Decrease in overseas arrivals in March largest on record


Australia has recorded its largest ever drop in overseas travel with visitor arrivals falling 60 per cent in March 2020 compared to a year earlier, according to data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

ABS Director of Migration Statistics Jenny Dobak said there was also a record fall in the number of Australian residents returning from short-term trips overseas, down 29 per cent to 538,400. These large decreases reflect the travel restriction progressively put in place by the Australian Government from the beginning of February due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

"In March 2020, there were 331,900 visitors who had arrived for a short-term trip compared to 836,300 12 months earlier," Ms Dobak said.

  1. Short-term trip is less than 1 year.

"The steep fall in visitor arrivals to Australia in March was from all regions around the world. Even our largest source country New Zealand, recorded a 56 per cent drop."

"Of the top 10 source countries, China recorded the largest decrease of 78 per cent followed closely by Japan with a decrease of 75 per cent."

Visitor arrivals, March 2020 - top 10 source countries - number of arrivals and annual % change

Country of Residence'000% Change
New Zealand48.2-56.2

a. Includes the United Kingdom, Channel Island and Isle of Man.
b. Excludes SARs & Taiwan.

All states and territories recorded large falls in international visitors.

Although New South Wales led the way with the largest volume of international arrivals (114,500 visitors), numbers were down 64 per cent compared to one year earlier.

The Northern Territory saw the largest fall (-66 per cent). Queensland also saw a steep decline in visitor numbers (-63 per cent) followed by Victoria (-58 per cent); South Australia (-54 per cent); Western Australia (-53 per cent); Tasmania (-51 per cent); and the ACT (-43 per cent).

The ABS has released a series of feature articles containing additional state and territory level analysis of overseas arrivals including information on international students.

Further details can be found in Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia (cat. no. 3401.0) available on the ABS website

On 13 May, the ABS will release a new, temporary monthly publication called Overseas Travel Statistics - Provisional, April 2020. This is part of the additional data the ABS is producing to measure the impacts of COVID-19 on Australia and the first issue will have information for April.

Media notes

  • Short-term trip is less than 1 year.
  • When reporting ABS data, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (or ABS) must be attributed as the source.
  • The ABS is producing additional data to measure the impact of COVID-19 on Australia. Further information is available on the ABS website.
  • For media requests and interviews, contact the ABS Media Team on 1300 175 070 (8.30am - 5pm Mon - Fri).
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