Tourism in Australia is booming

The Chinese New Year street parade in Sydney. Photo: Gaye Gerard/Getty Images.

Visitor numbers for Australia are soaring, jumping 2.2% in seasonally adjusted terms in December 2015, according to new Australian Bureau of Statistics numbers released today.

The rise leaves the current trend estimate for arrivals 11.1% higher than 12 months ago, the ABS says.

Australian inbound and outbound tourism trends. Source: ABS

The Chinese market continues to be the standout performer, with 21.9% growth in 2015 compared to the previous year with 1,023,600 visitors, rapidly closing on New Zealand as the country sending the most tourists to Australia.

Kiwi visitors grew by 5.5% over the past year to hit 1,309,900.

Short term visitor arrivals from New Zealand and China. Chart: David Scutt

Overall, 7.4 million people travelled to Australia last year – up 8.2% on 2014.

The numbers are a record, yet lower that the original estimates by the ABS, which had short-term visitor arrivals at 897,700 in December and short-term resident departures topping 1,088,600.

Chart: David Scut

After China, India is the second fastest growing market, up 18.6% in 2015 (230,100 visitors) followed by South Korea with 12.7% growth.

Here are the top 10 tourists by nationality over the past 12 months:

Key visitors numbers to Australia by nationality. Source: ABS

On the other side of the ledger, Australians continue to head overseas, despite the falling value of the dollar, with short-term resident departures up 0.6% (809,500 movements) compared with November 2015, continuing rises of 0.7% in November and 0.8% in October last year.

Seasonally adjusted, the increase in December is 3.6% and the current trend estimate for departures is 5.7% higher than 12 months ago.

The numbers have thrilled industry lobby group Tourism & Transport Forum Australia (TTF).

CEO Margy Osmond said tourism was one of the few industry sectors with consecutive years of strong growth.

“Tourism is a booming industry for Australia and it’s one of the key pillars of our future economic success,” she said.

“This is what happens when you invest in the tourism sector – you see a strong uptick in visitor numbers and that means more Australian jobs and more economic activity in our cities and regional communities.”

Osmond called for further investment in the sector from all tiers of government to put “tourism at the heart of Australia’s future economic growth strategy to help fill the post-mining boom void”.

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