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Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia

Statistics on international travel, including tourism trips, arriving in and departing from Australia. Focusing on short-term trips (less than 1 year)

Reference period
December 2020
Released
17/02/2021

Key statistics

December 2020 original estimates for short-term trips (less than 1 year):

  • Overseas visitor arrivals to Australia increased 16.5% since the previous month to 8,820 trips

  • Australian resident returns from overseas increased 10.0% since the previous month to 14,300 trips.

1.1 Monthly change - Original estimates
Nov 2020 (no.)Dec 2020 (no.)Nov 2020 to Dec 2020 (% change)
Visitor arrivals - short-term trips7,5708,82016.5
Resident returns - short-term trips13,00014,30010.0

These statistics report on the number of international border crossings rather than the number of people. Most data in this release are rounded to the nearest 10. As a result, sums of components may not add exactly to totals.

Migration Statistics

This release presents statistics on overseas arrivals and departures, which is not the same as migration statistics.

If you are looking for migration statistics, please refer to:

Changes due to COVID-19

The pandemic has continued to disrupt international travel. Trend estimates were suspended from February 2020 and seasonally adjusted estimates suspended from April 2020 due to the outbreak. Original estimates are still available and are used in the analysis below. For more information, see the Recent changes section.

Visitor arrivals

Compares international visitor arrivals each month by source country and change at the state and territory level. Analysis in this section is undertaken on short-term trips (less than 1 year).

Key findings

For visitor arrivals to Australia:

  • A total of 8,820 short-term trips were recorded.

  • This was a decrease of 99.2% when compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

  • New Zealand was the largest source country, accounting for 29% of all visitor arrivals.

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Source countries

The three leading source countries where visitors came from were:

  • New Zealand (2,520 trips)
  • The USA (1,000)
  • The UK (880).

Details

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(a) Top 10 source countries based on month ending December 2020.
(b) Includes United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.
(c) Excludes SARs and Taiwan.

There were decreases of over 88% recorded for each of the top ten source countries when compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

2.3 Short-term visitor arrivals - Top 10 source countries(a) - % change
Country of ResidenceDec 2019 (no.)Dec 2020 (no.)Dec 2019 to Dec 2020 (% change)
New Zealand143,5302,520-98.2
USA99,9001,000-99.0
UK(b)118,530880-99.3
Singapore56,300470-99.2
Hong Kong37,060330-99.1
China(c)111,800320-99.7
India44,640320-99.3
Indonesia25,680180-99.3
Tonga1,390160-88.1
PNG5,090160-96.8

(a) Top 10 source countries based on month ending December 2020.
(b) Includes United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.
(c) Excludes SARs and Taiwan.

                                                                          

State or territory of stay

All travellers are asked their intended address in Australia upon arrival. There were decreases of 98% and over across all states and territories when compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

Details

    2.4 Short-term visitor arrivals, State or territory of stay - December 2020 - % change

    2.4 Short-term visitor arrivals, State or territory of stay - December 2020 - % change

    2.4 Short-term visitor arrivals, State or territory of stay - December 2020 - % change

    Data is shown in Table 2.5 below
    2.5 Short-term visitor arrivals, State or territory of stay - % change
    State or territory of stayDec 2019 (no.)Dec 2020 (no.)Dec 2019 to Dec 2020 (% change)
    NSW388,7104,720-98.8
    Vic.299,5601,620-99.5
    Qld212,0501,100-99.5
    SA33,300220-99.3
    WA111,800680-99.4
    Tas.14,900300-98.0
    NT4,48040-99.1
    ACT12,920140-98.9
    Australia(a)1,077,7208,820-99.2

    (a) Includes Other Territories.

    Resident returns

    Compares international resident returns each month by destination country and change at the state and territory level. Analysis in this section is undertaken on short-term trips (less than 1 year).

    Key findings

    For residents returning from overseas:

    • A total of 14,300 short-term trips were recorded.

    • This was a decrease of 98.1% when compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

    • New Zealand was the most popular destination country, accounting for 15% of all resident returns.

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    Destination countries

    The three leading destination countries residents returned from were:

    • New Zealand (2,190 trips)
    • The UK (1,240)
    • The USA (1,180).

    Details

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    (a) Top 10 destination countries based on month ending December 2020.
    (b) Includes United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.
    (c) Excludes SARs and Taiwan.

    There were decreases of over 92% recorded for each of the top ten source countries when compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

    3.3 Short-term resident returns - Top 10 destination countries(a) - % change
    Country of StayDec 2019 (no.)Dec 2020 (no.)Dec 2019 to Dec 2020 (% change)
    New Zealand123,5402,190-98.2
    UK(b)33,9501,240-96.3
    USA69,7801,180-98.3
    India34,630890-97.4
    PNG9,230710-92.3
    Singapore34,870660-98.1
    China(c)34,960630-98.2
    Hong Kong14,540560-96.1
    Indonesia99,680390-99.6
    Philippines16,370260-98.4

    (a) Top 10 destination countries based on month ending December 2020.
    (b) Includes United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.
    (c) Excludes SARs and Taiwan.

    State or territory of residence

    All travellers are asked their intended address in Australia upon arrival. There were decreases of 97% and over across all states and territories when compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

    Details

      3.4 Short-term resident returns, State or territory of residence - December 2020 - % change

      3.4 Short-term resident returns, State or territory of residence - December 2020 - % change

      3.4 Short-term resident returns, State or territory of residence - December 2020 - % change

      Data is shown in Table 3.5 below
      3.5 Short-term resident returns, State or territory of residence - % change
      State or territory of residenceDec 2019 (no.)Dec 2020 (no.)Dec 2019 to Dec 2020 (% change)
      NSW244,3307,270-97.0
      Vic.195,3403,180-98.4
      Qld156,0201,920-98.8
      SA32,460390-98.8
      WA93,7701,070-98.9
      Tas.6,940110-98.4
      NT6,65060-99.1
      ACT14,020290-97.9
      Australia(a)749,66014,300-98.1

      (a) Includes Other Territories.

      Arrivals - state and territory

      This section compares international visitor arrivals each month by source country for each state and territory. The additional information is being provided during the COVID-19 pandemic. Analysis in this section is undertaken on short-term trips (less than 1 year) unless otherwise stated.

      New South Wales

      Key findings

      For visitor arrivals to New South Wales:

      • There were 4,720 short-term visitor arrivals.
      • This was a decrease of 98.8% compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.
      • The largest source countries were New Zealand, the USA and the UK.
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      Source countries

      The three leading source countries for New South Wales were:

      • New Zealand (1,380 trips)
      • The USA (560)
      • The UK (490).
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      (a) Top 10 source countries based on month ending December 2020.
      (b) Includes United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.
      (c) Excludes SARs and Taiwan.

      There were decreases of over 96% recorded for each of the top ten source countries, when compared to the corresponding month of the previous year. 

      4.3 Short-term visitor arrivals, NSW - Top 10 source countries(a) - % change
      Country of ResidenceDec 2019 (no.)Dec 2020 (no.)Dec 2019 to Dec 2020 (% change)
      New Zealand40,0101,380-96.5
      USA53,880560-99.0
      UK(b)41,970490-98.8
      Singapore12,920330-97.4
      Hong Kong13,540200-98.5
      India14,560160-98.9
      China(c)40,420150-99.6
      Unit Arab Emir1,93080-96.1
      Canada10,25070-99.3
      France7,84070-99.1

      (a) Top 10 source countries based on month ending December 2020.
      (b) Includes United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.
      (c) Excludes SARs and Taiwan.

      Long-term visitor arrivals

      For visitors arriving in New South Wales for a long-term trip (1 year or more):

      • There were 1,020 arrivals.
      • This was a decrease of 91.6% compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

      Victoria

      Key findings

      For visitor arrivals to Victoria:

      • There were 1,620 short-term visitor arrivals.
      • This was a decrease of 99.5% compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

       

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      Long-term visitor arrivals

      For visitors arriving in Victoria for a long-term trip (1 year or more):

      • There were 300 arrivals.
      • This was a decrease of 97.0% compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

       

      Due to volatility in the very small number of movements caused by COVID-19, no further analysis has been undertaken.

      Queensland

      Key findings

      For visitor arrivals to Queensland:

      • There were 1,100 short-term visitor arrivals.
      • This was a decrease of 99.5% compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.
      • The largest source countries were New Zealand, the USA and the UK.
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      Source countries

      The three leading source countries for Queensland were:

      • New Zealand (310 trips)
      • The USA (130)
      • The UK (120).
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      (a) Top 10 source countries based on month ending December 2020.
      (b) Includes United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.
      (c) Excludes SARs and Taiwan.

      There were decreases of over 97% recorded for each of the top ten source countries, when compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

      6.3 Short-term visitor arrivals, Qld - Top 10 source countries(a) - % change
      Country of ResidenceDec 2019 (no.)Dec 2020 (no.)Dec 2019 to Dec 2020 (% change)
      New Zealand41,860310-99.3
      USA13,580130-99.0
      UK(b)20,240120-99.4
      PNG3,970120-97.1
      India5,02040-99.2
      Hong Kong6,11030-99.5
      Singapore9,47030-99.7
      China(c)17,83030-99.9
      Indonesia2,36020-99.0
      Canada4,67020-99.5

      (a) Top 10 source countries based on month ending December 2020.
      (b) Includes United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.
      (c) Excludes SARs and Taiwan.

      Long-term visitor arrivals

      For visitors arriving in Queensland for a long-term trip (1 year or more):

      • There were 200 arrivals.
      • This was a decrease of 95.6% compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

      South Australia

      Key findings

      For visitor arrivals to South Australia:

      • There were 220 short-term visitor arrivals.
      • This was a decrease of 99.3% compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.
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      Long-term visitor arrivals

      For visitors arriving in South Australia for a long-term trip (1 year or more):

      • There were 50 arrivals.
      • This was a decrease of 96.0% compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

       

      Due to volatility in the very small number of movements caused by COVID-19, no further analysis has been undertaken.

      Western Australia

      Key findings

      For visitor arrivals to Western Australia:

      • There were 680 short-term visitor arrivals.
      • This was a decrease of 99.4% compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.
      • The largest source countries were the UK, New Zealand and Vanuatu.
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      Source countries

      The three leading source countries for Western Australia were:

      • The UK (80 trips)
      • New Zealand (80)
      • Vanuatu (70).
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      (a) Top 10 source countries based on month ending December 2020.
      (b) Includes United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.

      Excluding Vanuatu, there were decreases of over 97% for each of the top ten source countries when compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

      8.3 Short-term visitor arrivals, WA - Top 10 source countries(a) - % change
      Country of ResidenceDec 2019 (no.)Dec 2020 (no.)Dec 2019 to Dec 2020 (% change)
      UK(b)22,97080-99.6
      New Zealand7,75080-99.0
      Vanuatu60707.7
      Indonesia4,72050-99.0
      USA4,79050-99.0
      Singapore12,36040-99.7
      India2,69040-98.6
      Netherlands1,05030-97.5
      Hong Kong3,25020-99.3
      Philippines1,31020-98.7

      (a) Top 10 source countries based on month ending December 2020.
      (b) Includes United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.

      Long-term visitor arrivals

      For visitors arriving in Western Australia for a long-term trip (1 year or more):

      • There were 140 arrivals.
      • This was a decrease of 95.3% compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

      Tasmania

      Key findings

      For visitor arrivals to Tasmania:

      • There were 300 short-term visitor arrivals.
      • This was a decrease of 98% compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.
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      Long-term visitor arrivals

      For visitors arriving in Tasmania for a long-term trip (1 year or more):

      • There were 10 arrivals.
      • This was a decrease of 97.8% compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

       

      Due to volatility in the very small number of movements caused by COVID-19, no further analysis has been undertaken.

      Northern Territory

      Key findings

      For visitor arrivals to the Northern Territory:

      • There were 40 short-term visitor arrivals.
      • This was a decrease of 99.1% compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.
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      Long-term visitor arrivals

      For visitors arriving in the Northern Territory for a long-term trip (1 year or more):

      • There were 20 arrivals.
      • This was a decrease of 93.8% compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

       

      Due to volatility in the very small number of movements caused by COVID-19, no further analysis has been undertaken.

      Australian Capital Territory

      Key findings

      For visitor arrivals to the Australian Capital Territory:

      • There were 140 short-term visitor arrivals.
      • This was a decrease of 98.9% compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.
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      Long-term visitor arrivals

      For visitors arriving in the Australian Capital Territory for a long-term trip (1 year or more):

      • There were 80 arrivals.
      • This was a decrease of 89.7% compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

       

      Due to volatility in the very small number of movements caused by COVID-19, no further analysis has been undertaken.

      Arrivals - international students

      This analysis compares international student arrivals each month by visa type for each state and territory and nationally. It includes both those whose intended duration is short-term (less than 1 year) or long-term (1 year or more). The additional information is being provided during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

      Australia

      Key findings

      In December 2020 there were 230 international student arrivals to Australia.

      • This was a decrease of 38,460 students (-99.4%) compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.
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      (a) International student visa holders whether it be for a short-term (less than 1 year) or long-term (1 year or more) duration.
      This is not the same as when a traveller self reports 'education' as their main reason for journey.
      (b) English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students.

      New South Wales

      In December 2020 there were 150 international student arrivals to New South Wales.

      • This was a decrease of 12,370 students (-98.8%) compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

       

      Due to volatility in the very small number of movements caused by COVID-19, no further analysis has been undertaken.

      Victoria

      In December 2020 there were 40 international student arrivals to Victoria.

      • This was a decrease of 13,970 students (-99.7%) compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

       

      Due to volatility in the very small number of movements caused by COVID-19, no further analysis has been undertaken.

      Queensland

      In December 2020 there were 30 international student arrivals to Queensland.

      • This was a decrease of 6,390 students (-99.6%) compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

       

      Due to volatility in the very small number of movements caused by COVID-19, no further analysis has been undertaken.

      South Australia

      In December 2020 there were 10 international student arrivals to South Australia.

      • This was a decrease of 1,650 students (-99.7%) compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

       

      Due to volatility in the very small number of movements caused by COVID-19, no further analysis has been undertaken.

      Western Australia

      In December 2020 there were 10 international student arrivals to Western Australia.

      • This was a decrease of 2,310 students (-99.6%) compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

       

      Due to volatility in the very small number of movements caused by COVID-19, no further analysis has been undertaken.

      Tasmania

      In December 2020 there were 0 international student arrivals to Tasmania.

      • This was a decrease of 480 students (-99.8%) compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

       

      Due to volatility in the very small number of movements caused by COVID-19, no further analysis has been undertaken.

      Northern Territory

      In December 2020 there were 0 international student arrivals to the Northern Territory.

      • This was a decrease of 180 students (-99.4%) compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

       

      Due to volatility in the very small number of movements caused by COVID-19, no further analysis has been undertaken.

      Australian Capital Territory

      In December 2020 there were 10 international student arrivals to the Australian Capital Territory.

      • This was a decrease of 1,110 students (-99.6%) compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

       

      Due to volatility in the very small number of movements caused by COVID-19, no further analysis has been undertaken.

      Visitor arrivals - Calendar year - 2020

      Compares annual international travel arrivals over time by source country, by state and territory, by age and sex, by main reason for journey and by median duration of trip. All analysis in this section is done on short-term trips (less than 1 year).

      Effects of COVID-19 outbreak

      The World Health Organisation (WHO) commenced daily situation reports of the COVID-19 outbreak on 21 January 2020 and identified it as an international health emergency on 30 January. This was less than a month after suspected cases were reported in Wuhan, China. Initially the Australian Government placed travel restrictions on those travelling to Australia from mainland China commencing 1 February 2020. Restrictions on other countries soon followed. From 20 March 2020, all overseas travel was banned, with few exceptions. The pandemic has continued to disrupt international travel. For more information, see the Prime Minister's media release on border restrictions or the Smartraveller page from the Australian government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.

      Key findings

      Note: 97% of visitor arrivals in 2020 occurred prior to travel restrictions implemented by the Australian Government on 20 March 2020.

      Visitors arriving in Australia in 2020.

      • There were 1.8 million visitor arrivals, down 80.7% on the previous year and the lowest since 1987
      • New Zealand was the largest source country, accounting for 242,500 visitors nationally
      • There were more visits by women than men. Ten years earlier, the opposite was true
      • The main reason for travel was 'holiday' (43.2%)
      • Nationally, the median duration of stay in Australia was 14 days.

      Annual visitor arrivals

      There were 1.8 million visitor arrivals in 2020. This was down 80.7% on the previous year with 7.6 million fewer arrivals. This was the lowest annual number of visitors since 1987.

      The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in substantial declines in travel movements since the introduction of border restrictions in March 2020.

      13.1 Short-term visitor arrivals by month
      2020'000% change(a)
      Jan766.64.8
      Feb685.4-26.1
      Mar331.9-60.3
      Apr2.2-99.7
      May3.4-99.5
      Jun5.4-99.2
      Jul3.5-99.6
      Aug3.0-99.6
      Sep3.7-99.5
      Oct6.1-99.2
      Nov7.6-99.1
      Dec8.8-99.2
      Annual Total1,827.7-80.7

      (a) Percentage change when compared to the same period of the previous year.

       

      Visitor arrivals to Australia have generally been increasing over recent decades, with a strong continuous increase over the past ten years (as seen in graph 13.2 below).

      • Peaks were seen during the Brisbane Expo in 1988 and the Sydney Olympics in 2000
      • Decreases were experienced during the Asian financial crisis in 1998, after the 2001 September 11 attacks in the USA, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003 and the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008.

      However, due to the impact of COVID-19, a substantial decline has been observed from February 2020 onwards. Prior to the pandemic, there were a record 9.5 million visitors to Australia in the year ending January 2020.

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      Events impacting short-term visitor arrivals include:

      • 1988: Brisbane Expo
      • 1998: Asian financial crisis
      • 2000: Sydney Olympics
      • 2001: September 11 attacks
      • 2003: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak
      • 2008: Global Financial Crisis (GFC)
      • 2020: COVID-19 outbreak from February onwards

      Source countries

      Travel restrictions have resulted in a change in the source countries of visitors to Australia.

      In 2020:

      • Short-term visitor arrivals for all top 5 source countries fell from early 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
      • New Zealand (242,500 visits) was the largest source country for visitor arrivals
      • China (207,700) was the second largest.

      In 2019, the reverse was true when China was the largest and New Zealand the second largest.

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      (a) Top 5 source countries based on year ending December 2020.
      (b) Excludes SARs and Taiwan.
      (c) Includes United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.

      Among the top 10 source countries, there was strong growth from Asian countries over the last decade. Recent declines for these countries are due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

      13.4 Short-term visitor arrivals, Australia — Top 10 source countries(a) — 2020
      Country of Residence'0002019 to 2020 (% change)2010 to 2020 (% change)
      New Zealand242.5-83.1-78.9
      China(b)207.7-85.6-54.0
      UK(c)200.8-71.9-70.2
      USA188.7-76.9-60.6
      Japan91.7-81.6-76.9
      India84.0-79.0-39.4
      Hong Kong60.9-80.7-59.5
      Singapore58.3-87.8-78.0
      Korea, South53.5-80.9-75.5
      Germany53.0-74.4-68.1

      (a) Top 10 source countries based on year ending December 2020.
      (b) Excludes SARs and Taiwan.
      (c) Includes United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.

      State or territory of stay

      All travellers are asked their intended address in Australia upon arrival.

      During the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of state borders were closed to international visitors at different times, as were a number of airports. 

      In July 2020 National Cabinet agreed that all international passenger flight arrivals would be coordinated by the Commonwealth Government. This meant that the number of arrivals at each international airport was subject to caps agreed upon between federal and state and territory governments. For example, as part of this national coordinated approach, all international passenger flights into Victoria were cancelled from this time until 7 December 2020.

      The proportion of short-term visitor arrivals by intended state or territory in 2020 were as follows:

      • NSW (36.6% of all short-term visitors)
      • Vic. (27.6%)
      • Qld (19.2%)
      • SA (3.2%)
      • WA (10.3%)
      • Tas. (1.3%)
      • NT (0.6%)
      • ACT (1.2%). 

      In 2010 this pattern was slightly different, with more visitors intending to stay in Qld than in Vic.

      All states recorded growth in international visitors in the ten year period up to early 2020. In comparison, the territories experienced fluctuations in visitor numbers, particularly the Northern Territory. All states and territories observed a significant drop in visitor numbers from March 2020.

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      At the state and territory level, the mix of source countries varies from that at the national level.

      During 2020:

      • The USA was the leading source country for NSW and the NT
      • China provided the most visitors for Vic. and the ACT
      • New Zealand provided the most visitors for Qld and Tas.
      • The UK provided the most visitors for SA and WA.

      Ten years earlier in 2010, New Zealand was the leading source country for NSW, Vic., Qld, SA, and Tas. However, the UK was the leading source country for WA, and the USA for the NT and the ACT.

      Age and sex

      There were more visits to Australia by women than men in 2020 (935,500 women compared with 892,200 men). The opposite was true in 2010 (3.0 million men and 2.8 million women). 

      In 2020, both men and women visiting Australia had a median age of 40 years. The largest group of visitor arrivals was aged between 25 and 29 years, with the largest source country for this age group being China. 

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      Main reason for journey

      The majority of arrivals (97%) in 2020 occurred prior to travel restrictions implemented by the Australian Government on 20 March 2020.

      In 2020, the most frequently stated main reason for journey by short-term visitors to Australia was:

      • Holiday (43.2%)
      • Visiting friends and relatives (30.2%)
      • Education (9.9%)
      • Business (6.6%).
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      (a) As a percentage of all arrivals

      Female visitors were more likely than males to record their main reason for journey as:

      • Holiday
      • Visiting friends or relatives
      • Education.

      Male visitors were more likely than females to record their main reason for journey as:

      • Business
      • Employment
      • Convention/conference.
      13.8 Short-term visitor arrivals, Australia — Main reason for journey and Sex — 2020
      Main reason for journeyMales (%)Females (%)
      Holiday40.845.4
      Visiting friends/relatives27.133.2
      Education9.710.0
      Business10.23.2
      Employment4.72.7
      Convention/conference2.61.6
      Other4.93.8
      Total100.0100.0

      Duration of stay

      Visitors are asked their intended duration in Australia upon arrival.

      During 2020, the median duration of stay in Australia was 14 days. However, this varied between the states and territories and between the numerous source countries. It also varied depending on a traveller's main reason for journey.

      In 2020, the median duration of days for those visiting the ACT was 30 days, whereas for Qld it was 11 days. Those from India (with a median duration of stay of 84 days) stated their intention to stay longer than most others, but this also varied between the states and territories. Those from Japan only visited for 6 days on average.

      13.9 Short-term visitor arrivals, Australia — Top 10 source countries(a) by State/Territory of stay — Median duration of stay (days) — 2020
      NSWVic.QldSAWATas.NTACTAust.(b)
      India6291629180921529184
      Germany20222228272143122
      UK(c)181921232221192120
      China(d)1823166215171615220
      Hong Kong12121215119103012
      USA101212141515301411
      Korea (South)8141126141489110
      Singapore899118117108
      New Zealand668711111477
      Japan7761579796
      All countries131511221715203014

      (a) Top 10 source countries have been calculated at the Australia level.
      (b) Includes Other Territories.
      (c) Includes United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.
      (d) Excludes SARs and Taiwan.

      The median duration of stay of short-term visitors to Australia varied according to reason for journey:

      • Those travelling for education (174 days) and employment (123 days) stayed the longest
      • Visiting friends and relatives (20 days)
      • Holiday (10 days)
      • Business travellers and those attending conventions/conferences stayed the shortest (7 days each).

      Resident returns - Calendar year - 2020

      Compares annual international travel for resident returns over time by destination country, by state and territory, by age and sex, by main reason for journey and by median duration of trip. All analysis in this section is done on short-term trips (less than 1 year).

      Effects of COVID-19 outbreak

      The World Health Organisation (WHO) commenced daily situation reports of the COVID-19 outbreak on 21 January 2020 and identified it as an international health emergency on 30 January. This was less than a month after suspected cases were reported in Wuhan, China. Initially the Australian Government placed travel restrictions on those travelling to Australia from mainland China commencing 1 February 2020. Restrictions on other countries soon followed. From 20 March 2020, all overseas travel was banned, with few exceptions. The pandemic has continued to disrupt international travel. For more information, see the Prime Minister's media release on border restrictions or the Smartraveller page from the Australian government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.

      Key findings

      Note: 92% of resident returns in 2020 occurred prior to travel restrictions implemented by the Australian Government on 20 March 2020.

      Australian residents returning to Australia in 2020.

      • There were 2.8 million resident returns from overseas, down 75.0% on the previous year and the lowest since 1996 
      • New Zealand continued to be the leading destination country for Australians travelling overseas, accounting for 438,700 visitors nationally
      • The main reason for travel was 'holiday' (53.3%)
      • Nationally, the median duration away was 17 days.

      Annual resident returns

      There were 2.8 million resident trips overseas in 2020. This was down 75.0% on the previous year with 8.5 million fewer trips taken. This was the lowest annual number of resident trips since 1996.

      The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in substantial declines in travel movements since the introduction of border restrictions in March 2020.

      14.1 Short-term resident returns by month
      2020'000% change(a)
      Jan1,397.40.3
      Feb785.45.3
      Mar538.4-28.6
      Apr17.0-98.1
      May13.4-98.5
      Jun15.8-98.1
      Jul10.3-99.1
      Aug8.1-99.1
      Sep8.2-99.2
      Oct11.2-99.0
      Nov13.0-98.5
      Dec14.3-98.1
      Annual Total2,832.4-75.0

      (a) Percentage change when compared to the same period of the previous year.

       

      Australian residents travelling overseas have generally been increasing over recent decades, with a number of decreases observed over time due to various historical events (as seen in graph 14.2 below) such as the: 

      • Early 1990s recession in Australia
      • September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001
      • Bali bombings in 2002
      • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003
      • Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008

      However, due to the impact of COVID-19, a substantial decline has been observed from March 2020 onwards. Prior to the pandemic, there were 11.4 million resident trips overseas in the year ending February 2020.

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      Events impacting short-term resident returns include:

      • 1990: Recession
      • 2001: September 11 attacks
      • 2002: Bali bombings
      • 2003: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak
      • 2008: Global Financial Crisis (GFC)
      • 2020: COVID-19 outbreak from February onwards

      Destination countries

      In 2020: 

      • Short-term resident returns for all top 5 destination countries fell from early 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19
      • New Zealand (438,700 trips) remained the leading destination country
      • Indonesia (310,300) was the second most popular destination
      • The USA (235,500) was the third leading destination.
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      (a) Top 5 destination countries based on year ending December 2020.
       

      Among the top 10 destination countries, the strongest growth over the last decade was for Australians visiting Asian countries. Recent declines for these countries are due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

      14.4 Short-term resident returns, Australia — Top 10 destination countries(a) — 2020
      Destination Country'0002019 to 2020 (% change)2010 to 2020 (% change)
      New Zealand438.7-70.0-58.6
      Indonesia310.3-77.8-57.7
      USA235.5-77.7-65.6
      India186.2-56.312.2
      Japan173.0-66.9-0.9
      UK(b)146.9-77.9-69.9
      China(c)122.1-79.9-62.8
      Thailand117.8-78.3-73.1
      Vietnam93.7-70.5-48.7
      Singapore88.1-78.8-64.8

      (a) Top 10 destination countries based on year ending December 2020.
      (b) Includes United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.
      (c) Excludes SARs and Taiwan.

      State or territory of residence

      All travellers are asked their intended address in Australia upon arrival.

      During the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of state borders were closed to international visitors at different times, as were a number of airports. 

      In July 2020 National Cabinet agreed that all international passenger flight arrivals would be coordinated by the Commonwealth Government. This meant that the number of arrivals at each international airport was subject to caps agreed upon between federal and state and territory governments. For example, as part of this national coordinated approach, all international passenger flights into Victoria were cancelled from this time until 7 December 2020.

      The proportion of short-term resident returns by their state or territory of residence in 2020 were as follows:

      • NSW (34.4% of all short-term resident returns)
      • Vic. (26.1%)
      • Qld (19.2%)
      • SA (4.0%)
      • WA (12.8%)
      • Tas. (0.8%)
      • NT (0.9%)
      • ACT (1.9%).

      In 2010, this pattern was very similar with a slightly higher proportion of those travelling overseas from NSW (35.4%), WA (14.9%), SA (4.3%) and Tas. (1.0%).

      All states and territories recorded growth in residents taking overseas trips in the ten year period up to early 2020. There was however, a significant drop from March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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      At the state and territory level, the mix of destination countries varies from that at the national level.

      During 2020:

      • New Zealand was the leading destination country for residents of NSW, Vic., Qld, Tas. and the ACT
      • Indonesia was the leading destination for those from SA, WA and the NT.

      Ten years earlier in 2010, New Zealand was the leading destination for residents of all states and territories except for WA and the NT (for which Indonesia was the leading destination).

      Age and sex

      There were more trips taken overseas by Australian men than women in 2020 (1.5 million men compared with 1.4 million women), which is similar to 2010 (3.7 million men compared with 3.3 million women).

      In 2020, Australian men and women travelling overseas had a similar median age (39 years and 37 years respectively). Among those aged 18 to 30, women took more trips than men. 

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      Main reason for journey

      The majority of resident returns (92%) in 2020 occurred prior to travel restrictions implemented by the Australian Government on 20 March 2020.

      In 2020, the most frequently stated main reason for journey by Australian residents returning home after a short-term trip was:

      • Holiday (53%)
      • Visiting friends and relatives (32%)
      • Business (5%).

       

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      (a) As a percentage of all returns.

      Female resident returns were more likely than males to record their main reason for journey as:

      • Holiday
      • Visiting friends or relatives
      • Education.

      Male resident returns were more likely than females to record their main reason for journey as:

      • Business
      • Employment
      • Convention/conference.
      14.8 Short-term resident returns, Australia — Main reason for journey and Sex — 2020
      Main reason for journeyMales (%)Females (%)
      Holiday51.854.8
      Visiting friends/relatives30.234.7
      Education1.31.5
      Business8.02.7
      Employment3.31.7
      Convention/conference1.71.1
      Other3.53.5
      Total100.0100.0

      Duration of stay

      For Australian residents returning from overseas their exact duration away is measured.

      During 2020, the median duration away for Australians on a short-term trip was 17 days. However, this varied between the states and territories and between the numerous destination countries. It also varied greatly depending on a traveller's main reason for journey.

      In 2020, the median duration away overseas for those from the ACT and the NT was 18 days, whereas for those from Qld and WA it was 16 days. Those travelling to India were usually away for an average of 31 days, which was longer than all the other top 10 destinations. Those travelling to Indonesia were away for 10 days on average.

      14.9 Short-term resident returns, Australia — Top 10 destination countries(a) by State/Territory of Residence — Median duration of stay (days) — 2020
      NSWVic.QldSAWATas.NTACTAust.(b)
      India303231333225402931
      China(c)273028302724293428
      UK(d)262528252631212726
      Vietnam202219231816211820
      USA161719182219251917
      Japan151615161518161715
      Thailand141415131312201614
      Singapore121312141014101212
      New Zealand101011131514141111
      Indonesia111010981191110
      All countries171716171617181817

      (a) Top 10 source countries have been calculated at the Australia level.
      (b) Includes Other Territories.
      (c) Excludes SARs and Taiwan.
      (d) Includes United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.

      The duration of stay of short-term trips by Australian residents going overseas varied according to reason for journey:

      • Those travelling for education stayed away the longest (51 days)
      • Employment (37 days)
      • Visiting friends and relatives (24 days)
      • Holiday (14 days)
      • Business travellers stayed the shortest (8 days).

      Recent changes

      Suspension of seasonally adjusted and trend estimates from Apr and Feb 2020

      Seasonally adjusted estimates have been suspended from April 2020 for all Short-term Visitor Arrival (STVA) and Short-term Resident Return (STRR) series due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on international travel.

      Trend estimates have been suspended from February 2020 for all STVA and STRR series.

      Both series will be reintroduced when patterns in the underlying behaviour of passenger travel movements stabilise. Original estimates can be produced and will continue to be published as usual. For more details, please see the Seasonally adjusted and trend estimates section in the Methodology and the ABS Feature Articles: Methods changes during the COVID-19 period (cat. no. 1359.0 for Jun 2020); When It's not "Business-as-usual": Implications for ABS Time Series (cat. no. 1350.0 for Aug 2009).

      COVID-19 from Feb 2020

      In response to the need for additional data and analysis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ABS will continue to release a series of feature articles containing additional state and territory level analysis of overseas visitor arrivals over the coming months, as well as national and state and territory information on arrivals of overseas students. See the left hand navigation pane to access information on a specific state/territory or article.

      The World Health Organisation (WHO) commenced daily situation reports of the COVID-19 outbreak on 21 January 2020 and identified it as an international health emergency on 30 January. This was less than a month after suspected cases were reported in Wuhan, China. The Australian Government placed travel restrictions on those travelling to Australia initially from mainland China commencing 1 February 2020. Restrictions on other countries soon followed. From 20 March 2020, all overseas travel was banned, with few exceptions. For more information, see the Prime Minister's media release on border restrictions or the Smartraveller page from the Australian government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.

      Data notes

      This release contains overseas movement data which should not be interpreted as 'persons'. See the Scope section, paragraph 1 in the Methodology for more detail.

      The statistics in this release have been rounded. See the Confidentiality section in the Methodology for more detail.

      Inquiries

      For further information about these and related statistics, contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070. The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to the ABS.

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      I-notes

      1. For all Short-term Visitor Arrivals (STVA) and Short-term Resident Returns (STRR) series, the trend estimates have been suspended from February 2020 and the seasonally adjusted estimates have been suspended from April 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on international travel. For more information, see the Seasonally adjusted and trend estimates section in the Methodology page associated with this release.

      2. The quality of the imputation used to estimate duration of stay for some resident departures has been impacted by changed travel behaviour during COVID-19 travel restrictions. The proportional split between short-term resident departures and long-term resident departures has been impacted. Where possible, instead of departure volumes, we recommend clients use short-term resident returns and long-term resident returns for greater accuracy. For more information on how this variable is imputed, please see paragraph 28 of the Imputations and derivations section of the Methodology page.

      3. Short-term arrival movements are usually based on a sample and subject to sampling error. However, from April 2020 a full enumeration has been undertaken due to the small volume of international travel movements caused by the impact of COVID-19. See paragraphs 1-2 of the Sampling section in the Methodology page.

      4. Occasionally situations occur that necessitate breaks being applied to the trend series. For an overview of the breaks currently included in the trend series, see paragraph 14 of the Seasonally adjusted and trend estimates section in the Methodology.

      5. For further information about the data, including updates or changes, see the Methodology page.

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      Previous catalogue number

      This release previously used catalogue number 3401.0