Tourism Success: Inbound Tourist Number exceeded 9 million in 2017-18 and Expenditure exceeded A$42 billion

28 Aug 2018


  • Edmund Tang
  • Tourists
  • Visitor Economy

There were 9.1 million short-term (that is, involving stays of less than one year) international visitor arrivals to Australia for the year ending June 2018. That was an increase of about 6% relative to the previous year, according to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (see chart below). Eight out of our top ten tourism markets remain in the Asia-Pacific region, with total sightseers of over five million in the year ending June 2018. The number of inbound travellers from these eight markets rose by 6% over the same period in 2018 and accounted for over 55 per cent of total overseas tourist in Australia.

China was the strongest growth market with short-term arrivals in Australia rising by about 12 per cent to 1.43 million in the year to June 2018, overtaking New Zealand (1.37 million) as our largest source of visitors. The pace of change from this market has been dramatic: ten years ago, the annual total of Chinese travellers was just 380,000. Chinese arrivals in Australia have grown by more than one million or at a compound growth rate of 14% a year since 2008.

Australia’s major traditional markets have improved in recent years: tourist arrivals from New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom, which collectively accounted for about one third of Australia’s total arrivals, increased by an average rate of 4.3% a year to 2.9 million from 2013 to 2018. This compared favourably with an average rate of 0.1% a year from 2009 to 2012 and a stagnated tourist number of 2.2 million over the years between 2008 and 2012.

Tourist arrivals from other key Asian markets also performed relatively well: arrivals from ASEAN-6 rose by an average growth rates of 8% a year to 1.36 million over the past decade which was double the arrival numbers of about 640,000. After growing by 16% last year, Indian travellers become more active again, up 20% to 335,000 over the same period. Once again, the scale of increase over a relatively short time frame has been quite striking: the flow of short-term arrivals from India was just 100,000 in the year to June 2008.

Foreign visitors to Australia spent a record breaking A$42 billion for the 12 months ending March 2018 (the latest data available from Tourism Research Australia), up 6% from the level in the previous year. Eight out of our top ten inbound value markets are also from the Asia-Pacific region with total combined tourist expenditure for this group rising by around eight per cent to A$22 billion over the same period. Collectively these eight markets accounted for over half of Australia’s total trip expenditure.

As well as providing the largest number of short-term arrivals, China was also the highest value inbound market with total spend of almost A$11 billion in the year to March 2018. This was 13% more than the same period last year. In addition to China’s strong growth, USA, Canada, ASEAN, India, and Hong Kong also experienced solid growth over the same period: Total trip spending from the Northern American (USA and Canada) and ASEAN markets were up 5% each to A$4.6 billion and A$4.9 billion respectively, while India and Hong Kong surged by 14% and 9% to A$1.5 billion and A$1.3 billion respectively.

Looking forward, TRA is now projecting foreign arrivals in Australia to rise by 5.8 per cent per year to 15 million by 2027. Three-quarters of the additional 6.5 million arrivals to 2026–27 are anticipated to come from Australia’s top ten inbound markets (New Zealand, China, the UK, the US, Singapore, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, India and Hong Kong), while China will likely contribute over 40 per cent (in the form of 2.6 million additional Chinese visitors) of total growth. Australia’s international visitor expenditure (in real terms) is also forecast to grow by 6.7 per cent per year to A$76 billion.[1]


[1]  Tourism Research Australia, Canberra (TRA), Tourism Forecasts 2017 (released 2 Aug 2017).