Australians flooded departure lounges as never before during the summer holidays, heading overseas in unprecedented numbers.
New official figures show a record 731,000 of us left the country in December, an astonishing 3.3 per cent of the population or roughly 1 in every 30 Australians .
A record 141,000 of those trips were to New Zealand which has become by far our most important tourist destination.
Indonesia, led by Bali, has become the second-most popular destination, receiving a record 58,500 visits.
The high Australian dollar, lower airfares and an improved economy saw overseas trips jump to a record 6.3 million in 2009, up almost half a million from the year before.
The annual total has doubled in 10 years, and tripped in 20 years.
By contrast arrivals slipped below departures in 2008 and slipped further below in 2009...
"A decade ago around 1.4 million more people came to Australia than Australians traveled overseas each year, now there’s a deficit of more than 700,000," said Tourism & Transport Forum executive director Brett Gale.
"We more or less held our own with the number of international visitors to Australia in 2009 virtually unchanged from 2008, but we did it by cutting prices and sacrificing profitability."
"Globally, international tourism fell 4 per cent in 2009, so we increased our market share by maintaining arrivals, but at a cost."
New Zealand and the UK remained the biggest points of origin, each sending Australia roughly 100,000 visitors in December, roughly steady on the year before.
Sydney remains the number one destination for international visitors, but its crown is slipping. NSW tourist numbers were down 2.5 per cent in 2009. Victoria's and Western Australia's were up 7 per cent.
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