THE face of international tourism in Australia has changed considerably over the last 40-years with Asian countries now the main source of visitors down under.
The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics snapshot of overseas arrivals and departures, shows seven of the top 10 source markets for international visitors are in Asia, compared with just four in 1976.
Although New Zealand remained Australia's biggest visitor market, Chinese arrivals exploded from just 500 in 1976 to 1.2 million in 2016.
South Korea and India also joined the top 10, at the expense of Canada, Germany and Papua New Guinea.
"China has almost caught up to New Zealand as the most popular source country for visitors to Australia," said Jessica Noack from the ABS Migration Analysis and Reporting Team.
"After China, visitors from Vietnam had the highest growth rate over the past 40 years, growing from 100 in 1976 to 70,500 in 2016.
"United Arab Emirates had the next highest growth rate, increasing from 100 in 1976 to 40,900 in 2016 while visitors from South Korea grew from 1200 in 1976 to 286,000 in 2016."
A total of 8.3 million people travelled to Australia in 2016, up 11% on the previous year.
New South Wales was the most popular destination for overseas arrivals claiming nearly 38% of all short-term trips, Ms Noack said.
"That was followed by Victoria on 25% and Queensland with 22%," she said.
The most frequently cited reason for journey was for a holiday, making up over half of all journeys, and 11 days was the average length of stay.
Tourism and Transport Forum CEO Margy Osmond said the figures were very pleasing and highlighted the need for the Federal Government to stop slugging the industry with higher taxes and charges.
"The backpacker tax and the $60 holiday tax - the Passenger Movement Charge - on travellers is still fresh in the minds of the industry and the full impact of these measures have yet to filter through," said Ms Osmond.
"This year must be about the government keeping its hands out of the pockets of the industry so we can reach our full potential as a wealth and jobs generator for the nation."
She said 2017 should be a year of investment in tourism infrastructure, such as airports, cruise terminals, roads and public transport.
"We need to make sure Australia can remain competitive in an increasingly cut-throat global tourism market."
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