Overseas arrivals to Australia slumped 60 per cent in March – the largest ever drop in overseas travel – as the country imposed restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
There were 331,900 short-term visitors to Australia in March 2020, down from 836,300 visitors a year earlier, data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday shows.
The steep fall in visitor arrivals was from all regions around the world.
Visitor numbers from China slid 78 per cent to 27,900, from Japan down 75 per cent to 13,300 and 61.5 per cent from the United States to 34,300.
Visitors from New Zealand – Australia’s largest source country – were also down 56 per cent in March to 48,200, the data shows.
Australia first barred entry for foreign nationals travelling from mainland China on February 1 in a bid to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The incoming travel ban was gradually extended to several countries that became virus hotspots before borders were shut to all non-residents from March 21.
Australia’s tourism industry, already hit because of the bushfires during key summer months, is likely to cop heavy economic damage from the coronavirus lockdown, with some analysts estimating it is costing the sector as much as $2 billion a month.
All states and territories recorded large falls in international visitors during March.
NSW led the way with a 64 per cent drop, Queensland visitor numbers declined 63 per cent, Victoria by 58 per cent and the Northern Territory by 66 per cent.
There was also a record fall in the number of Australian residents returning from short-term trips overseas, down 29 per cent to 538,400.