3401.0 - Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia, 2003  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/02/2004   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All


1 This publication contains statistics of persons arriving in, and departing from, Australia, together with the major characteristics of travellers. More detailed statistics can be made available on request (see paragraph 26).


2 Persons arriving in, or departing from, Australia provide information in the form of incoming and outgoing passenger cards. Incoming persons also provide information in visa applications, apart from people travelling as Australian and New Zealand citizens. These and other information available to the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) serve as a source for statistics of overseas arrivals and departures.

3 In July 1998, DIMIA revised the incoming and outgoing passenger cards and associated procedures as well as computer systems. Following these changes, some questions on the passenger cards were not compulsory and answers to these questions were not checked by Customs officers. The question on marital status was deleted. Data on marital status is now derived from visa applications (only for certain visa classes) and is therefore not available for Australian or New Zealand citizens. The changes also affect the data for 'previous country of residence' which is imputed for Australian and New Zealand citizens. For more information see the May 1998 issue of this publication. Since July 1998, there have been additional minor changes to both incoming and outgoing passenger cards.

4 From July 2001, DIMIA adopted a new passenger card processing system which involved electronic imaging of passenger cards and intelligent character recognition of the data stored in the images. This process has yielded several improvements to the processing of passenger card data, most notably the detailed information about missing values. There have also been several changes to data quality. Information on these changes appears in appendix 2.


5 The statistics in this publication relate to the number of movements of travellers rather than the number of travellers (i.e. multiple movements of individual persons during a given reference period are each counted separately). The statistics exclude the movements of operational air and ships' crew, of transit passengers who pass through Australia but are not cleared for entry, and of passengers on pleasure cruises commencing and finishing in Australia aboard ships not then engaged on regular voyages. Similarly, these statistics exclude those persons not travelling under standard visa conditions, that is, unauthorised arrivals.


6 Following the 1992 amendment to the Acts Interpretation Act to include the Indian Ocean Territories of Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands as part of geographic Australia, population estimates commencing with the September quarter 1993 include estimates for these two territories. To reflect this change, another category of the state/territory classification has been created, known as Other Territories. Other Territories includes Jervis Bay Territory, Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. OAD data for Other Territories is not available prior to February 1995.


7 The classification of countries in this publication is the Australian Standard Classification of Countries for Social Statistics (ASCCSS). For more detailed information refer to the ABS publication Australian Standard Classification of Countries for Social Statistics (cat. no. 1269.0).

8 The statistics on country of birth, citizenship, residence or main destination have certain limitations because of reporting on passenger cards. For instance, United Kingdom includes England, Scotland and Wales. Similarly Korea includes both the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.


9 Overseas arrival and departure statistics are derived from a combination of full enumeration and sampling. All permanent movements and all movements with a duration of stay of one year or more are fully enumerated. All movements with a duration of stay of less than one year are sampled. Statistics relating to these movements are therefore estimates which may differ from statistics which would have been obtained if details of all these movements had been processed. Sample standard errors can be found in the Standard Errors section under Quality Measures of this publication.

10 Since January 1997 variable sample skips have been used in the selection of records to be sampled. Separate skips are applied for each country of citizenship and the skips may vary for each processing month. Over a year about 3.5% of all short term movements are selected for sampling.

11 The statistics in this publication have been rounded to the nearest 100 for short-term movements and to the nearest 10 for permanent and long-term movements. The sums of the components may not add to totals due to rounding. Analysis featured in the Key Points and Main Features of this publication is based on unrounded data. Calculations made on rounded data may differ to those published.


12 The imprecision due to sampling errors should not be confused with errors arising from imperfections in reporting, which may occur in any data collection, whether sampled or not. Every effort is made to minimise such errors, both through careful design of the passenger cards and through checks on the information once it is received. During the edit process some items are corrected where they conflict with other known information. Missing replies to certain items such as age and state and country of stay/residence are also imputed by reference to other related items. Information on non-response rates and data imputation appears in appendix 2.

13 Errors of this kind differ from discrepancies arising from the fact that certain information reflects the travellers' intentions at the time the passenger cards were completed. These intentions are, of course, subject to change. Particularly affected is the distinction between permanent and temporary movement and in the latter case, length of intended stay, country in which most time will be spent and main reason for journey.


14 Seasonally adjusted and trend estimates of short-term overseas visitor arrivals and short-term Australian resident departures are shown in tables 1 and 2 respectively.

15 Seasonally adjusted estimates are derived by estimating and removing systematic calendar related effects from the original series. In the short-term visitor arrival and short-term resident departure series, these calendar related effects are known as seasonal (e.g. increased travel in December due to the Christmas holiday period) and trading day influences (arising from the varying length of each month and the varying number of Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, etc. in each month). Each influence is estimated by separate seasonal and trading day factors which, when combined, are referred to as the combined adjustment factors.

16 From July 2003, concurrent seasonal adjustment methodology has been used to derive the combined adjustment factors. This means that data from the current month are used in estimating seasonal and trading day factors for the current and previous months. Concurrent seasonal adjustment replaces the forward factor methodology used since seasonal adjustment of short-term visitor arrivals began in 1969 and short-term resident departures in 1976.

17 Concurrent adjustment can result in revisions each month to the seasonally adjusted estimates for earlier periods. However, in most instances, the only noticeable revisions will be to the combined adjustment factors for the current month, the previous month and the same month a year ago. Although there is no specific Information Paper on concurrent adjustment to short-term visitor arrivals or resident departure, more detail on the method in general can be found in the Information Paper: Introduction of Concurrent Seasonal Adjustment into the Retail Trade Series (cat. no. 8514.0).

18 Seasonal adjustment procedures do not aim to remove the irregular or non-seasonal influences which may be present in any particular month, such as the effect of major sporting and cultural events, changes in airfares and the fluctuation of the Australian dollar relative to other currencies. Irregular influences that are highly volatile can make it difficult to interpret the movement of the series even after adjustment for seasonal variation. Trend estimates take these irregular influences into account.

19 The trend estimates of short-term overseas visitor arrivals and short-term Australian resident departures are derived by applying a 13-term Henderson-weighted moving average to all months of the respective seasonally adjusted series except the first and last six months. Trend series are created for the last six months by applying surrogates of the Henderson weighted moving average to the seasonally adjusted series.

20 While this technique enables smoothed data for the latest period to be produced, it does result in revisions to the smoothed series, principally of recent months, as additional observations become available. There may also be revisions as a result of the re-estimation of the seasonal factors. For further information, see A Guide to Interpreting Time Series - Monitoring Trends (cat. no. 1349.0), released 4 August 2003.

21 Trend estimates in this issue have taken the impact of Severe Acute Respiratory syndrome (SARS), the Second Gulf War and recent terrorist threats into account. These impacts have been estimated as transitional effects on the original time series data, based on recent evidence of a recovery in short-term visitor arrivals and short-term resident departures. These estimates may be revised with the availability of additional time series data and further evidence of the continuing recovery. Details of the methods used in this exercise are available on request.

22 A break in the trend series for short-term resident departures has been created because of the effect of the Bali bombing in Indonesia on 12 October 2002. This impact has been estimated as a permanent effect as the number of Australia residents departing to Indonesia has not yet shown evidence of a recovery. These estimates may be revised with the availability of additional time series data when evidence of a recovery is apparent.


23 Users of these statistics may also wish to refer to the following ABS publications:

Short-term Visitor Arrival Estimates, Australia (cat. no. 3401.0.55.001) - issued monthly.

Australian Demographic Statistics (cat. no. 3101.0) - issued quarterly

Migration, Australia (cat. no. 3412.0) - issued annually

24 Related statistics are also published by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources and the Bureau of Tourism Research.

25 Current publications and other products released by the ABS are listed in the Catalogue of Publications and Products, Australia (cat. no. 1101.0). The Catalogue is available from any ABS office or the ABS web site. The ABS also issues a daily Release Advice on the web site which details products to be released in the week ahead.


26 As well as the statistics included in this and related publications, other relevant unpublished data are available for the following variables:

Citizenship (Nationality)
Country of birth
Age (Date of birth)
Marital status (not available for Australian or New Zealand citizens)
Category of travel
Permanent migrant

    Previous/future country of residence
    State of intended address/lived
Overseas visitor
    Intended/actual length of stay
    Main reason for journey
    Country of residence
    State of intended address in which most time spent
Australian residents
    Intended/actual length of stay overseas
    Country spent/intend to spend most time abroad
    State or territory of intended address/state or territory lived
Occupation (not available for short-term movements)
Country of embarkation/disembarkation
Airport/Port of arrival/departure
Arrival/departure date
Intention to live in Australia for next 12 months (not available for short-term movements)


27 As a result of a dissemination review for Overseas Arrival and Departure Statistics, outlined in the Demography Working Paper 2003/4 - A New Dissemination Strategy for Overseas Arrivals and Departure Statistics , a number of changes where introduced in the May 2003 and June 2003 issues. Changes included the removal of preliminary data for short-term visitor arrivals, a new table structure and a reformatting of the time periods in tables 3 to 8. For more detail about these changes, refer to the following issues of this publication;
  • May (Preliminary) 2003 - released 25 June 2003
  • May 2003 -released 24 July 2003
  • June 2003 - released 11 August 2003


This publication draws extensively on information provided by DIMIA. This continued cooperation is very much appreciated; without it, the statistics published would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.