International tourism continues to rise but funding still needed to ‘unlock this opportunity’

Sydney Airport is ramping up its international air services.

Australia’s tourism industry is continuing to bounce back with international arrivals in December 2022 at 60 per cent of December 2019 arrivals.

That’s a significant increase on March 2022, when international arrivals were at just 20 per cent of the number recorded in the same month in 2019, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data.

International arrival numbers are expected to keep growing as aviation capacity increases, with Tourism Research Australia projecting international visitor expenditure to exceed pre-pandemic levels in 2024 and international visitor arrivals to exceed pre-pandemic levels in 2025.

“The Australian visitor economy is bouncing back, which is great news for our tourism operators and the hundreds of thousands of Australians working in the industry,” said Tourism Minister Don Farrell.

“That trend is forecast to continue and, to ensure it does, Tourism Australia is vigorously marketing our tourism offering in key markets around the world inviting travellers to Come and Say G’day.”

Not everyone was impressed though, with the Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) saying the industry still has a long way to go.

“While international visitor numbers remain down, so does business revenue and therefore government revenue and ultimately there is less impetus for investment and limited industry growth,” said ATEC managing director Peter Shelley.

“Last year the Federal Labor Government promised a $10 million fund to support Australian tourism exporters to drive back into market but today the fund remains undelivered with no word on when this industry will see the support materialise.

“We are disappointed this $10m industry support fund to help tourism exporters back to the market remains undelivered.

“There is no doubt we were late in returning to the international travel marketplace but we can clearly see our recovery is taking much longer than for our competitors in the northern hemisphere and even Africa.

“With Europe already at 87% of its pre-covid capacity, Australia has a long way to go which will be made doubly challenging for our industry given we are a long-haul and more complex destination making it more difficult for us to convert international holiday makers.”

Shelley said that government support would bring Australia back to full capacity faster than 2025.

“Flights and staffing are key challenges for inbound tourism but we still have a great reputation globally and international visitors are keen on Australia,” he said.

“What we need to find is the key to unlock this opportunity.”