Tourism encompasses most short-term travel away from the normal place of work and residence.
It is defined by the World Tourism Organization (WTO) as: "the activities of persons travelling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes".
This identifies 'tourism' as being more than just leisure travel. It also encompasses travel for business, health, education, religious and other reasons.
Tourism comprises both domestic and international travel. As it involves the consumption or purchase by tourists - or 'visitors' in the WTO terminology - of any good or service, its economic impact is felt across many sectors of the economy. In Australia the industries most affected by direct tourism demand are transport, accommodation, cafes, restaurants, takeaway food outlets and other retail trade. Indirectly, tourism affects a wide range of other industries. When a visitor buys a meal, for example, tourism indirectly creates demand in the food manufacturing, transportation and electricity industries in order to produce the inputs required to make the meal.
Tourism also draws on services provided by the Commonwealth Government, State and Territory Governments and local government organisations without direct charge to tourists. These include: the construction and maintenance of roads, airports, harbours, railways and national parks; tourism promotion; immigration and customs services; information services; and the provision of a large number of recreational facilities.
While tourism has long been an economic factor in Australia, in recent times it has grown to the extent that it is now recognised as a major contributor to total economic activity. In response to requests for information about the economic impact of tourism the ABS produced a tourism satellite account in 2000. This showed that direct tourism demand contributed 4.5% to Gross Domestic Product in 1997-98. (see Economic Importance of Tourism)
International tourism has experienced substantial growth in the past decade or so. The impact of the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the depreciation of the Australian dollar against major currencies and a range of other factors are expected to substantially increase international tourism in Australia over the next decade.
Australia's island status and distance from most of its international source markets mean that tourism in this country will continue to be dominated by domestic tourism for the foreseeable future. Despite high annual growth rates, international tourism only accounts for around one-quarter of total tourism activity.