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Exclusive: International arrivals down 80% despite border opening

written by Adam Thorn | May 12, 2022

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.

The news comes after Qantas said its domestic capacity is set to reach 110 per cent of pre-pandemic levels at Easter and data showing overall flight numbers recovering from the Omicron surge.

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.

Comments (8)

  • Flying Tiger


    If they think the cause for the low numbers is, (quote) “concerns [about] the war in Ukraine, coupled with continued fear over new COVID variants” they’re wrong. The reason is much simpler – travel is just WAY too complicated now. We need to get rid of ALL vaccine related travel restrictions for both Aussies and International arrivals, including all the additional paperwork related to vaccines.
    My entire team are based in the US. They’d all love to come back to Aus. We’ve actually planned multiple meetings, which have then needed to be cancelled, because they’re either unvaxxed (which means they can’t enter because they’re not Aussie citizens) or they’re simply nervous about all the extra paperwork.
    Of course the other reason is that most of the world now sees Australia as a hard left socialist state. Who wants to holiday in a place where you risk being locked down for 2 years?

  • Sam pinnto


    Of course , WA will shut its border just like that!!!!!!!

  • Nick


    The way the LNP gov treated expats and international students during the height of the pandemic was disgusting. Many were left to fend for themselves at charities and through the kindness of local communities. They contribute millions through income tax and indirectly through GST purchases but got nothing back when times got tough and told to go back home. Who can blame them for not jumping at the chance to return. Shame on the LNP.

  • Milomir Neskovic


    No wonder, having in mind how the reputation of the country was destroyed by fascist governments during the Covid-19 campaign.

  • Adrian P


    Australia is no longer a cheap place to visit.
    40 pence 20 years ago would buy a dollar now you need 57 pence to buy you a dollar.
    Property prices have pushed up accommodation costs. (The Surf Shire Council brought in a local law for the backpacker workforce to be allowed to camp in backyards.)
    Look at the BBC website for stories on shooting kangaroos, falling Koala populations and general indifference to emissions from Australian leaders.
    A montage of iconic Australian landscapes, such as the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney Harbour and Uluru reminds the world what the Australians are trashing.
    It s not all bad, because the lack of backpackers means better pay and conditions for Australians working in hospitality and agriculture.

  • Bob Hawes


    The numbers are down but how many international carriers are restored services to Australia compared to 2019? I suspect its much lower and we have a long way to go to restore that capacity.

  • Ian B.


    What would be very interesting is to know the comparison between arrivals and departures. Anecdotal evidence indicates the potential for a net reduction of the Aus population.

  • Liz ording


    When will virgin Australia be flying back into new zealand

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