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Australia down 40% on pre-Covid tourists one year on from reopening

Australia down 40% on pre-Covid tourists one year on from reopening

Anyone who prefers tourism destinations to be uncrowded should travel soon to Australia, judging from the latest visitor numbers.

In December 2022, the country welcomed 40 per cent fewer overseas arrivals than in the corresponding month in 2019.

But the figures were more encouraging for British and Indian visitors, which declined by only 18 and 21 per cent respectively during the key Christmas month.

The leading source of travellers to Australia during 2022 was New Zealand, with almost 700,000. Next was the UK, with 400,000 – representing a 44 per cent fall for the full year. They were followed by the US on 326,000 and India on 303,000.

“It is really encouraging to see the strength of some of our key markets,” said Phillipa Harrison, managing director of Tourism Australia.

She was commenting on the first anniversary of Australia reopening to international visitors after almost two years of severe Covid restrictions for travel to and within the country.

Chinese visitors have been notable by their absence in the past year – largely due to a ban on international leisure travel by the government in Beijing. The fall in 2022 compared with 2019 was 94 per cent.

The ban for outbound tourism from the People’s Republic was lifted a few days after the start of 2023.

Provisional figures for January 2023 show a 30 per cent rise in visitors compared with the previous month.

Ms Harrison said: “After a period of significant challenge for the tourism industry right around the world, people have emerged in 2023 with a huge appetite for travel.

“We are optimistic for the year ahead with some early positive signs being reported across the industry.”

Labour shortages caused problems in the tourism industry during the Australian summer. Ms Harrison said: “We are hearing that in relation to staffing, while the situation is still critical, it is easing now that students and working holidaymakers are coming back, along with older Australians being able to rejoin the workforce.”

When Australia reopened to foreign tourists in February 2022, travellers initially faced strict controls, including a requirement for full vaccination and a pre-departure Covid test.

By July, almost all coronavirus restrictions were lifted.

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