Michael Clarke EDITED

Strong growth from traditional markets, including visitors from the UK coming for the Ashes, has helped push international tourist arrivals to record highs, with Australia welcoming almost 6.5 million visitors in 2013, according to the Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF).

The ABS has released Overseas Arrivals and Departures data for December, showing international arrivals rose 9.5 per cent in December, lifting annual arrivals growth to 5.5 per cent for the year, with 6.48 million international visitors coming to Australia in 2013.

TTF Chief Executive Ken Morrison said this is a strong result.

“Growth of 5.5 per cent means almost 6.5 million international visitors came to Australia in 2013,” Morrison said.

“That’s 340,000 more international visitors to Australia in 2013 than came in 2012 and with international visitor expenditure averaging almost $2500 per person, that translates to an additional $840 million in spending in the visitor economy.

“With the mining investment boom waning and yet more bad news from the automotive manufacturing sector, government needs to focus on industries with the capacity and potential to deliver future growth.

“Tourism is one of the sectors that can be an economic development strategy for Australia.

“Global tourism expenditure is forecast to grow from US$6.6 trillion in 2012 to US$10.5 trillion in 2020, so supporting tourism can ensure Australia gets a bigger slice of that burgeoning pie.

“Tourism already generates $110 billion in expenditure around Australia every year and directly employs more than 530,000 people in more than 280,000 tourism businesses across the country.

“It is one of the only industries that provides jobs and economic activity in every part of the country, making it extremely valuable to city and regional economies alike.

“We are urging governments to continue to invest in tourism marketing and infrastructure to ensure we capitalise on the current momentum and make the most of this opportunity,” he said.

Morrison said there were some clear highlights in the new figures.

“Visitor numbers from the UK jumped 16.8 per cent in December as cricket fans arrived for the Ashes, clearly showing the value of major events to the visitor economy,” Morrison said.

“Other traditional markets also fared well, with arrivals from the US up 12.7 per cent for the month and 6.1 per cent for the year and we hope this will continue as the American economy stabilises and consumer confidence recovers.

“We also saw strong growth in monthly arrivals from Malaysia (up 31.0%), Singapore (up 21.1%) and Hong Kong (up 19.0%), with those three markets also up by double digits for the year.

“After two months of declines following the introduction of the new China tourism law, arrivals from China grew 2.8 per cent in December, with annual arrivals up a healthy 14.3 per cent.

“It’s also important to note that the annual growth of 5.5 per cent for 2013 is on the back of 4.6 per cent growth in international arrivals in 2012.

“This means international visitor numbers have grown by more than 600,000 or 10.3 per cent over the past two years,” he said.

James Wilkinson

Editor-In-Chief, Hotel Management