Where Are Australians Going

By Ysabel Tang

5 minutes

11 November 2016

Australians are well known for their wanderlust. In fact, it’s often said that no matter where you go in the world, you are guaranteed to run into another Australian traveller. But just how much of the population actually travels abroad? And where do they decide to go?

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), an incredible 8.2 million residents left Australia’s borders in 2012. Considering that the resident population of Australia was 22.9 million at the time, that’s a remarkably high percentage of the population.

We take a closer look at Australian travel trends over the years, covering everything from who does the travelling, to where people go and why travelling is so appealing to the Australian population.

A Rise In The Number Of Travellers

Australia is often thought of as one of the greatest travel destinations for people across the world, but since 2008, the number of residents departing for international travel actually exceeds the number of visitors to Australia.

When Australians go abroad, they either opt for short-term travel (less than a year) or long-term travel, which is either permanent or over a year. While the number of long-term stays abroad was only 372,000 in 2012, in 2015, a record 9.2 million short-term resident departures took place.

Before that, the highest recorded number of short-term resident departures was 9 million, which was recorded the previous year. When you compare these figures to the decade before (2004-05), we see a huge difference. Back then, there were 4.6 million short-term departures, half that of last year.

When looking at the trend estimate series for short-term resident departures, you will note a long-term growth over the last ten years, ending in June 2015. This series reached a high point in May 2015, with 778,300 movements taking place. More recently, the number of short-term resident departures from Australia was 744,500, taking place in January 2016. This was a slightly more compared to the previous month, increasing by 0.9%.

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What Is Causing All This Travel?

While Australians still make considerably more domestic trips (3.4), than outbound trips (0.4), international travel rates have really soared over the past decade. This may come as a surprise considering that the country is not exactly placed in the most convenient position, geographically speaking.

While some say that travel has simply become part of the Australian culture, there is much more to it that that. The growth in international travel has previously been linked to economic prosperity,  a high Australian dollar and budget flights. Simply put, Australians travel abroad because they have the means to do so.

Of course, to travel afar, you also need to have the time. Luckily, Australians live in a society where the majority of people receive a minimum of four weeks holiday a year.

While the Australian dollar has fallen by more than 25% in the last two years, Australians still ranked tenth in the top spenders in the world on international tourism. It would seem that Australia’s love of travel is going nowhere.

Where Do Australians Go?

When you look at the data, it’s clear to see that a significant number of Australians like to travel abroad, but where exactly are they travelling? Well, the top areas for travelling are mostly summer locations.

Since the majority of travellers (59%) gave holiday as their reason for travel, choosing summer locations would make sense. As for other reasons stated, 24% travelled to visit family and friends while only 9% travelled on business. The median length of a holiday was 15 days in 2012, whereas business trips ranged from 7 to 11-16 days, depending on the distance travelled.

According to the ABS, these are the top 10 locations Australians travelled to:

  • New Zealand
  • Indonesia
  • United States of America
  • The United Kingdom, Channel Islands and/or Isle of Man
  • Thailand
  • China
  • Singapore
  • Fiji
  • India
  • Japan

As you can see, Australians are choosing to travel to destinations in South-East Asia and the Asia-Pacific region more than ever before. When you compare 1991 figures to 2014 figures, the percentage of Australians’ travel to South-East Asia grew from 22% to just over 31%. Considering the convenience and costs of flights, it is easy to see why these have become popular destinations.

It is interesting to note that Australia's passport is one of the most powerful in the world, with a passport power rank of 8. The rank takes into account the total visa-free score, giving Australians quite a lot of flexibility when it comes to where they can travel.

In fact, Australia has visa-free access, or visa granted upon arrival, to an impressive 169 countries, putting it in the top 10 rankings of most powerful passports worldwide. To put this into perspective, the least powerful passport belongs to Afghanistan, with a power rank of 92 and access to a mere 25 countries.

Who’s Doing the Travelling?

Looking at past travel trends, we can see that from 2004-05 to 2014-15, the median age for all short-term resident departures  remained the same at 41 years. However, if we take a closer look at the statistics, we can see that while the median age has remained constant, there has been a change in the age distribution.

We can see an increase in the number of travellers between the ages of 50-69, from 27.7% up to 29.5%. Conversely, the proportion of Australian residents travelling overseas aged 25-49 decreased from 48.2% in 2004-05 to 44.4% in 2014-15.

Furthermore, the median age for males and females increased to 42 years and 40 years respectively in 2015. While the average age has increased, the difference between the number of male Australian male and female travelling residents is decreasing.

It’s also interesting to see how travel varies across the different states. Residents of New South Wales contributed the highest proportion of travellers at 34%. The rest of the states came in as follows:

  • Victoria (25%)
  • Queensland (17%)
  • Western Australia (15%)
  • South Australia (5%)
  • The Australian Capital Territory (2%)
  • Tasmania (1%)
  • The Northern Territory (1%)

Clearly our appetite for travelling overseas has grown over the years. And, while travel trends have changed, one thing is for certain: Australians love to travel and there seem to be no signs of stopping them.

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