International arrivals have plummeted since February 2020, falling 26% below February 2019’s total. Comparisons between international arrivals from March 2019 to March 2020 shows an even further drop of 60%.
This drop reflects nationally implemented travel restrictions imposed by the Australian Government in response to COVID-19.
The largest decrease was in visitors from China, Japan, and Malaysia.2
In 2019, approximately 9.4 million tourists visited Australia from overseas. This marked a 2.4% increase from 2018, when 9.2 million tourists visited Australia from overseas.3
Since 2011, Australia has seen a steady increase in international arrivals, with dramatic growth observed every year from 2012 onwards. This growth is expected to continue with projections estimating the number of international visitors to Australia will increase to 15 million by 2026-2027.
Currently, the top six countries people visit Australia from are: China, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Singapore.
Chinese tourists spent $12.4 billion while in Australia in 2019. The main purpose for travelling to Australia was for holidays. 677,000 visitors came to Australia for holiday purposes. The most popular destinations were Sydney with 57%, Melbourne with 51%, and Brisbane with 21% of visitors. Chinese visitors spent an average of 43 nights in Australia. China has a population of 1.38 billion people meaning that less than 1% of their population visited Australia in 2019.
Tourists from New Zealand spent $2.6 billion in Australia in 2019. The main purpose for travelling to Australia was for holidays. 505,000 tourists came to Australia for holiday purposes. The most popular destinations were Sydney with 32%, Melbourne with 27%, and Brisbane with 19% of visitors. New Zealand visitors spent an average of 10 nights in Australia. New Zealand has a population of 4.69 million people meaning that around 29% of the population visited Australia in 2019.
Visitors from the United States of America spent $3.9 billion in 2019. The main purpose for travelling to Australia was holidays. 373,000 visitors came to Australia for holiday purposes. The most popular destinations were Sydney with 67%, Melbourne with 32%, and Brisbane with 15% of visitors. Visitors from The United States stayed an average of 17 nights in Australia. The United States has a population of 325.7 million people meaning that only 0.2% of their population visited Australia in 2019.
Tourists from the United Kingdom spent $3.4 billion in Australia in 2019. The main purpose for travelling to Australia was visiting friends/family. 344,000 tourists came to Australia to visit their friends and family. The most popular destinations were Sydney with 49%, Melbourne with 32%, and Perth with 22% of visitors. Visitors from the United Kingdom spent an average of 30 nights in Australia.
Japanese tourists spent $2.1 billion while in Australia in 2019. The main purpose for travelling to Australia was for holidays. 313,000 travellers came to Australia for holiday purposes. The most popular destinations were Sydney with 43%, tropical north Queensland with 25%, and Melbourne with 20% of visitors. Visitors from Japan spent an average of 23 nights in Australia. The population of Japan is 127 million people, meaning that 0.3% of their population visited Australia in 2019.4
Visitors from Singapore spent $1.5 billion while in Australia in 2019. The main purpose for travelling to Australia was for holidays. 235,000 tourists came to Australia for holiday purposes. The most popular destinations were Melbourne with 34%, Sydney with 32%, and Perth with 27% of visitors. Visitors from Singapore spent an average of 14 nights in Australia. The population of Singapore is 5.6 million people, meaning that 7.8% of their population visited Australia in 2019.5
States that are home to major cities and well-known landmarks consistently attract more international visitors each year. Incoming international visits also correlate with states that have the highest populations in Australia.
There was a total of 4.4 million international visitors to New South Wales in the 2019 calendar year. The total international spend in New South Wales was 11.4 billion. International tourists spent a total of 96.6 million nights in New South Wales.
In 2019, 4.1 million international tourists visited Sydney and spent an average of 20 nights there.
There was a total of 3.1 million international visitors to Victoria in the 2019 calendar year. The total spend in Victoria was $8.8 billion. International tourists spent a total of 73.1 million nights in Victoria.
In 2019, 3 million international overnight tourists visited Melbourne and spent an average of 21 nights there.
There was a total of 2.8 million international visitors to Queensland in the 2019 calendar year. The total spend in Queensland was $6.1 billion dollars. International tourists spent a total of 54.9 million nights in Queensland.
There was a total of 995,700 international visitors to Western Australia in the 2019 calendar year. The total spend in Western Australia was $2.4 billion. International tourists spent a total of 25.2 million nights in Western Australia.
There was a total of 487,600 international visitors to South Australia in the 2019 calendar year. The total spend in South Australia was $1.2 billion. International tourists spent a total of 10.9 million nights in South Australia.
There was a total of 298,600 international visitors to the Northern Territory in the 2019 calendar year. The total spend in the Northern Territory was $436.6 million. International tourists spent a total of 3.2 million nights in the Northern Territory.
There was a total of 282,900 international visitors to Tasmania in the 2019 calendar year. The total spend in Tasmania was $555.0 million. International tourists spent a total of 4.2 million nights in Tasmania.
There was a total of 269,800 international visitors to the ACT in the 2019 calendar year. The total spend in the ACT was $565.4 million. International tourists spent a total of 5.9 million nights in the ACT.
The summer months of December, January, and February attracted the most visitors to the country with a combined total of 2,716,200 international visitors in 2019.
The warmer weather combined with popular seasonal sporting events are major factors in high international arrivals during the summer. Autumn was the quietest season for international visitors to Australia, with only 2,029,000 people coming into the country in April, May and June.
In 2019, the average international trip to Australia lasted 32 nights. Holidays and backpacker trips have decreased over the same time period, while the average stay for categories like visiting friends and family and employment have increased.
While the total number of visitor nights in Australia have risen from 176,589,264 to 274,500,000 since 2009, this is the result of the increase in traffic rather than an increase in duration of stay.
Out of the top six countries for international visitors, only Japan saw an increase in the average duration of trips from 2009. The average stay in 2009 for Japanese tourists was 22 nights, which increased to 23 nights in 2019.
Chinese tourists had the longest average trips to Australia in both 2009 with 54 nights and 2019 with 43 nights. In contrast, tourists from Singapore spent the least amount of time here with an average of 21 nights in 2009 and only 14 nights in 2019.
Only New Zealand saw a decrease in the total number of nights spent in Australia from 2009, with the total dropping from 13,256,850 nights in 2009 to 13,00,000 nights in 2019.
Chinese tourists saw the greatest increase in the total nights spent in Australia, with 18,507,311 nights in 2009 and a total of 57,700,000 nights in 2019.6
Australia’s isolation from the other continents makes it a difficult destination for travellers living in the northern hemisphere. Australia does not make the top ten countries visited in 2019.7
The long distances and cost of flights can act as a deterrent to people wishing to visit Australia from the northern hemisphere. The abundance of cheaper travel destinations around Australia such as Indonesia and Thailand also affect the number of tourists coming into the country.
|#6||Kuala Lumpur||13.79 Million|
|#7||New York||13.6 Million|
In 2019, Australian residents undertook 11,300,000 million outbound international trips.
New Zealand was the leading destination for Australian tourists with a total of 1.5 million short-term trips in 2019. Indonesia was the second leading destination for Australian tourists, with a total of 1.4 million trips in 2019.
The average duration of a trip for Australian tourists was 14 days with holidays (57%) and visiting relatives and friends (26%) being the main reasons for travel.
Australia is home to some of the world’s most iconic landmarks and attractions. Visitors to Australia are more motivated than ever by social media to visit popular and well-known landmarks and attractions on their trips. Some of the most popular sites include:
The Opera House is synonymous with Sydney as a city. The uniqueness of the design of the Opera House has seen the building declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 8.2 million people visit the site every year. The building is home to theatres, studios, a concert hall, exhibition rooms and a cinema, however most tourists are only interested in the exterior design of the building.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the largest living structures in the world and is listed as a World-Heritage site. Visible from outer space, the reef is home to over 3000 coral reefs, 600 continental islands, 300 coral cays and mangrove islands. Over 2 million tourists a year come to experience the reef via snorkeling, scuba-diving, glass-bottomed boats and seaplanes.
Another World Heritage site, Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock) is situated in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the Northern Territory. The red monolith is 348 meters high and is the number one destination for those travelling through the outback, with over 300,000 visitors each year. Sunrise and sunset are particularly popular times for visits as the colours of the rock and surrounding area are transformed by the changing light.
Home to one of the oldest surf lifesaving clubs in the world, Bondi Beach is an iconic Australian beach known for its prime location to the city centre and fantastic views. The beach is home to many cultural events that take place throughout the year and is close to a variety of cafes, restaurants and other beachside attractions. Over 1 million visitors make their way to the beach each year.
Given these statistics, it should come as little surprise that tourism is a lucrative industry in Australia. In 2019, tourism in Australia accounted for 3.1% of the national GDP, contributing $60.8 billion to the Australian economy. The means that tourism GDP grew at a faster rate than the national economy. Of this, 26% came from international visitors to Australia while 74% came from domestic tourism.8
Travel around Australia before the invention of the rail was slow and laborious, with many people only travelling for their trades or to pursue new opportunities and settlements. Australia saw an increase in international travel after The Great Depression, with the first cruises between New Zealand and Australia organised in 1934.9 Australia then experienced an international tourism boom with the rise in commercial international flights in the 1960’s. In the past two decades international tourism has experienced significant growth, with the number of visitors doubled, rising from 2.5 million in 1992, to 8.7 million in 2019.10
Tourism is Australia’s largest services export industry. Australia’s proximity to Asia, natural assets and high standard of living make it a desirable holiday location for those travelling overseas. The international tourism industry is on the rise with transportation means becoming faster and more comfortable.
1. https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/mf/5249.0?OpenDocument