Australia records largest ever fall in overseas visitors

Australia has recorded its largest ever recorded fall in overseas visitors according to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The number of overseas visitors was down by 60 per cent in March compared with the same period last year, with the largest decline in visitors from China (-78%), followed by Japan(-75%) and Malaysia (-69%).

“In March 2020, there were 331,900 visitors who had arrived for a short-term trip compared to 836,300 12 months earlier,” said ABS director of migration statistics Jenny Dobak.

“The steep fall in visitor arrivals to Australia in March was from all regions around the world.

“Even our largest source country, New Zealand, recorded a 56 per cent drop.”

All states and territories recorded drops in visitor numbers, with the Northern Territory experiencing the biggest drop at 66 per cent and the ACT the lowest at 53 per cent.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said domestic and international air travel is down by more than 97 per cent.

“Nearly 40,000 passengers [moved] through Brisbane airport on Easter Sunday last year, compared to just 31 passengers this year,” he said.

The drop in travellers as a result of the Covid-19 travel restrictions has led the ABS to suspend all of its trend estimates for short-term visitor arrivals and resident returns.

Australian Tourism Export Council managing director Peter Shelley said the tourism sector had “fallen to a pale imitation of its great past”.

“Just as we began to rebuild from the rubble of January’s bushfires which saw mass cancellations from both domestic and international visitors, tourism businesses across the country were the first to be hit by the coronavirus, which has bought our inbound industry to a complete halt,” he said.

“We now work towards the opportunity of reopening some businesses to welcome domestic visitors on a phased timetable which will vary across the states. While this is a positive, many tourism and hospitality businesses will choose to remain in hibernation simply because essential social distancing requirements make it commercially impossible to open the doors.

“The reality is it will be 2021 before we see any sign of international visitors back on our shores and inbound tourism will be one of the last sectors of our economy to make it to the ‘other side’, sadly with many tourism businesses and thousands of staff lost on the journey.”

Shelley said the only bright light on the horizon for tourism businesses targeting the international visitor was the possibility of travel across the Tasman.

“These businesses are desperately hoping we can welcome New Zealand visitors before the end of the Job Keeper program in September, otherwise the many businesses who are desperately trying to survive will not be there to help rebuild the industry in the future,” he said.