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Glitches in Australia’s latest inbound tourism surge

January 10, 2019 Headline News No Comments

Australia saw strong growth in international visitation during the year ending September 2018 – but visitors are not staying as long and they seem to be growing older.

Visitor arrivals of those aged 15 years and over increased by 6% to reach 8.4 million, while spend increased 5% during the year to reach a record AUD 43.2 billion, according to figures released yesterday.

While arrivals and spend both saw strong growth, visitors are not staying as long in Australia. Nights increased by only 1%, while average duration of trip to Australia fell 4% from 34 nights to 32 nights during the year.

The fastest growing age group in terms of visitor arrivals was not young backpackers but those aged 55 years and over, with an increase of 13% to 2.5 million. This age group also topped number of nights spent in Australia, with an increase of 17% to 55.9 million nights. No other age group recorded positive growth in nights for the year.


  • China continued to lead growth among the bigger markets with visitation up 8% to 1.3 million, spend up 12% to AUD 11.5 billion, and nights increasing by 8% to reach 57.6 million. China accounted for 27% of total spend by international visitors.
  • Visitation increased from New Zealand, the US and the UK, up 3% to 1.3 million, 736,000 and 699,000, respectively. There was stronger growth in the number of visitor arrivals from Japan, up 6% to reach 419,000.
  • With the exception of China, there was however a decline in the number of nights spent in Australia for the top 5 markets. Nights from the US fell 13%, New Zealand and the UK fell 7%, and Japan fell 2%.
  • Visitors stayed for shorter periods so spent less, with spend from the US down 3% to AUD 3.6 billion. New Zealand and the UK were also both down by 2% to AUD 2.6 billion and AUD 3.5 billion, respectively, while Japan saw an increase in spend of 4% to AUD 1.8 billion.
  • India continued to show strong growth with visitor numbers up 20% to 324,000 and trip spend up 10% to AUD 1.6 billion.


The most popular activities undertaken by international visitors during the year included dining out, with 7.8 million visitors enjoying Australia’s food and drink, shopping for pleasure (6.5 million), sightseeing (6 million), and going to the beach (5.3 million).

In terms of the fastest growing activities, visits to farm gates increased by 13% to reach 413,000. Attending an organised sporting event and cycling both increased 12% to reach 506,000 and 495,000, respectively. Visits to museums and art galleries increased 8% to reach 2.7 million during the year.

Bushwalking and rainforest walks, and guided excursions both increased 7% to 1.9 million and 1.4 million, respectively, continuing the trend towards increased outdoor activities.

Edited by Peter Needham

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