13 September 2023

ACT records highest overseas visitor numbers since before pandemic

| Lizzie Waymouth
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jet on tarmac in front of airport

With the long-awaited launch of flights from Canberra to Fiji in July, Canberra Airport has finally put the ‘international’ back in its name. Photo: Canberra Airport.

The ACT’s short-term overseas visitor numbers in July 2023 were the highest since before the pandemic, the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data reveals.

Canberra welcomed 10,780 short-term visitors over the month, up from 6980 in June.

This brings the number of trips nearly back to pre-COVID levels: the number of short-term visitors in July 2023 was only 3.2 per cent lower than July 2019.

The three leading source countries were China (3060 visitors), New Zealand (890) and the US (890), with arrivals from the latter two slightly higher than they were before the pandemic.

Notably, the number of visitors to the ACT from the UK and India was also higher than pre-COVID. While 490 people visited Canberra from the UK in July 2019, 640 visitors arrived in July 2023. Visitors from India grew from 510 to 580 over the same period.

The number of long-term overseas visitors to the ACT – those arriving for a trip lasting one year or more – also increased in July 2023.

There were 3320 long-term arrivals, up by 1010 compared with July 2022. This was 29.5 per cent higher than pre-COVID levels in July 2019.

READ ALSO Territory Plan for ‘gentle urban growth’ criticised for not going further

Across the country, visitor numbers were fairly strong in July 2023. A total of 625,120 short-term visitors arrived in Australia that month, representing an annual increase of 299,440 trips.

The number of total overseas arrivals and departures increased considerably compared with July 2022, suggesting a general improvement in demand for travel. Total overseas arrivals to Australia in 2023 grew by 661,790 to 1,743,390, while overseas departures increased by 526,030 to 1,494,520.

Australia is also welcoming more international students, though numbers have not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels.

In July 2023, there were 131,640 international student arrivals to Australia, up by 60,420 students compared with July 2022.

However, the number of student arrivals in July 2023 was 8.5 per cent lower than the pre-COVID levels in July 2019.

READ ALSO ACT’s credit rating downgraded due to ‘slower fiscal recovery’ from pandemic

The latest ABS data comes several months after Tourism Research Australia announced the ACT recorded the highest growth in domestic overnight visits, overnight stays and expenditure of all Australian states and territories from March 2022 to March 2023.

Canberra also recorded its highest-ever visitor expenditure of $3.33 billion in a 12-month period, surpassing the record annual high reached for the year ending December 2022 by $300 million.

The ACT aims to reach its target of $4 billion in expenditure by 2030 under the T2030 strategy, which also aims to support 22,750 new tourism jobs, 776 new accommodation rooms and 1.76 million additional airline seats.

International aviation connectivity is at the top of the strategy’s key priorities. With the long-awaited launch of flights from Canberra to Fiji in July, Canberra Airport has finally put the ‘international’ back in its name, and the ACT Government is hopeful that there are more to follow.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has continued to push for flights to Wellington and met with Wellington Airport in July to discuss re-establishing aviation connections.

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