Going with the Flows: Travel Trends in Australia

While discounting by international airlines has led directly to decreased passenger yield and company profits within the Australian travel industry, it has also stimulated the outbound travel market to the extent that growth in outbound departures, by number of trips, is once again outpacing growth in domestic trip numbers.

Indonesia has emerged as the leading destination for Australian travellers in 2017, up 24% from the previous year in terms of total trip numbers. While being a long-time favourite for Australian travellers, featuring consistently in the top five outbound destinations from Australia since 2010, Indonesia has benefitted during 2017 from geographical proximity to Australia, easing of price competition by low-cost carriers for domestic routes, and rival France declining in popularity as a destination due to security concerns.

Over the review period of 2012-2017, several established and up-and-coming outbound destinations have achieved noteworthy period growth, namely Spain, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Iceland. Spain, which just snuck in to the top ten outbound destinations for Australian travellers in 2014, is now ranked sixth thanks to 110% period growth, and is the most popular Continental European destination for Australian travellers after France.

Australia has consistently been ranked seventh in terms of inbound arrival trip numbers for Japan over the review period, with 137% growth from 2012 to 2017, taking the total number of arrivals to 488,200. Of the top ten source markets for trips to Japan, Australians are, furthermore, the biggest spenders, averaging ¥247,397 Japanese yen (US$2,187) per trip in 2017.

Industry sources reveal that Japan is an appealing destination for Australian skiers and snowboarders, given the quality of Japanese ski terrain and infrastructure, the comparative affordability of skiing abroad versus at the Australian Alps, the fact that the Northern Hemisphere winter coincides with Australia’s longer-duration summer holidays, and the closer proximity of Japan to Australia in comparison with Western Europe or North America.

According to Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), flows of Australia tourists demonstrated some of the most pronounced seasonality across all source markets, with 32% of visitors from Australia arriving during the winter months in 2016. In fact, JNTO data indicates that Australia has had the highest proportion of winter-time visitors, of all major source markets, since 2013.

In terms of inbound arrivals, while 2017 may be the official China-Australia Year of Tourism, “Decade of Tourism” could be a more relevant moniker. Over the past five years, tourist arrival numbers from China to Australia have more than doubled to 1.3 million trips in 2017. By 2022, this figure is forecast to reach 2 million. To put this in comparative terms, this would mean that the number of Chinese tourists to Australia would overtake long-time market leader, New Zealand, by 2020. Tourist arrival numbers from China are anticipated to surpass those from all Western Europe by 2022.

Keeping it in perspective, however, while the number of Chinese arrivals to Australia is significant, it’s still not enough to crack the top ten outbound destinations for Chinese travellers abroad. In 2017, vast numbers of tourists from China opted to travel closer to home, visiting nations across South-East Asia. In terms of travel beyond Asia, the preference remained for the United States, France and Germany.