market giving backpackers that unique experience of really being in a different world and culture. Whereas Japan is still quite an expensive country to visit, China isn't and can offer visitors everything other destinations can, from skiing, to adventure, to stylish cities, to remote countryside as well as fascinating scenery. The Great Wall of China still remains my favourite place to visit worldwide.
Africa - Each individual country within the continent offers most Westerners a new and exhilerating experience and with South Africa hosting the World Cup next year it is set to become a destination to visit.
New Zealand - Emerging from the shadows of Australia as a destination in it's own right, New Zealand is know not just a country to do because you happened to be in the area evidenced when Lonely Planet named New Zealand as a top destination for 2010.
With so much competition within the backpacking industry, each destination really needs to establish that unique selling point as a backpacking destination and here is why Australia still ranks as an ultimate backpacking destination:
The Working Holiday Visa. Pure backpacking genius. Backpackers can sample the sights, beauty and culture of the country over the course of one or two years. Sure there are a couple of other countries that do the same, but Australia is the only country to give you a little piece of everything.
Australia still remains that far away destination to escape to. You get your money's worth with that plane journey.
You'll never see Kangaroos hopping round any other town in the world
It's easy! The backpacking industry in Australia has been growing rapidly for years so that everything you need is right in front of you. The immense competition for backpackers business in Australia means that although Australia isn't thought of as cheap as it once was - you can still get around very cheaply!
The Aussie lifestyle will always remain a favourite. People leave their homes to get away and the aussie lifestyle is the ultimate get-away.
You can't find the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, Great Ocean Road, Kakadu National Park and all the others anywhere else in the world, and they are all must - see places to visit.
It is the original big cheese. This factor we can't ignore. If it wasn't for Australia we wouldn't be backpacking worldwide.
Only time will tell as to what the backpacker movement will do in the ever-changing backpacker industry and whether or not Australia will retain its title as the ultimate backpacker destination. For now, however, Australia can remain proud of its title as the ultimate backpackers destination.