Australian tourism is still lagging behind pre-pandemic levels despite an overall resurgence over the past year.
Fresh data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed total arrivals in 2022 reached just 45 per cent of 2019 levels.
Close to 3.7 million tourists touched down in Australia in 2022, up 15 per cent from the previous year.
But that figure is still down 2.5 million people from a decade ago.
The figures suggest that despite a slow start to the year, international tourism built as travel restrictions were lifted.
New Zealand topped the list for the largest source of arrivals in 2022.
The Kiwi’s love for Australia knocked China from the top spot which it held in 2019.
NSW remained the most popular state, receiving 35.5 per cent of all short term visitors (people staying less than 12 months), followed by Victoria (26.4 per cent) and Queensland (21.0 per cent).
A surge in arrivals from India (303,000) and Singapore (296,000) helped boost tourism numbers from 2019 levels.
In contrast, there were just 89,000 arrivals from China – accounting for just 6 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
In 2019, more than 1.4m Chinese tourists visited Australia, spending an estimated $10.3bn
After almost three years of closed borders, Chinese people are now able to travel freely.
But Australia is not on a China approved-list for tour groups and evidence of a negative Covid test is still required to enter the country.
Austrade research released last month forecast the number of Chinese tourists will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2026.
Overall, approximately 59,480 international students arrived in Australia in January, more than double the number of students who returned in 2023.
That does not include the some 40,000 Chinese students who are expected to return to Australia after Beijing announced a snap ban on online learning at foreign universities.
Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said it a welcome boost to the economy.
“There is still a way to go in reaching pre-Covid numbers, but we are pleased by the progress to date,” she said.
“More students coming from China – our largest source market – will be a welcome boost as we work back to the position of strength we held prior to the pandemic.”