Overseas travel bounces back as Aussies shrug off COVID groundings

Aussies have come down with a serious case of travel fever, with data revealing international departures inching closer to pre-pandemic levels.

Australian Bureau of Statistics released this week showed 621,150 Australian residents left the country for short-term trips in June.

It was a jump of just over 200,000 travelers – or about 50 per cent, albeit off a lower-than-normal base – on May.

Although it is still well short of the more than one million Australians who headed overseas in June 2019, before COVID-19 hit, the data is welcome news to airlines, travel agencies and overseas companies relying on the spending power of Aussie tourists.

on the rise

With pandemic lockdowns easing around the globe, more Aussies are planning to leave the country and head on holidays.

This week’s figures mark a significant rebound compared to this time a year ago, when Victoria and New South Wales were in the midst of lengthy COVID-19 lockdowns.

In August 2021, for example, just 16,660 Australians left the country on a short-term basis.

According to the figures, most Aussies traveling overseas in June were leaving for leisure, not business.

Some 48 per cent of Aussie travelers said they were visiting friends or relatives, 33.5 per cent were on holiday, and just 8 per cent were traveling for business.

The data tallies with a survey from Webjet, which found a significant boost in traveler confidence in recent months.

In a survey of 5000 of its customers, the booking site found that 71 per cent were now comfortable traveling internationally, with 64 per cent saying they intended to head overseas in the next month.

“Webjet search data shows that travelers are already looking ahead to next year’s peak travel periods, like a European summer, to book in their long-delayed holidays,” Webjet OTA chief executive David Galt.

“That eagerness to plan trips ahead of time is a strong indication of the confidence that is returning to the market, particularly as hesitation around closed borders and testing requirements continue to decrease.”

The hottest spots

As for where Aussie holidaymakers are choosing to escape, many are opting to travel closer to home.

The ABS said New Zealand was a clear winner, accounting for 195,370 trips.

The US was the second most popular destination with 169,710 trips, followed closely by India (157,500 trips).

According to booking data from Webjet’s customers, New Zealand was certainly the country to beat.

Auckland was the most popular destination for Webjet customers between June 26 and July 25, with Queenstown, Christchurch and Wellington also making the top 10.

South East Asia is another popular destination.

Bali, a famously popular Aussie hotspot, came in second, with Singapore and Bangkok also ranking high.

Still a long way to go

The ABS figures signal a slow but steady recovery for the industry, but there’s no denying that there’s still a long way to go.

Travel numbers are still a far cry from levels before the pandemic, when millions of Aussies embarked on holidays each month.

In June 2019, for example, 1,047,830 Australian residents headed on holidays overseas.

However, the latest data shows that more international tourists are also putting Australia at the top of their lists.

Australia had 275,300 overseas visitor arrivals in June, up more than 40,000 on May.

And the source of these tourists has changed dramatically since the pandemic hit.

The number of Chinese tourists coming to Australia, for example, is just a fraction of what it once was.

About 80,680 tourists came to Australia from China in June 2019, but just 6550 arrived in June this year.

Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive Margy Osmond said the lackluster figures can be partially explained by ”international conflict”.

“There is international conflict going on at the moment, but in middle of it there are people,” she told Today.

“China was our No.1 [source of] visitor[s] previously. And also, most importantly, not just by numbers but by the amount of money they spent when they got here.”

New Zealand has become Australia’s largest source of international tourism.

In June, 57,200 Kiwis arrived here, closely followed by those from Singapore (37,040 tourists).

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