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 February 25, 2003
New Figures Confirm Flat Tourism Performance For Australia In 2002

 New figures just released show despite a strong December 2002 Quarter, inbound tourism to Australia remains flat, Australian Tourist Commission (ATC) Managing Director, Ken Boundy said.

International arrivals to Australia increased by 10 per cent in the December 2002 Quarter compared to the previous year. A total of 4.8 million international visitors arrived in Australia, down by 0.3 per cent for the year-end December 2002. "The industry has now suffered two years of flat performance, with visitor arrivals down by 0.3 per cent in the year end 2002 and down by two per cent in 2001," Mr Boundy said. "Visitor arrivals for 2002 are still below the record 4.9 million visitors in 2000."

"This is the first time in more than two decades that inbound arrivals to Australia have been flat for two consecutive years, highlighting the challenging business environment for the sector.

"The figures show that the market bore the impact of reduced consumer confidence at the start of 2002, however conditions improved during the year which led to a slight recovery in the global travel market, and subsequently arrivals to Australia.

"In addition to a slump in consumer confidence, arrivals to Australia were also impacted by the trend for international travellers to holiday closer to home for shorter periods.

"There was mixed performance from key tourism markets with increases in arrivals from the UK (up 4 per cent), Japan (up 6 per cent) and China (up 20 per cent) during 2002, while visitor numbers from the US, New Zealand and Singapore all declined by three per cent.

"Looking forward there is no guarantee that these visitor arrival patterns will continue for 2003," he said.

Mr Boundy added that the next six months for the industry would be tough with consumer confidence expected to soften due to ongoing economic and political uncertainty. This will impact on consumers' propensity to travel overseas, particularly to long haul destinations.

"The industry is already seeing the signs of softening conditions, with forward bookings for the next six months significantly down on previous years," he said. "The feedback from operators in all key tourism markets indicates that consumers are once again placing their travel plans on hold.

"There are also a number of other factors which could impact on our sector, including the rising Australian dollar.

"The state of the global economy continues to be a key determining factor for people holidaying overseas. As such, regaining economic stability is a critical factor for recovery of travel and tourism worldwide.

"Past experience has shown Australia's inbound tourism industry is quick to recover following global uncertainty, compared to other tourist destinations. It is important for the industry to work together over the next few months to ensure this trend follows."

2002 -- Australia's Inbound Tourism Industry

* 4.8 million visitors during the year ended 31 December 2002, down 0.3%
* 534,000 visitors during December 2002 (up 2 %)
* Top source markets: New Zealand (790,100), Japan (715,500) and UK (642,700)
* Europe: UK -- 642,700 up by 4% Germany -- 134,800 down by 9%
* New Zealand: 790,100 down by 3 %
* North East Asia: Japan -- 715,500 up by 6%; China -- 190,000 up by 20%
* Hong Kong: 150,900 down 2% Korea -- 189,700 up 8%
* Sth East Asia: Malaysia --159,000 up by 6%; Singapore--286,900, down by 3%
* North America: USA - 434,500 down by 3%; Canada -- 90,900, down by 2%

Source: The Australian Bureau of Statistics, Overseas Arrivals and Departures, December 2002