The latest international visitor survey shows Australia was on track for another record year before the dual crises of the bushfires and COVID-19.
Tourism Research Australia’s (TRA) latest snapshot of international visitation shows the country saw record numbers of international visitors aged 15 years and over for the year to December 2019, with 8.7 million arrivals (two per cent more than the previous year).
Moreover, in terms of domestic travel, Australia recorded yet another breakthrough: 117.4 million Australians spent a record $80.7 billion across the country.
The findings come with the release of Tourism Research Australia’s international and domestic visitor surveys.
In terms of the international visitor survey, the findings supported a three per cent growth in total trip spend from international visitors, which reached a record $45.4 billion.
There was growth in visitation across all purposes of travel over the year. Leading the way was employment, up four per cent to 212,000 visitors.
Education and holiday travel were also up three per cent to 594,000 and 4 million visitors, respectively.
The most popular activities undertaken by holiday visitors to Australia were eating out (91 per cent), shopping (81 per cent), sightseeing (80 per cent) and going to the beach (71 per cent).
North American and European visitors, including those from the UK, were the most adventurous holidaymakers, with higher participation rates across most activities.
In addition, the research also showed the Asian market was the top contributor to the growth in international tourism, providing 88 per cent of the additional $1.5 billion spend gained in 2019, and 69 per cent of the 185,000-visitor increase.
Despite double-digit percentage growth over much of the last decade, TRA noted China saw a plateau in visitation, with numbers steadying at 1.3 million.
However, spend was up six per cent to $12.4 billion due mainly to growth from high spending Chinese students.
Domestic travel hits record $80.7bn spend
Domestic overnight travel also continued to perform well over the year ending December 2019, with 117.4 million visitors spending a record $80.7 billion (up 12 per cent). Total tourism spend also reached a record $152.4 billion.
New South Wales was the most popular for interstate domestic visits, while the Northern Territory was the least with 1.7 million visitors over the course of the year, adding up to $2.2 billion in expenditure.
Transport ($24.7 billion), food and drink ($22.4 billion) and accommodation ($20.3 billion) contributed most to Australia’s total domestic overnight spend over the year.
In addition, two-thirds of domestic overnight trips (79.1 million) were for intrastate travel, though interstate travel generated greater spend overall (56 per cent or $45.0 billion).
Interstate trips ($1,173) were found to cost more on average per person than intrastate trips ($452), primarily due to greater transport expenses and longer trip durations.
And in terms of lodgings, domestic visitor nights were most often spent at a friend’s or relative’s property (34 per cent); in hotels, motels and resorts (24 per cent); and caravanning and camping (14 per cent).
Data critical in outlining baseline for COVID-19 recovery: ATIC
According to the Australian Tourism Industry Council’s executive director, Simon Westaway, the release of this latest visitor snapshot will provide policymakers integral data to help them plan for the future after COVID-19.
“Australian tourism enterprises, wider players in our industry and governments continue to rely and engage around this detailed quarterly research which tracks both domestic and international tourism within Australia,” Westaway said.
“This data delivery sets continual benchmarks and now policymakers have the representative statistical baseline right before the dual impacts of bushfires and COVID-19, which transpired from the beginning of 2020, from which to help industry address future recovery.”
Featured image: iStock.com/zetter