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New report shows Australian visitor economy still in recovery mode

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New report shows Australian visitor economy still in recovery mode
Almost every metric shows Australia’s international visitor economy has not yet fully recovered, but growth is forecast for 2025.

A new state of the industry report by Tourism Research Australia (TRA) lays bare the recovery of domestic and international travellers in 2023.

The data shows the visitor economy in a significant regeneration phase, with most metrics up – often significantly – on 2022, but down compared to before the pandemic.

The only international visitor metric that is up on pre-pandemic levels is the number of arrivals for employment, which, at 300,000, is up 33 per cent on 2019.

Otherwise, the figures for every other kind of international visitor group arriving in Australia are down – from those coming for a holiday – 2.9 million, down 36 per cent on 2019 but up 173 per cent on 2022 – to those coming for business – 700,000, down 32 per cent on 2019 but up 78 per cent compared to 2022.

Having opened up later than the rest of the world after the COVID travel pause, Chinese visitors are still well down on 2019 – down 63 per cent on pre-pandemic figures. Arrivals from Malaysia are also down 54 per cent on 2019 and Hong Kong visitors are down 42 per cent.

However, arrivals from Vietnam, Ireland and South Korea are all higher than 2019 – up 35 per cent, 18 per cent and three per cent respectively.

The international aviation capacity data also shows there is still ground to be made up, with the number of seats down 16 per cent on 2019. However, with capacity up a whopping 85 per cent in 2023 compared to 2022, the figures also show the steep upward trajectory of the recovery already completed.

In terms of infrastructure in Australia, hotel capacity is up eight per cent on 2019 and room rates are up a huge 27 per cent. Revenue per available room is also up considerably on 2019 – by 19 per cent.

However, tourism jobs were down 13 per cent on 2019 in 2023, while tourism job vacancies were up massively, by 54 per cent.

The numbers of domestic overnight visitors, day trippers, intrastate and interstate visitors are also still down compared to 2019, but by considerably less.

The state of the industry report also includes some interesting business events metrics, following the introduction of new questions to the TRA’s visitor surveys last year, designed by the now defunct Business Events Council of Australia and the Association of Australian Convention Bureaux.

New metrics show that 44 per cent of international visitors who attended a conference, seminar or corporate event brought others with them on their trip, with nearly a third bringing six or more non-business events travellers with them.

TRA’s report also shows that business events visitors spent $1 billion on conference registration fees and $10.4 billion on food, drink and accommodation.

The TRA is forecasting that international visitor arrivals to Australia will increase by 29 per cent in 2024 and surpass pre-pandemic levels in 2025.

Having already well passed pre-pandemic levels in 2023, over the next five years, the government agency is expecting overall visitor spend to increase by 31 per cent to be 61 per cent of 2019 levels.

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