In 2008, tourist arrivals to Australia had been steadily growing since 2004. In 2003, arrival numbers fell by 1% due to concern over the SARS pandemic. In 2004, 4.77mn tourists visited Australia and by 2008 that number had increased to 5.45mn. In 2009, however, tourist arrival numbers fell by 1.9% year-on-year (y-o-y) to 5.34mn. Before 2009, Australia’s tourism growth was helped by the weakness of the Australian dollar, which increased the country’s price competitiveness from major source destinations such as the UK and New Zealand. However, since the dollar strengthened in 2009 and 2010 it has negatively affected the industry’s price competitiveness. Tourism was also affected by the global recession in 2009 as discretionary spending was reined in and businesses cut costs, including on international conferences. Over a quarter of all arrivals to Australia are business travellers, with a forecast 1.47mn in 2011 arriving for business purposes and 3.21mn travelling for leisure. For 2010, BMI estimates tourist arrivals rebounded to 5.53mn, above 2008’s figure. We forecast tourist arrivals to hit 5.69mn by 2011 and reach 6.56mn in 2015.
Tourism expenditure fell in 2009 to US$28.86bn from US$31.46bn in 2008. However, it is estimated to have recovered strongly in 2010 to US$31.72bn, and we forecast an increase to US$33.63bn in 2011 and US$46.13bn by 2015. Australia’s tourism industry accounted for 3.0% of GDP in 2008 but dropped to 2.9% in 2009. It will slowly climb back to its 2007 high of 3.5% by the end of our forecast period. The majority of tourists come to Australia from the Asia Pacific region, followed by Europe and North America. Inbound tourism from Asia Pacific has increased strongly since 2001, when just over 3mn people visited Australia, to reach over 3.8mn in 2010. Arrivals from the region are forecast to continue growing to more than 4.7mn by 2015. Out of the top 10 source markets for the Australian tourism industry, seven are in the Asia Pacific region. Australia attracts more of its tourists from New Zealand than any other country, followed by the UK and Japan.
India is also becoming an important market for Australia. Minister for Tourism Martin Ferguson said: ‘India is very important to Australia as a tourism opportunity. It is the 10th largest economy and has the second largest population in the world. India is going to go through a significant period of growth, which is going to create opportunities for people to rationally think about travel.’ The ministry launched tourism campaigns in India with Qantas and Singapore Airlines in Q210 and it has a full-time office in Mumbai. However, attacks on Indian students in Australia in recent years may put downward pressure on arrivals from India. Ferguson said the attacks have not caused a decrease in arrivals as tourists do not visit the ‘difficult suburbs’ where the incidents took place.
Over the last decade, Australia’s outbound tourism has become increasingly dominated by New Zealand. Between 2001 and 2010, the number of Australians visiting New Zealand nearly doubled, increasing from 574,500 to 1.01mn. In a distant second place is the US, which 372,600 Australians visited in 2001 and 490,000 visited in 2010. The US is followed by the UK, which attracted 454,000 visitors from Australia in 2010. The other outbound destinations in the top 10 are all in the Asia Pacific region. From 2011 to the end of our forecast period the UK is forecast to outpace departures to the US. In 2011, a forecast 450,000 Australians will visit the US, versus 452,000 to the UK. In 2015, 486,000 are expected to visit the US, while 495,000 will make the UK their destination of choice.