The tide turning on overseas arrivals as fortress Australia crumbles.
There were only 245,000 short-term visitors to Australia in 2021, down from 9.5 million two years prior.
But now signs are emerging that the tide is starting to turn for the country’s battered international tourism sector.
Australia eased its international border on 15 December 2021 to the 235k visa holders currently outside Australia at the time and also opened travel bubbles with Japan and South Korea, which follows the existing bubble with Singapore.
Importantly, travel is set to re-open to all fully vaccinated visa holders from 21 February 2022.
No travel exemption permits will be required for fully vaccinated travelers.
Short term visitors are now coming here, and in January the number of net overseas arrivals – the balance of people leaving versus those arriving – shifted into positive territory for the first time in six months with + 75,000
NAB economist Janith Ratnayake explains:
Skills shortages within highly skilled industries should ease as 2022 progresses, though not completely and obviously not overnight given the interruptions to the flow of arrivals over the past 21 months and global demand for some skills.
Shortages in agriculture, hospitality, and caregiving may persist for longer."
Net arrivals were positive for the first time since June 2021.
NAB’s Janith Ratnayake said:
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"This is a significant turnaround since the pandemic began with an average outflow of 11k people being recorded each month, with the cumulative outflow since borders closed in March 2020 amounting to 359k people to December 2021.
More detailed data for December 2021 suggests much of the increase is being driven by ‘permanent and long-term arrivals’, which correlate closely with official net migration statistics."
Net arrivals have swung positive for the first time since June 2021:
Long-term arrivals are the highest since March 2021 and hint of a recovery in net migration as borders ease:
It is clear the re-opening of the border from December 15 for certain visa holders has led to a relatively swift pick-up in arrivals.
According to visa categories, the largest category driving the sudden turnaround is ‘temporary student visas’ which were net positive in both December (+18.1k) and January (+18.7k) after having been consistently negative during the pandemic:
Skilled visa categories were also net positive with a net +13,000 skilled arrivals.
The swift resumption of student and skilled visa categories is likely to alleviate some labour market tightness in time.