February 21, 2023 | By Bronwen Largier

A year on from Australia’s international border reopening, overseas visitor numbers are climbing but they’re still well short of pre-pandemic levels.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows arrivals for the month after reopening – March 2022 – were just 20 per cent of pre-COVID levels, but by December international visitor numbers had jumped to 60 per cent of arrivals in December 2019.

Across the whole of 2022, New Zealanders made up the largest cohort of visitor arrivals, at 697,620 arrivals – compared to 1,433,780 in 2019 – but the fastest recovery markets were India, which recovered to 76 per cent of pre-COVID arrivals, followed by Singapore, which got back to 62 per cent of pre-COVID visitation. By contrast, China, which was Australia’s largest source of short term visitor arrivals in 2019 but kept its border closed through all of 2022, sent just 8 per cent of its pre-COVID visitor numbers to Australia last year.

“Short-term visitor arrivals in 2022 remained lower than before the COVID-19 pandemic, with the number of arrivals in January 2022 just 8 per cent of the same period in 2019. However, the number of arrivals increased steadily over the year and by December had grown to 60 per cent of the same period in 2019,” said Jenny Dobak, head of migration statistics at the ABS.

Australia’s trade and tourism minister Don Farrell believes Australian visitor economy stakeholders should be upbeat about the return of international visitation.

“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,” he said.

“The Albanese Government is supporting tourism recovery, and there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic with international travellers returning to our shores in growing numbers.

“That trend is forecast to continue.”