International travel numbers soar as optimism boosts aviation industry

International travel made a strong comeback in 2022 in a huge boost for an industry hit hard by the pandemic, Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data reveals.

More than 19 million arrivals and departures were recorded throughout the year, the ABS stated on Thursday.

While total arrivals for 2022 were just 45 per cent of 2019 levels, monthly figures showed the recovery building through the year, ABS head of migration statistics Jenny Dobak said.

Total arrivals in December 2022 reached 1.3 million, compared with less than 300,000 in January 2022. Australia opened its borders fully to international travel in February 2022 after being closed for almost two years.

“Short-term visitor arrivals in 2022 remained lower than before the COVID-19 pandemic, with the number of arrivals in January 2022 just 8 per cent of the same period in 2019,” Ms Dobak said.

“However, the number of arrivals increased steadily over the year and by December had grown to 60 per cent of the same period in 2019.

“Similarly, by December 2022, the number of short-term resident returns had increased to 71 per cent of the corresponding month in 2019.”

New Zealand replaced China as the largest source of visitors, with 698,000 arrivals from the neighbouring country.
Other countries that made it to the top 10 source countries for 2022 included Indonesia, Canada and Germany, which were not present in the top 10 source countries in 2019.
While New Zealand was the largest source of visitors, arrivals from India (303,000) had the strongest recovery in 2022, reaching 76 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
Singapore (296,000) was the next strongest of the top 10 source countries, reaching 62 per cent of its 2019 level.
China accounted for just 6 per cent of its pre-pandemic level.

Families re-united, business travel still low

According to the ABS data, the aviation sector performed well during December.

Melbourne Airport was bustling with activity due to the return of domestic and international travel and capacity, according to a spokesperson.

“There’s a real buzz around the place. It’s nice to feel the airport humming and to see international arrivals any day of the week…lots of hugs and smiles. Those really lovely reunions,” the spokesperson said.

“It’s nice to be dealing with a lot of travellers and airlines again.”

The return of foreign carriers and the extra capacity they brought to the market was a standout feature of the summer, enabling people to travel to and from Australia.

The spokesperson revealed that 37 per cent of the airport’s travellers were visiting friends and relatives.

“A lot of people are traveling for nice reasons, to see friends or family that they haven’t seen for a while.

“Business travel hasn’t quite returned to where it was. So whereas in the past you might have seen people traipsing up for a meeting that they didn’t necessarily want to go on, there’s less of that now, and more people who are traveling because they want to.

“And that’s probably reflected in the atmosphere around the terminals.”

Despite the usual dip in February, there is an expectation of increased traffic around Easter.

The spokesperson said that while many Chinese travellers are visiting friends and relatives, the higher inbound traffic than outbound on Chinese flights suggests that international students are returning.

There has also been a noticeable increase in Indian travellers, likely due to the expanded capacity to India, with both Qantas and Air India offering flights.

The spokesperson said that with the launch of VietJet and increased capacity from others, such as Cebu Pacific, there’s cause for optimism about the year ahead.

Topics: Air Travel
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