Latest available data from March 2018

Australian tourism facts

  • 8.8 million arrivals to Australia in 2017
  • $41.3 billion total international visitor spend in Australia in 2017
  • 1004 people arrive into Australia every hour
  • 1.4 million travellers from New Zealand arrived in Australia in 2017
  • New Zealand was the most popular travel destination for Australians in 2017

How many tourists visit Australia in a year

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2007 to 2009 saw a very slight decrease in international visitors landing in Australia. Since 2009 Australia has seen a steady increase in international arrivals, with dramatic growth observed in each year from 2012 onwards. This growth is expected to continue with projections estimating the number of international arrivals will increase to 15 million by 2026-2027.

Visitors by country

In 2017 there was around 8.8 million people visiting Australia from overseas, a 6.6% increase on the previous year. The top five countries people visit Australia from are China, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan and Singapore. Each country’s visits are up on the previous year’s visits, with China experiencing the highest growth with an increase of 12% from 2016.

Arrivals by country

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China

Chinese tourists spent $10.4 billion while in Australia in 2017 and the main purpose for travelling to Australia was for holidays. 679,354 visitors came to Australia for holiday purposes. The most popular destinations were Sydney at 62%, Melbourne with 50% and the Gold Coast at 25% of visitors. China has a population of 1.38 billion people meaning that less than 1% of their population visited Australia in 2017.

New Zealand

Tourists from New Zealand spent $2.5 billion in Australia in 2017. The primary purpose for travelling to Australia was for holidays. 484,494 tourists came to Australia for holiday purposes. The most commonly travelled to locations were Sydney at 31%, Melbourne with 27% and the Gold Coast at 18% of visitors. New Zealand has a population of 4.69 million people meaning that around 29% of the population visited Australia in 2017.

United States of America

Visitors from the United States of America spent $3.8 billion in 2017. The main reason for travelling to Australia was holidays. 343,325 visitors came to Australia for holiday purposes. The most popular destinations were Sydney at 62%, Melbourne with 32% and tropical north Queensland at 16% of visitors. The United States has a population of 325.7 million people meaning that only 0.2% of their population visited Australia in 2017.

United Kingdom

Tourists from the United Kingdom spent $3.5 billion in Australia during 2017. The main purpose for travelling to Australia was visiting friends/family. 311,935 tourists came to Australia to visit their friends and family. The most commonly travelled to locations were Sydney at 55%, Melbourne with 32% and Perth at 21% of visitors. The United Kingdom has a population of 65.64 million people, meaning that 1.2% of their population visited Australia in 2017.

Japan

Japanese tourists spent $1.6 billion while in Australia in 2017 and the main purpose for travelling to Australia was for holidays. 272,237 travellers came to Australia for holiday purposes. The most popular destinations were Sydney at 42%, tropical north Queensland at 29% and Melbourne with 50% of visitors. The population of Japan is 127 million people, meaning that 0.3% of their population visited Australia in 2017.

Singapore

Visitors from Singapore spent $1.4 billion while in Australia in 2017 and the main purpose for travelling to Australia was for holidays. 216,977 tourists came to Australia for holiday purposes. The most travelled to locations were Melbourne with 35%, Sydney at 30% and Perth with 27% of visitors. The population of Singapore is 5.6 million people, meaning that 7.8% of their population visited Australia in 2017.

By state

States that are home to major cities and well-known landmarks consistently attract more international visitors each month. Incoming international visits also correlate with states that have the highest populations in the country. Each state except Western Australia saw an increase in visitors from 2016 to 2017. These figures indicate that international visitors are visiting more than one state per visit with 11.8 million visits recorded in total, 3 million visits over the recorded incoming international visits for 2017.

International arrivals by state

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New South Wales

There was a total of 4.2 million international visitors to New South Wales in the 2017 calendar year. The total spend in New South Wales was $10.4 billion which accounted for 25% of all dollars spent in Australia for the year. International tourists spent a total of 94.4 million nights in New South Wales, which made up 35% of all nights spent in Australia.

Victoria

There was a total of 2.9 million international visitors to Victoria in the 2017 calendar year. The total spend in Victoria was $7.7 billion which accounted for 18.6% of all dollars spent in Australia for the years. International tourists spent a total of 66.2 million nights in Victoria, which made up 25% of all nights spent in Australia.

Queensland

There was a total of 2.7 million international visitors to Queensland in the 2017 calendar year. The total spend in Queensland was $5.3 billion which accounted for 13% of all dollars spent in Australia for the year. International tourists spent a total of 53.1 million nights in Queensland, which made up 20% of all nights spent in Australia.

Western Australia

There was a total of 950,000 international visitors to Western Australia in the 2017 calendar year. The total spend in Western Australia was $2.2 billion which accounted for 5% of all dollars spent in Australia for the year. International tourists spent a total of 26 million nights in Western Australia, which made up 10% of all nights spent in Australia.

South Australia

There was a total of 462,000 international visitors to South Australia in the 2017 calendar year. The total spend in South Australia was $1.15 billion which accounted for 3% of all dollars spent in Australia for the year. International tourists spent a total of 10.8 million nights in South Australia, which made up 4% of all nights spent in Australia.

Northern Territory

There was a total of 293,000 international visitors to the Northern Territory in the 2017 calendar year. The total spend in the Northern Territory was $467 million which accounted for 1.1% of all dollars spent in Australia for the year. International tourists spent a total of 3.7 million nights in the Northern Territory, which made up 1.4% of all nights spent in Australia.

Tasmania

There was a total of 279,000 international visitors to Tasmania in the 2017 calendar year. The total spend in Tasmania was $497 million which accounted for 1.2% of all dollars spent in Australia for the year. International tourists spent a total of 4.8 million nights in Tasmania, which made up 1.8% of all nights spent in Australia.

ACT

There was a total of 242,000 international visitors to the ACT in the 2017 calendar year. The total spend in the ACT was $547 million which accounted for 1.3% of all dollars spent in Australia for the year. International tourists spent a total of 5 million nights in the ACT, which made up 2% of all nights spent in Australia.

By month

The summer months of December, January and February attracted the most amount of visitors to the country with a total of 2,511,300 international visitors in 2017. The warmer weather combined with popular seasonal sporting events are major factors in high international arrivals during the summer. Autumn was the quietest season for international visitors, with only 2,051,600 people coming into the country in March, April and May. Each month experienced growth on the monthly arrivals from 2016 except for February which saw a decrease of 1.4% in arrivals.

International arrivals by month

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Average duration of visits

The average length of trips to Australia has decreased in the past decade. In 2009 the average international trip to Australia was 35 nights, in 2017 the average was 33 nights. Holidays and backpacker trips have decreased in the same time period, while the average stay for categories like visiting friends and family and employment have increased. While the total amount of visitor nights in Australia have risen from 176,589,264 to 265,223,580 since 2009 this is the result of the increase in traffic rather than an increase in duration of stay.

Out of the top six countries for international visitors only Japan saw an increase in the average duration of trips from 2009. The average stay in 2009 for Japanese tourists was 22 nights which increased to 28 nights in 2017. Chinese tourists had the longest trips to Australia in both 2009 (54 nights) and 2017 (42 nights) and tourists from Singapore spent the least amount of time here with an average of 21 nights in 2009 and only 15 nights in 2017.

Only New Zealand saw a decrease in the total amount of nights spent in Australia from 2009, with the total dropping from 13,256,850 nights to 12,863,240 nights in 2017. Chinese tourists saw the greatest increase in the total nights spent in Australia, with 18,507,311 nights in 2009 and a total of 52,444,180 nights in 2017.

Australia vs global

Australia’s isolation from the other continents makes it a difficult destination for travellers living in the northern hemisphere. It is ranked 39th in the world for number of incoming international visitors. The long distances and cost of flights can act as a deterrent to people wishing to visit Australia from the northern hemisphere. The abundance of cheaper travel destinations around Australia such as Indonesia and Thailand also affect the number of tourists coming into the country.

Most visited destinations in 2016

Rank Country Visitors
#1 France 82.6 Million
#2 United States 75.6 Million
#3 Spain 75.6 Million
#4 China 59.3 Million
#5 Italy 52.4 Million
   
#39 Australia 8.2 Million

Australians leaving Australia

In 2017 Australian residents undertook 9,118,000 outbound international trips. 5,115,000 of those trips were for holidaying purposes. 4,003,000 trips were for other purposes such as visiting relatives and business trips. Outbound international trips have nearly doubled in the past decade, with trips increasing from 5,143,000 total trips in 2008.

Indonesia has seen the greatest increase in outbound trips in the last decade, from 287,000 trips in 2008 to over 1 million trips in 2017. The UK saw the smallest increase in outbound trips over the past ten years with only an extra 123,000 trips from Australian residents from 2008 to 2017.

Most popular destinations for outbound Australians in 2017

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Landmarks/attractions

Australia is home to some of the world’s most iconic landmarks and attractions. Visitors to Australia are more motivated than ever by social media to visit popular and well-known landmarks and attractions on their trips. Some of the most popular sites include:

The Sydney Opera House

The Opera House is synonymous with Sydney as a city. The uniqueness of the design of the Opera House has seen the building declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 8.2 million people visit the site every year. The building is home to theatres, studios, a concert hall, exhibition rooms and a cinema, however most tourists are only interested in the exterior design of the building.

The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is considered to be one of the largest living structures in the world and is listed as a World-Heritage site. Visible from outer space, the reef is home to over 3000 coral reefs, 600 continental islands, 300 coral cays and mangrove islands. Over 2 million tourists a year come to experience the reef via snorkeling, scuba-diving, glass-bottomed boats and seaplanes.

Uluru

Another World Heritage site, Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock) is situated in the Uluru-kata Tjuta National Park in the Northern Territory. The red monolith is 348 meters high and is the number one destination for those travelling through the outback, with over 300,000 visitors each year. Sunrise and sunset are particularly popular times for visits as the colours of the rock and surrounding area are transformed by the changing light.

Bondi Beach

Home to one of the oldest surf life saving clubs in the world, Bondi Beach is an iconic Australian beach known for its prime location to the city centre and fantastic views. The beach is home to many cultural events that take place throughout the year and is close to a variety of cafes, restaurants and other beachside attractions. Over 1 million visitors make their way to the beach each year.

History

Travel around Australia before the invention of the rail was slow and laborious, with many people only travelling for their trades or to pursue new opportunities and settlements. Australia saw an increase in international travel after The Great Depression, with the first crusies between New Zealand and Australia organised in 1934. Australia then experienced an international tourism boom with the rise in commercial international flights in the 1960’s. In the past two decades international tourism has experienced significant growth, with the number of visitors doubled, rising from 2.5 million in 1992, to 8.8 million in 2017.

Projections for the future

Tourism Australia estimates that in 2026-2027 there will be a 50% increase in $ spent in Australia on tourism which is roughly $151.4 billion, 15 million international visitors and 14.8 million outbound trips from Australian residents. By 2020 Tourism Australia expects to see over $115 billion in overnight spent. It is anticipated that Chinese tourism will grow to 25.7% share of the market while tourism from New Zealand, the US, UK and Singapore will all experience below average visitor growth.

Summary

Tourism is Australia’s largest services export industry. Australia’s proximity to Asia, natural assets and high standard of living make it a desirable holiday location for those travelling overseas. The international tourism industry is on the rise with transportations means becoming faster and more comfortable.

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