Australia had 9.3 million short-term visitors from overseas last year

In 2018-19, there were 9.3 million short-term visitor arrivals to Australia from overseas, the highest year on record according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Not surprisingly the main reason for all these visitors was travelling for a holiday (47%), but that’s great for Australia’s economy, isn’t it?

China was the largest source country with over 1.4 million visitors nationally, it was also the largest source for NSW, Vic, SA, Tas. and the ACT.

Interestingly there were more visits to Australia by women than men (4.9 million women compared with 4.5 million men).

The highest number of visitors on record

Australia Immigration

The record annual 9.3 million visitors in 2018-19 was 3.8 million more than 10 years earlier and 272,300 more than 1 year ago.

There has generally been an ongoing increase of visitor arrivals to Australia over recent decades.

Peaks were seen during Brisbane Expo in 1988 and the Sydney Olympics in 2000

Decreases were experienced during the Asian financial crisis from 1998, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak from 2002 and the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008.


Where did they come from?

Residents from nearly every country around the world visited Australia in 2018-19. China (1.43 million) remained the largest source country of short-term visitor arrivals with New Zealand (1.41 million) in second place.

This reflects strong growth in the number of Chinese visitors over the decade, with a 303% increase since 2008-09. However, this growth has slowed more recently.

1.2 Short-term visitor arrivals, Australia — Top 5 source countries(a) — June 2009 to June 2019 — year ending

(a) Top 5 source countries based on year ending June 2019.
(b) Includes United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.

Among the top 10 source countries, there was also strong growth from other Asian countries over the last decade (Table 1.3 below).

1.3 Short-term visitor arrivals, Australia — Top 10 source countries(a) — 2018-19 — year ending


(a) Top 10 source countries based on year ending June 2019.
(b) Includes United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.

Where did they go?

All travellers are asked their intended address in Australia upon arrival.

The proportion of short-term visitor arrivals by intended state or territory in 2018-19, were as follows:

  • NSW (37% of all short-term visitors)
  • (26%)
  • Qld (22%)
  • SA (3%)
  • WA (9%)
  • (1.0%)
  • NT (0.8%)
  • ACT (1.1%).

In 2008-09 this pattern was slightly different, with more visitors intending to stay in Queensland than in Victoria.

The NT had a slightly higher number of visitors 10 years earlier whereas all other jurisdictions shared the growth in international visitors.

1.4 Short-term visitor arrivals, Australia — State/Territory of Stay — 2008-09 and 2018-19

At the state and territory level, the mix of source countries varies from that at the national level.

During 2018-19:

  • MigrationChina was the leading source country for NSW, Vic.,SA, Tas. and the ACT
  • New Zealand provided the most visitors for Qld
  • The UK for WA
  • The USA for the NT.

Ten years earlier in 2008-09, New Zealand was the leading source country for NSW, Vic., Qld, Tas & the ACT.

However, the UK was leading for SA & WA, and the USA for the NT.

Who came?

There were more visits to Australia by women than men in 2018-19 (4.9 million women compared with 4.5 million men).

The opposite was true in 2008-09 (2.8 million men and 2.7 million women).

In 2018-19, men and women visiting Australia had a similar median age (41 years for men and 40 years for women). The largest group of visitor arrivals were aged between 25 and 29 years. There were also large numbers of women arriving aged 55 with the largest source country being from China at this age.

1.5 Short-term visitor arrivals, Australia — Age and Sex — 2018-19

The main reason for their journey

In 2018-19, the most frequently stated main reason for journey by short-term visitors to Australia was:

  • holiday (47%)
  • visiting friends and relatives (30%)
  • business (7.3%)
  • education (6.5%)

Female visitors were more likely than males to record their main reason for journey as holiday (26% compared with 21%), visiting friends and relatives (17% compared with 13%), and education (3.4% compared with 3.1%).

Male visitors, on the other hand were more likely to travel to Australia for business (5.5% compared with 1.8%).

Duration of stay

Visitors are asked their intended duration in Australia upon arrival. australia

During 2018-19, the median duration of stay in Australia was 11 days.

However, this varies between the states and territories and between the numerous source countries.

It also varies depending on a traveller’s main reason for journey.

In 2018-19, the median duration of days for those visiting SA was 17 days, whereas for Qld it was 10 days.

Those from India (40 days) stated their intention to stay longer than most others but this also varied between the states and territories.

Those from Japan only visited for 6 days on average.

1.6 Short-term visitor arrivals, Australia — Top 10 source countries(a) by State/Territory of stay — Median duration of stay — 2018-19


(a) Top 10 source countries are based at the Australia level.
(b) Includes Other Territories.
(c) Includes United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.

The duration of stay of short-term visitors to Australia varied by their reason for journey:

  • Those travelling for education stayed the longest (123 days)
  • employment (116 days)
  • visiting friends and relatives (16 days)
  • holiday (9 days)
  • business travellers stayed the shortest (6 days).

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics


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Kate Forbes


Kate Forbes is a National Director Property Strategy at Metropole. She has 15 years of investment experience in financial markets in two continents, is qualified in multiple disciplines and is also a chartered financial analyst (CFA).
Visit Metropole Melbourne

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