Thursday, May 10, 2012

Who'd have thought? It's raining tourists despite the dollar

Which isn't to say price is unimportant

Australia is taking in more foreign tourists that ever before, even with the high dollar.

New data from the Bureau of Statistics shows monthly arrivals above half a million, with the March seasonally adjusted total hitting 512,000; up from 475,500 a year before.

China is responsible for one third of the increase. Australia now takes in 52,100 visitors from mainland China per month, up from 39,700 - a jump of 31 per cent. Arrivals from Indonesia are up from 11,400 to 13,600 - an increase of 32 per cent.

Even economically troubled regions sent more visitors to Australia. Arrivals from the United Kingdom climbed 13 per cent, arrivals from mainland Europe 11 per cent and arrivals from the United States 7 per cent.

The upturn comes despite the high dollar but in a year in which the Australian dollar has moderated, slipping from 107 US cents to around 102.

At the same time the number of Australians heading overseas for tourist and business trips jumped 16 per cent to the second-highest level on record. Taken literally the 676,800 departures during march suggest one in every 34 Australians were out of the country.

“The problem for tourist areas is not that foreign tourists aren’t coming, rather it’s that Aussies now prefer to go abroad,” said CommSec economist Craig James.

The resilience of foreign arrivals and the headlong rush of Australians overseas suggest two of the measures in Tuesday’s budget will pay dividends...

The government has committed an extra $61 million to promoting Australia as a tourist destination in Asia. Although the 52,100 arrivals from China in March was a record, the size and increasing affluence of the Chinese market suggests it has much further to grow.

The decision to lift the departure tax from $47 to an initial $55 and then to increase it annually was to bring in an extra $610 million over the four years. If tourist numbers accelerate the budget estimate will prove conservative.

In today's Sydney Morning Herald

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