Mozo guides

Australian tourism statistics 2023

Two kangaroos face the shoreline of Esperance Beach in Australia on a sunny day

Tourism in Australia suffered a massive blow during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the industry looks to be recovering steadily since border restrictions were scrapped almost two years ago, in November 2021.

In 2023, the number of travellers coming to Australia has rebounded significantly since the lows of 2020, but the latest tourism statistics indicate we haven't quite seen pre-pandemic crowds just yet. 

Here you’ll find Australian tourism facts and statistics, like how many people visit Australia each year, which Australian cities are the most popular tourist destinations and Australian tourism industry statistics.

Quick stats

  • Australian tourism has made a significant rebound but hasn’t reached pre-pandemic levels yet
  • In 2023, 5.8 million international travellers arrived in Australia (391% growth year-on-year)
  • The top three most common tourists to Australia are from New Zealand, the USA, the UK, and India
  • In 2023, the most common reason for international travellers coming to Australia was to visit friends and relatives
  • Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne are the top 3 most visited regions for international visitors.

How many tourists come to Australia each year?

As of June 2023, Tourism Australia says that there were approximately 5.8 million international visitors to our shores. This is a year-on-year growth of over 391%, illustrating the significant recovery of Australia’s tourism industry. 

However, current numbers still have a way to go to reach 2019's 8.7 million arrivals.

According to Tourism Research Australia (TRA), the year ending March 2023 brought 4.6 million international visitors into the country. That’s about 58% of what we saw in March 2020, right before the pandemic began its slow crawl across Australia and we shut our borders.

In the decade preceding the 2020 pandemic, there was a yearly average of about 6.7 million international visitors to Australia, according to TRA data.

Short-term arrival stats from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) illustrate the difference between pre-pandemic and post-pandemic travel to Australia, despite being a year out from border restrictions being removed. 

According to the ABS, the number of short-term international arrivals (those travelling in Australia for less than 12 months) for June 2023 was 17.9% lower than in September 2019, pre-Covid pandemic.

The largest source of international arrivals to Australia, according to the ABS, was New Zealand, accounting for 20% of all arrivals.

What was the most common reason for travelling to Australia?

Visiting friends and relatives was the most common reason for travelling to Australia in 2023, according to Tourism Australia

Travellers' most common purpose for visiting Australia in 2023 was:

  1. Visiting friends and relatives (43%)
  2. Holiday (31.8%)
  3. Business (8.9%)
  4. Education (6.5%)
  5. Others (6%)
  6. Employment (3.9%).

However, the picture was different in 2019, with the most common reason for visiting Australia being holidays (46%), followed by visiting friends and relatives (30%). During 2022, only 16.9% of international travellers came to the country for holidays, with the bulk of arrivals coming to see friends and family (55.5%).  

Now that the worst of the pandemic is but an uncomfortable memory for most, the gap between those coming to the country to see friends and family and those coming to have a holiday is growing smaller.

What country visits Australia the most?

According to TRA, the most common tourists to Australia in the year ending June 2023 were from New Zealand, with approximately 1.1 million visitors from across the ditch. 

The top 5 countries which visited Australia the most in 2023 were:

  1. New Zealand (1,082,400) 
  2. United Kingdom (573,600)
  3. United States of America (557,300)
  4. India (383,400)
  5. Singapore (357,400). 

How much money does Australia make from tourism each year?

Tourism was once Australia’s fourth-largest exporting industry. It contributed to 8.2% of the country’s export earnings in 2018-19, making it a very valuable industry for Australia’s economy. 

In total, Australia generated $60.8 billion in 2018-19 as a result of both domestic and international tourism, as per Tourism Australia. In that same financial year, international visitors spent $44.6 billion in Australia. 

Furthermore, tourism isn’t only important for the major Australian cities. Tourism Australia found that 44 cents of every dollar spent was in regional areas.

A graphic illustrating the percentage of money that goes into both metro and regional areas as a result of tourism.

Two-year holiday hiatus due to the pandemic

In the two years prior to 2022, our tourism industry took a very real hit. It generated far less money and employed far fewer people than usual.

An infographic illustrating the drop in tourism industry employment, tourism's percentage of the GDP, and the amount that international tourists spent in Australia.

For example, the number of people employed in tourism over the 2020-21 financial year fell by over 20% (129,200 jobs) to 507,000 employees.  

Gross domestic product has been down, too. The latest Tourism Satellite Account released by the ABS recorded a fall of 38% in tourism GDP over the 2020-21 financial year. The release also shows that tourism’s contribution to Australia’s GDP dropped from 2.6% to 1.6% from the previous financial year. 

In the post-pandemic world, fewer tourists has obviously meant few dollars spent on our shores. For example, international tourists to Australia spent a comparatively low $7.5 billion in the financial year to June 2022 – 24% of pre-Covid levels according to TRA.

Most visited states in Australia

Most tourists go to New South Wales when they visit Australia, according to the Overseas Arrivals and Departures data from the ABS. 

NSW accounted for 37.5% of all short-term visitors state or territory of stay while in Australia, followed by Victoria (24.4%), Queensland (22.8%), Western Australia (9.3%), South Australia (2.9%), the Australian Capital Territory (1.3%), Tasmania (0.9%), then the Northern Territory (0.9%).

Feeling inspired to go globetrotting after much of the world’s borders have reopened? Check out Mozo’s travel insurance guides and news for the latest travel inspiration and updates.

Jack Dona
Jack Dona
Money writer

Jack is RG146 Generic Knowledge certified, with a Bachelor of Communications in Creative Writing from UTS, and uses his creative flair to cut through the financial jargon and make home loans, insurance and banking interesting. His reader-first approach to creating content and his passion for financial literacy means he always looks for innovative ways to explain personal finance. Jack's research and explanations have been featured in government publications, and his work is regularly featured alongside major publications in Google's Top Stories for Insurance.