AUSTRALIA has, for the first time, enticed more than eight million international tourists over the last 12 months, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The acceleration of international visitors has been dramatic, with the eight million mark being reached just 18 months after visitor numbers eclipsed seven million annually.
In contrast, it took more than six years for visitor numbers to climb from five million to six million.
“Since 2013, growth in the tourism industry has supercharged with visitor numbers breaking the six, seven, and now eight million mark,” Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Steven Ciobo said.
“This rapid rise has come on the back of strong Coalition Government support for the tourism industry. The tourism industry is growing three times faster under the Coalition Government than it was under the previous Labor Government.”
Mr Ciobo said the Federal Government’s support for the tourism industry “hasn’t happened by accident”
There have been some key changes to the sector, credited with helping to boost inbound tourism, including a lowering of the value of the Australian dollar in recent years.
Mr Ciobo said one factor hardly remembered was the removal of the former Labor Government’s carbon tax “which slugged the tourism sector over $115 million in its first year alone”.
He said the previous governments cuts to the Tourism Australia budget were reversed into a record $639 million spend on Tourism Australia to promote Australia internationally.
There have also been several practical moves, including increasing the number of markets that have access to online visa lodgement from 72 to more than 200, including China, India and Indonesia.
The Government has also announced a new 10-year multiple entry visitor visa to encourage repeat visitation from China and made visa applications available online in Simplified Chinese – the first time Australia has trialled visa application lodgement in a language other than English.
Perhaps just as importantly, Australia has expanded international aviation capacity, including a tripling of gateway capacity between Australia and China.
“To drive further growth from our largest tourism market the Prime Minister and Chinese President have jointly designated 2017 as the Australia-China Year of Tourism,” Mr Ciobo said.