The message from the Backpacker Tourism Advisory Council national conference in Darwin is clear: Australia needs backpackers to stay in the tourism game. Statistics show backpackers stay longer and spend more money than other visitors. Add to news that the backpacking industry has resisted the downward trend of the tourism sector, and these visitors could be the key to surviving the global downturn. "Economically they are critical," said Matthew Hingerty, managing director of the Australian Tourism Export Council. "We earn about $26 billion a year in foreign exchange through tourism. Of that, $3 billion comes from the backpacker industry." He added that they also dispersed tourism dollars around the country, then dispersed the good word about their stay: "More importantly these people go back to their home countries and become great advocates for Australia, in government and in business."