AUSTRALIANS dreaming of a holiday at home have the Sunshine Coast swirling through their heads.
The Coast pipped Sydney in the latest Roy Morgan Research Holiday Tracking Survey in the competitive holiday market. The Coast was number three most preferred holiday spot for visitors who have their sights set on a break over the next two years.
About a million visitors spent their Christmas and new year break on the Coast, resulting in the busiest season in six years.
The other places were taken by Melbourne, Gold Coast, Sydney and Great Ocean Road.
Sunshine Coast Destination Limited chief executive Steve Cooper said the position ahead of one of the country's biggest cities was a real coup for the area.
"This just underpins the great work and reputation the Sunshine Coast is developing among Australians in one of the toughest economic periods we could have imagined in the past decade," he said.
The latest research echoed the findings by only accommodation website Lastminute.com.au, which showed the Coast sat at number four in Australia for the most popular holiday destination over the New Year break.
The September 2012 National Visitor Survey by Tourism Research Australia released recently, showed among regional areas, overnight visitors spent the most money on the Sunshine Coast.
About $1.8 billion was injected into the Coast coffers by overnight visitors in a 12-month period.
Mr Cooper said there was an increase last year in tourists visiting from Brisbane to visit family friends and relatives.
"Travelling close to home and saving money is reflective of current consumer confidence," Mr Cooper said.
Domestic visitation is extremely important from the Sunshine Coast region, accounting for 92% of all visitors.
But Roy Morgan Research international director of tourism, travel and leisure Jane Ianniello said the popularity of beach destinations had suffered in the past decade.
She said the decline could be blamed on increased competition from short-haul overseas beach destinations such as Bali, Fiji and Thailand.
- MEGAN MACKANDER