The Tourism Satellite Account (TSA) examines Australia’s tourism performance through an economic lens. This summary looks at the 2020-21 financial year and compares performance with earlier years.

Impacts of COVID-19

COVID-19 had severe impacts throughout 2020-21. These included:

  • closing Australian borders to almost all international visitors
  • state and territory border closures
  • widespread lockdowns and travel restrictions
  • capacity limits on tourism businesses and venues
  • fewer domestic flights
  • temporary closures of many hotels, motels and serviced apartments
  • travel hesitancy from health or safety concerns.

We use TSA data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to report on the:

  • value of goods and services consumed by visitors
  • tourism contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), international trade and employment.

Key results

Total tourism consumption fell by 33.1% or $41.3 billion in 2020-21. This is down 45.3% on pre-pandemic levels. This resulted in:

  • A 36.7% fall in tourism GDP from $51.2 billion in 2019-20 to $32.4 billion in 2020-21. Tourism GDP was 46.4% lower in 2020-21 than in 2018-19.
  • Tourism GDP as a share of the national economy fell from 2.6% in 2019-20 to 1.6% in 2020-21. This compares to a 3.1% share of the national economy in 2018-19.
  • Tourism employment fell by 20.3% from 636,200 workers in 2019-20 to 507,000 workers in 2020-21. Since 2018-19, Australia’s tourism workforce has fallen by 24.8%, or 167,400 workers.
  • Tourism’s share of the national workforce fell from 5.0% in 2019-20 to 3.9% in 2020-21. In 2018-19 tourism accounted for 5.3% of the Australian workforce or one-in-nineteen jobs.

In 2020-21:

  • Tourism exports fell to $1.7 billion. This is down 94.9% from 2019-20. Tourism exports are from international visitors spending money on Australian goods and services.
  • Tourism imports fell to $1.5 billion. This is down 96.3% from 2019-20. Tourism imports are the money Australian residents spend when travelling overseas.

Tourism consumption results

Tourism consumption was $83.4 billion in 2020-21. This was 33.1% down (or $41.3 billion) on the previous year. Consumption was down 45.3% ($69.1 billion) from the pre-pandemic level in 2018-19.

These results reflect a fall in visitor spend over the course of the pandemic. TRA’s visitor surveys show that total spend for 2020-21 was down 38.9% ($51.6 billion) on 2018-19.  This fall in spend comprised:

  • $30.0 billion fall in international spend in Australia (down 97.6%)
  • $16.1 billion fall in domestic overnight spend (down 20.8%)
  • $5.4 billion fall in daytrip spend (down 22.1%).

Australia’s tourism industry was almost entirely dependent on domestic travel in 2020-21.

The fall in tourism consumption had varying impacts on different parts of Australia’s visitor economy. Figure 1 shows the most severe impacts were for:

  • transport - down 45.6% on 2019-20 and down 59.2% on 2018-19
  • travel agency and information centre services - down 26.8% on 2019-20 and down 41.6% on 2018-19
  • recreation, cultural and gambling - down 29.0% on 2019-20 and down 43.2% on 2018-19
  • accommodation and food services - down 16.4% on 2019-20 and down 31.5% on 2018-19
  • education services - down 96.4% on 2019-20 and down 96.0% on 2018-19.

Hover over columns to show consumption data

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian National Accounts: Tourism Satellite Account 2020-21, December 2021

GDP from tourism

GDP from tourism was $32.4 billion in 2020-21. This was a fall of 36.7% on 2019-20 and 46.4% lower than 2018-19. Figure 2 shows it is the lowest tourism GDP result since 2005-06.

National GDP grew by 1.8% in 2019-20. In 2020-21 it grew a further 4.3%. As a result, tourism’s share of all economic activity fell from 3.1% in 2018-19 to 2.6% in 2019-20. It fell to 1.6% in 2020-21.

Hover on lines and columns to show GDP data

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian National Accounts: Tourism Satellite Account 2020-21, December 2021

Tourism exports and imports

Due to international travel restrictions, tourism exports and imports in 2020-21 were far lower than at any point in the past 17 years (Figure 3).

Exports

Tourism’s export value comes from international visitors spending on Australian goods and services.

The value of tourism exports was $1.7 billion in 2020-21. This was down 94.9% compared with 2019-20. This is consistent with the 97.8% fall in international visitor numbers (overseas arrivals and departures) and 96.8% fall in spend (international visitor survey).

Imports

Tourism imports are from Australian residents spending during overseas travel.

The value of tourism imports was $1.5 billion in 2020-21. This was 96.3% lower than the $40.8 billion of imports for 2019-20 and 97.4% lower than the $58.1 billion of imports for 2018-19. This is consistent with a 97.5% fall in outbound travel since 2018-19.

Hover on lines to show tourism trade data

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian National Accounts: Tourism Satellite Account 2020-21, December 2021

Tourism employment

Tourism employment did not fall as sharply as consumption or GDP. Employers were able to keep workers by accessing support packages and reducing hours. Maintaining and growing the tourism workforce will be a priority as demand for domestic tourism recovers.      

There were 507,000 workers employed in tourism in 2020-21. This was 20.3% lower than the 636,200 working in 2019-20. It is approximately the same employment number as for 2009-10 (Figure 4).

Hover on lines and columns to show employment data

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian National Accounts: Tourism Satellite Account 2020-21, December 2021

Australia’s workforce grew 1.1%. As a result, tourism’s share of Australian employment in 2020-21 fell from 5.0% to 3.9%. In 2018-19, before the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism employed 674,600 workers, which was 5.3% of Australia’s workforce.

Staff worked fewer hours on average. There was a 26.1% fall in full-time tourism workers in 2020-21 and a 13.7% fall in the part-time workforce.

The employment figure is an average for 2020-21. ABS quarterly tourism labour statistics show:

  • tourism jobs peaked at 745,100 jobs in the December quarter 2019
  • the number of tourism jobs fell 19% to 606,500 jobs at June 2020
  • numbers have since improved with 675,600 tourism jobs at June 2021.

Contact us

Email tourism.research@tra.gov.au