Bogan exodus accelerates

By Leith van Onselen

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has just released overseas short-term arrivals and departures figures for May, which contained more bad news for the tourism industry.

Short-term visitor arrivals decreased a seasonally adjusted -1.7% over the month, whereas short-term resident departures rose by more by 1.5%.

In the 12 months to May 2012, the annual number of departures increased by 7.2% relative to the corresponding period of the prior year, whereas arrivals rose by only 0.4%.

Taking a longer-term view, the ratio of annual tourism arrivals to departures remains at 25-year lows (see below chart). Little wonder the domestic tourism industry is hurting!

And as suggested above, the fall in the ratio of arrivals to departures has been caused predominantly by an exodus of Australians choosing to travel abroad rather than domestically:

In the year to May 2012, 7.9 million Australians holidayed overseas – more than double the level of 10 years ago (3.4 million). This compares to only 6.0m tourist arrivals over the same period (4.8 million 10 years ago).

South East Asia (particularly Indonesia and Thailand) remains Australia’s favourite holiday destination, receiving 32% of Australia’s departures in May 2012. This was followed by Oceania (20%), the Americas (13%), North East Asia (11%) and North West Europe (11%):

As usual, the Aussie bogan’s penchant for Bali and Thailand, in particular, is driving much of the decline in Australian tourism, with departures to Indonesia (Bali) rising 7% over the month:

By contrast, the most foreign visitors to Australia came from Oceania (mostly New Zealand) and North East Asia, which each accounted for 23% of arrivals in May 2012. This was followed by North Western Europeans (19%) and South East Asians (15%):

It will be interesting to see whether the decline in the Aussie dollar over the month of June delivers some respite to the domestic tourism sector in next month’s release.

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Leith van Onselen
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  1. I will be joining the Bali numbers later in 2012.

    Who can resist with airlines throwing $500 direct return tickets at Adelaidians (normally we have to connect via Melbourne for decent flight deals) and with the AUD/IDR climbing back to higher levels… it will be cheaper than any similar holidays I can do locally.

    • I cannot afford a 5-day holiday to Kangaroo Islands but certainly can afford a holiday to SE!

    • drsmithyMEMBER

      I must confess I have little interest in holidaying in SE Asia at all, but even ignoring that…

      Are you really sure you want to be head to a country that the worst Australia has to offer has has on the tops of its destination list for a good chunk of the last decade ? I can’t imagine the locals hold Australian tourists in particularly high regard.

      • I went to Bali in 2007.

        2009 did Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Phuket.
        2010 did Japan.
        2011 did Paris, Rome, Zurich & Venice.

        Of all the places I’ve been Bali was by far the most tourist friendly, business operators were very grateful for your business and walked around with smiles. No hostility whatsoever.

        Hopefully nothing has changed in 5 years.

          • About as far from bogan as you can get. Dislike football, beer, ford/holdens. Most “boganisms” don’t apply to me.

            Perhaps the people of Bali know how to pick the bogan from the quality tourist 😉

        • Unlike Vienna where we saw a bus station attendant ask a German tourist if he was stupid.

          • Mining BoganMEMBER

            You’re not a seasoned traveller until you can understand and answer that question in several languages…

        • I went to Bali in 06 and thought it was lovely, even kuta, and again in 10 and thought kuta was a dump (the rest is still nice).

          I would only use Bali as a jumping point in future, the rest of Indonesia is either nicer, more interesting, or both.

  2. Yet, the absolute tourism arrival numbers do not go down but just remain steady at their highest level – it seems the tourism sector would then have little to complain apart from seeing no growth.

    Or might it be that big spending vistors (Europe) are being replaced by less spending vistors (NZ)?

    • That plus the growth in outbound volumes is leading to contraction in the domestic tourism industry (addressable market of a tourism operator = inbound + domestic tourism).

  3. Planning a trip to Thailand for early/mid next year, can’t wait.

    Poor service, high prices (for everything especially alcohol, the biggest cost) and a dull experience vs “do almost whatever you want if you have the cash which is practically nothing and everything is way cheaper anyway”? Where do I sign?

    It’s not just the dollar being strong (which certainly helps) it’s everything. Australian tourism is paying the price for Australia’s increased cost of everything (mainly due to ill thought out regulations).

    • Basically agreed with you. I myself just got back from holiday and family visit to Indonesia and Singapore. The equation comes down basically on “value”..i.e. pricing.

      The tourism/service industry in Asia are not all good and some have bad infrastructure and services too but with the price level they’re charging right now, still provide best value for your dollars. I mostly enjoyed the Singaporean Sale happening in June/July each year for stocking up my clothing/shoes needs for next few years 😉

      • I wouldn’t say Singapore is cheap, to be honest. It’s one of the most expensive places I’ve been too.

        Then again, I like to have a pint or ten when I go out on holidays. Singapore prices are extortionate.

        Can’t wait for my Thai holiday.

        • You’re right, Singapore is not that cheap but with the Sale season, strong AUD and GST refund plus good fashion / shopping malls then you have best combo for shopping and dining stop-overs. I managed to have dinner at a good French bistro place with black truffle pasta, escargot and grilled foie-gras etc for only around $50-60 / head. I bet you can’t have it here in Sydney less than $100/head with same standard.

          And as I always told my wife, anywhere looks cheap compared to Aussie’s prices right now.

  4. George Locust

    Australian customer service standards are among the worst in the world. Why wouldnt anyone take their family abroad for the annual holiday?

    • I still do, although it suits me at the moment. But, to get an equivalent, modern, fresh option with some form of service, flights etc for a week leaves little change out of $4K. Buy Australian is wearing a little thin!

  5. That departures line on the chart is highly reflective of the structural changes we’ve seen in airline networks since the inception of low cost models in Australia.

    It all started domestically in 1999 with Impulse, then Virgin, the collapse of Ansett which focussed all attention on the domestic market for a few years. Later (2003-), the international opportunities arose and so did Jetstar and more international low cost competition. International capacity to cheap destinations has skyrocketed and naturally so has the flow of punters.

    Aussies are shunning local options because of cost. They are price sensitive, although it’s hard to conclude the economy is a mess when the propensity to spend on travel is very strong.

    It has historically been a discretionary item at the front line when the economy turns. If we’re saying the economy has turned, the only conclusion is the travel industry these days seems to be more aligned to the cafe/services culture, where people are simply not willing to forego the pleasure, regardless of how their finances look.

  6. Me and the family just got back from a month in Arizona, Utah and Southern California. A beautiful part of the US.

    Looking to go to Fiji next Easter for a week or so and it looks like Im not the only one…

    Not really the signs you would expect of a struggling eccomomy to me.

  7. With scoot coming online with dirt cheap flights to singapore (as low as 380$ returns!), removal of curfews and a great jumping spot to malaysia, etc I expect to see it surging up the chart.

  8. Just got back from a short break in QLD. The place we stayed was inexpensive (nice change) but the attached restaurant closed at 7 pm for new diners, and we were a bit out of town. Once we wandered into town we discovered that the weekday evening dining options consisted of one expensive retaurant and a range of 4 fast food or takeaway options. A coiuple of pubs were offering counter meals, but an underage child is not always welcome.
    Contrasting this with recent trips overseas, where a hotel room costing the same was considerably nicer, the dining options were wide and the service culture much better- why bother with Australia?
    I was fascinated by the LNP promise to focus on the 4 pillars of the QLD economy- Mining, tourism, construction and farming- as far as I can tell these are all very very dependent on external factors. Construction could be driven by the state, but given the recent cts unlikely.
    Maybe there will be some seachange in tourism, but I dubt it.

      • Stanthorpe. Can’t afford Sunshine coast, despise gold coast and couldn’t go overseas on this occasion.

        But have had not dissimilar experiences in Rockhampton.

        One of Stanthorpe’s “selling” points is their range of gourmet restaurants. ha.

  9. StanGoodvibes

    For the price of a week in the Whitsundays we got 12 days in Singapore and Goa over Easter

    Cost me over $1000 just to go to Cairns for a long weekend and a day on the reef *and* Cairns is full of overweight bogans.

    Go figure…

  10. Just wondering if there is a correlation with long term arrivals? i.e. with more immigrants coming here, mostly for economic reasons, with no love for Australia geographically or sense of community with it’s people? To me, heading out into this wide brown land is more exciting and beautiful than any sophisticated or exotic destination.

  11. michael francis

    Up in Darwin. Tourists everywhere. And for every tourist there are 6 credit cards.

    Australia-the land of football, meat pies, kangaroos and credit cards.

  12. in my old age experience of shopping around and places to go :

    ‘OZ’ = who cares about the client, in oz sourced web shopping, oz retail and oz tourist support and destinations – who cares – give us your money and see ya – and don’t dare whinge about being ripped off – oh so you’ve changed your mind? – the excuse for everything –

    – i’ve seen a Watsons bay ferry take off before the last one of a party of Japanese tourists was able to board – unbelievable, but who cares

    – go up to the great tourist state of Qld, it’s either super expensive or trash + up and down the coast all the wonderful destinations look the same = what’s to offer?

    go down to ‘super green’ Tassy and really look around = polluted and chopped down heaven

    listen to Howes mob, or Tony’s crew – we’re alright jack and jill, we’re the best, you do as you’re told morons

    ‘overseas’ = shopping? they can’t do enough for you the client spending your money with them – tourism, same – this is my experience over the years – but hop off the plane back here and it’s train graffiti and swearing = who cares…..we’re so much better than all the rest…..

    … might i suggest that rather than dropping interest rates to zero to create the spend and reduce the buck – give money away for nothing to Mr & Mrs Oz to only be spent here – and pay tourists to come here – that should be valid economic help for this lucky country