Earlier today the Australian Bureau of Statistics released overseas arrivals and departures data for December 2016.  The data is important because it provides insight around how many people are coming to and leaving from Australia.  It also provides some insight into where they come from, why they are coming to Australia, how long they intend to stay and where they are spending most of their time.

Throughout 2016, there were 715,680 permanent and long-term arrivals to Australia which was 5.8% higher than the previous year.  Note that long-term arrivals are those that are intending to stay for more than 12 months.  Over the same period, there were 448,690 permanent and long-term departures from Australia which was 13.6% higher over the year.  The number of permanent and long-term arrivals to Australia is significantly higher than the departures however, the recent acceleration in departures is noteworthy.

Finally taking a look at permanent settler figures shows a big shift in the part of the world in which settlers to Australia are arriving from.  More than a quarter (25.8%) of permanent settler arrivals in 2016 came from Southern and Central Asia followed by: 16.8% from North Africa and the Middle East, 15.2% from North East Asia, 14.3% from South East Asia, 11.5% from Oceania and Antarctica, 6.4% from North-West Europe, 5.6% from Sub-Saharan Africa, 2.3% from the Americas and 2.2% from Southern and Eastern Europe.  There has been a substantial decline in settlers from Oceania and Antarctica over the recent year and a significant ramp-up in settlers from North Africa and the Middle East over the past year.  Ten years ago, North-West Europe was the largest source of permanent settler arrivals to Australia, last year it accounted for less than 7% of arrivals.

From a tourism perspective, short-term arrivals and departures (less than 12 months) are more indicative of those coming to or leaving Australia for a holiday or for business purposes.  The chart highlights that there are more Australians leaving the country for holidays than there are foreigners coming and holidaying in Australia.  Note that this hasn’t always been the case however, cheaper airfares and a stronger Australian dollar has resulted in an increasing number of Australians holiday abroad.  Note that this doesn’t mean that they aren’t also separately holidaying in Australia.  In 2016 there were 8,262,900 short-term visitor arrivals to Australia which was 11.0% higher than the previous year.  Over the same period there were 9,928,100 short-term resident departures from Australia which was 5.0% higher over the year.  While more Australians are heading overseas than foreigners are arriving, it is encouraging to see arrivals growing at a more rapid pace than departures which has closed the gap between the two.

New Zealand remains the largest source of short-term arrivals to Australia with 1,347,400 arrivals over the past year.  The big mover over recent years has been China which is now the second largest source of short-term arrivals to Australia with 1,199,100 over the past year.  The other important trend to note is how short-term arrivals from the United Kingdom have stalled.  It remains the third largest source of short-term arrivals to the country however, arrivals are lower than they were a decade ago.  In terms of the countries/regions that have recorded the greatest growth in short-term arrivals over the past year, they were: Other Americas (+26.6%, 19th greatest source of arrivals), Taiwan (26.4%, 13th greatest source of arrivals), South Korea (23.7%, 8th greatest source of arrivals), Other Southern and Central Asia (22.8%, 29th greatest source of arrivals) and Other South-East Asia (22.8%, 42nd greatest source of arrivals).  Note that ‘Other Americas’ is North, Central and South America excluding: Canada, USA, Brazil and Mexico, ‘Other Southern and Central Asia’ is this region excluding India and Sri Lanka and ‘Other South-East Asia’ excludes: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Timor Leste.

These data show that the popularity of Australia as a holiday destination is growing in new markets which is encouraging however, most of the growth is coming from countries and regions that contribute a relatively small overall proportion of short-term arrivals.  Keep in mind that 20 years ago, Japan was the number one country for short-term arrivals to Australia while Malaysia was the 10th largest source (now 7th) and China was the 14th largest source (now 2nd).

The countries that are the largest sources of short-term arrivals to Australia are generally reciprocated with Australian tending to like to visit these countries.  New Zealand is the destination of choice for short-term departures with 1,326,100 over the past year followed by: Indonesia (1,254,300) and USA (1,056,300).  As is the case with short-term arrivals, the destinations which are experiencing the greatest growth in short-term departures are generally countries and regions which historically have not been destinations of choice for Australian holidaymakers.  The countries and regions to experience the greatest growth in short term arrivals from Australia were: Poland (+43.2%, the 50th greatest destination for departures), Lebanon (34.4%, the 32nd greatest destination for departures), Brazil (29.1%, 46th greatest destination for departures), Pakistan (25.9%, 37th greatest destination for departures) and Argentina (21.8%, 59th greatest destination for departures).

A greater number of persons are moving to Australia for a long-term or permanently than those which are leaving which is resulting in positive net overseas migration.  Historically most of these settlers have come from nearby countries in Oceania and North-West Europe (think UK and Ireland).  More recently the nature of settler arrivals have shifted to Southern and Central Asia (places like India, Pakistan and Afghanistan) and North Africa and the Middle East (places like Iraq, Sudan and Lebanon).  From a housing perspective, migrants from these locations are likely to have different housing requirements than those emigrating from places like New Zealand and the UK.  These people come from more densely populated countries with different housing types and developers need to understand the different requirements they may have.

In terms of short-term arrivals, they are growing at faster pace than short-term departures.  This suggests an increasing number of people are holidaying in Australia as well as the fact that more Australians may be choosing to holiday at home.  This is bolstering the tourism sector which in-turn creates direct jobs.  It also creates in-direct jobs in industries such as construction which need to build the infrastructure to cater to the growing number of tourists coming to the country.