New figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show Australia was on track for another record year for international arrivals before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Australia saw an unprecedented fall in overseas arrivals in the latter months of the 2020 financial year, recording 6.7 million overseas visitor arrivals – down 27.9 per cent on the previous year and the lowest since 2013/14, according to the ABS.
The impact of COVID-19 on travel to Australia commenced in February 2020, with the start of border restrictions by the Australian government. Prior to this, the nation set a record with 9.5 million visitors for the year ending January 2020.
“Over the last year, there were increases every month until February 2020 when the impact of COVID-19 started,” Jenny Dobak, director of migration statistics at the ABS, said.
“Once the tighter restrictions came into effect on the 20 March, the drop in visitors arriving was dramatic, being close to 100 per cent.”
During 2019/20, New Zealand was Australia’s largest source country with over one million visitors, followed by China (900,000) and the United States (581,000).
For the year, the average duration of stay for visitors arriving on a short-term trip was 12 days.
Of the top 10 source countries, those travelling from India stayed the longest (53 days on average), followed by the United Kingdom (20 days), while Japanese travellers (six days) and Kiwis (seven days) had the shortest duration for trips.
Furthermore, provisional estimates for July 2020 indicate a 99.1 per cent decrease in overseas arrivals to Australia (18,300 estimated trips) compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.
This represents a 29.1 per cent decrease compared to June 2020.
Data exposes depth of crisis: TAA
The data lays bare the full extent of the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and underscores the importance of “comprehensive” Commonwealth assistance, according to Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA).
Chief executive Michael Johnson said the data showed international visitation ceased almost entirely from April to June, pausing a critical revenue source for Australia’s accommodation industry.
“There is no escaping the data which shows the reality of what happens when strict border measures are put in place,” he said.
“Hoteliers around the country are fighting to stay afloat, but are trying to do so with a major component of their business having been taken away for most of the year.
“The statistics demonstrate just how critical it was to negotiate the extension of the JobKeeper payment and shows additional, long-term assistance will be required to avoid heavy job losses.
“While borders remain closed, all efforts must be made to encourage Australians to holiday at home and provide accommodation providers with much-needed revenue.”
Featured image source: iStock/DLMcK