The number of international arrivals into Australia is still down nearly 80 per cent compared to pre-COVID, despite border restrictions lifting.
New figures released on Thursday morning show 374,630 arrivals in March, up just 28 per cent on February this year and far lower than the 1.66 million recorded in March 2019.
The statistics – which technically track “international border crossings” rather than people – are significant because they represent the first full month of non-Australian residents being allowed to enter Australia after the rules were relaxed on 21 February 2022.
It will lead to concerns the war in Ukraine, coupled with continued fear over new COVID variants, is dampening aviation’s recovery.
It also comes despite Tourism Australia launching a $40 million global campaign to bring international travellers back down under in February.
It was the first widespread international campaign that the government tourism body has been able to produce and run since before the COVID pandemic and the 2020 bushfire crisis.
Titled “Don’t Go Small. Go Australia”, it included a 30-second ad that was rolled out across Germany, France, Italy, the US and UK.
The 30-second TV advertisement featured a montage of iconic Australian landscapes, such as the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney Harbour and Uluru.
The Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Dan Tehan, said then that Tourism Australia had been long preparing to ramp-up its international marketing efforts.
“The world has been waiting two years to get Down Under for a holiday and our latest ad campaign will remind them of what they’ve been missing,” Tehan said.
“After COVID-19, the world is looking forward to taking a holiday and we want that holiday to be in Australia.
“This new campaign is just the first step in a long-term strategy to restart tourism to Australia, with further investment in tourism marketing campaigns internationally to come in the second half of the year.”
Domestically, however, the situation appears far more positive. Earlier this month, Gold Coast Airport became Australia’s first major airport to fully recover from COVID, with passenger and flight numbers beating pre-pandemic records.
The facility welcomed and bid farewell to almost 25,000 people on Easter Monday, a new monthly record, and not far off the all-time record of 25,455 passengers on 4 January 2020.
Thursday’s international arrival news follows Australian Aviation revealing last month that the number of international passengers passing through Australian airports actually declined in February despite the border opening.