Tourism businesses in Australia: June 2014 to 2019

Our Tourism Businesses report provides statistics on Australia’s 300,000 plus tourism businesses. Find out about changes in business size, numbers and contribution from June 2014 to 2019.

The data in this report pre-dates COVID-19.

The economic shocks from COVID-19 are having a huge impact on tourism businesses in Australia. The next report for June 2015 to 2020 will show the effects of suspended international tourism, social distancing and domestic travel restrictions on the industry.

Snapshot

  • Tourism businesses make up around 13% of Australia’s 2.4 million businesses.
  • Many of these provide services to both local communities and tourists.
  • 56% of tourism businesses had employees in 2014, but this dropped to 51% in 2019.
  • Tourism employment grew 23%, compared to 11% for national employment over the period.
  • The sharing economy is continuing to affect business numbers.
  • While only 31% of tourism businesses were located in regional areas, they accounted for 44 cents of every visitor dollar spent in Australia in 2018–19.

About this report

The growth of an industry reflects its health. In this report, you will see changes:

  • in tourism business numbers
  • in tourism’s economic contribution
  • by business size
  • by state and territory
  • by business turnover

You can also see changes within these sectors:

  • taxi transport
  • accommodation
  • cafes
  • restaurants
  • takeaways
  • travel agency and tour operator services
  • retail trade

Business categories

Tourism businesses are categorised by employment size to make it easier to understand growth patterns:

  • non employing – sole trader with no employees
  • micro – 1 to 4 employees
  • small – 5 to 19 employees
  • medium – 20 to 199 employees
  • large – 200 and over employees

Why tourism is important

The importance of tourism as a source of economic growth and employment for Australia is increasing.

Between June 2014 and 2019:

  • tourism Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in real terms grew 25%. This is compared with 13% growth for the economy as a whole
  • tourism employment grew 23%. This is significantly higher than for Australia’s workforce overall which saw 11% growth

In 2018–19 the industry:

  • contributed 3.1% of national GDP
  • provided employment for 5.2% of Australia’s workers

Number of tourism businesses

Australia had 312,174 tourism businesses at June 2019. This was a 1-in-8 share of all Australian businesses. This is 2.6% more businesses than at June 2018 and 14% more than at June 2014. Most of this growth has come from non-employing businesses.

Number of tourism businesses 2014–2019
Number of tourism businesses 2014-2019

Change in business numbers by industry

The impacts on specific industries that make up tourism has varied since 2014. This is due to structural changes within individual industries and the growing impact of the sharing economy.

Change in business numbers by industry, June 2014 to 2019
Tourism related industries Number of businesses (June 2019) Share in total (%) Change on June 2014 (numbers) Change on June 2014 (%)
Accommodation 12,758 4.1 -507 -3.8%
Cafes, restaurants and takeaways - includes clubs, pubs, taverns and bars 82,534 26.4 10,536 15%
Taxi transport 39,320 12.6 22,865 139%
Air and water transport 5,294 1.7 317 6.4%
Motor vehicle hiring including rail transport 2,112 0.7 484 30%
Travel agency and tour operator services 8,016 2.6 2,844 55%
Arts and recreation 29,741 9.5 3,592 14%
Retail trade 132,847 42.5 -1,764 -1.3%
Total 312,622 100.0 38,367 14%
Please note that the total number of business counts for Australia and states may vary when looking at aggregated business numbers. This is due to confidentiality requirements.

Taxi transport

Taxi transport has grown following changes to legislation which requires ride share drivers to register as businesses.

There were 139% (or 22,900) more taxi businesses in June 2019 than in June 2014.

Other effects of the legislation include:

  • rapid growth of non-employing businesses. This is up more than 150% from 15,265 to 38,188
  • the number of employing businesses falling by 5% from 1,190 to 1,132

A similar change is happening with motor vehicle hire. Non-employing businesses increased 44% while employing businesses only grew 3% between June 2014 and 2019.

Accommodation

The number of accommodation businesses has fallen slightly over the past 5 years. This is despite a 17% increase in visitor spend and an 8.3% increase in employment. The fall in business numbers is a result of:

  • smaller businesses merging with larger organisations
  • the impact of online booking platforms. These platforms do give consumers more choice. But they also allow people to provide accommodation services without registering as a business

Cafes, restaurants and takeaways

Business numbers increased 15% (or 10,500) due to:

  • a larger Australian population. This is up 8% over the period June 2014 to 2019
  • a growing share of household income being spent on restaurant and takeaway meals
  • cafe and restaurant food accounting for a greater share of visitor consumption. Restaurant and takeaway meals consumption grew 38% between 2013–14 and 2018–19. This is compared with 32% growth in overall tourism consumption
  • increased use of online food delivery services by Australian residents and tourists

Travel agency and tour operator services

This industry increased by 55% between June 2014 and June 2019. This far outweighs the 18% growth in tourism employment over the same period. Smaller businesses have driven this growth. More than 80% of the increase in numbers is from businesses without employees.

Inbound and outbound travel has experienced sustained and significant growth. This has likely led to the increased number of operators in this industry. Domestic tourism, in comparison, is a smaller source of growth. This is because most Australians are familiar with their travel destination and can access tourism products online rather than book though an agent.

Retail trade

The number of retail trade businesses fell slightly (down 1.3%) between June 2014 and 2019. This is in contrast to most other industries and due to:

  • online sales capturing a growing market share
  • the impact of consolidation
  • large international firms entering Australian retail

The number of retail businesses with 200 or more employees increased 28%. The number of micro, small and medium businesses fell by 6%. This was between June 2014 and 2019.

Business size

Tourism businesses are mostly small operations:

  • nearly half (49%) of tourism businesses had no employees at all
  • 29% had fewer than 5 employees at June 2019

The concentration of smaller businesses with 0 to 5 employees is greatest in:

  • taxi transport 99%
  • cultural services 96%
  • motor vehicle hire 91%

Businesses with over 200 employees grew 29% between June 2014 and 2019. This is due to expansion and consolidation.

Micro, small and medium businesses only grew 2.5% over the same period. This reflects a continuing shift away from smaller employing businesses to larger businesses.

Non-employing businesses experienced strong growth of 29%, increasing from 118,000 businesses to 153,000. Two-thirds of this growth (67%) came from taxi transport alone – an addition of 23,000 businesses.

Share of tourism businesses with fewer than 5 employees
Share of tourism businesses with fewer than 5 employees

Tourism business growth across Australia

Growth by state and territory

The majority (81%) of tourism businesses were located in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland at June 2019. This is consistent with the State Tourism Satellite Account (STSA) data. The STSA shows:

  • these 3 states accounted for 77% each of tourism GDP and national visitor consumption in 2018–19
  • almost one-third (31%) of businesses were in regional Australia

Across the country, growth in business numbers varied widely:

  • Tasmania – up 6.7% since 2014
  • Victoria – up 17.7%
  • Australian Capital Territory – up 18.1%

Growth in Australia’s regions

Regional businesses, on average, receive more income from tourism than those located in capital cities and the Gold Coast. While only 31% of tourism businesses were located in regional areas, they accounted for 44 cents of every visitor dollar spent in Australia in 2018–19.

Within regional Australia there were 2.8% more tourism businesses than in 2014. This is far lower than the 20% growth in capital city businesses.

Employment in regional Australia grew 17% between June 2014 and June 2018. See our Regional Tourism Satellite Accounts. This suggests that most growth is coming from existing businesses expanding their workforces rather than new entrants. These businesses also receive more income from tourism than those in the major cities.

Growth in tourism businesses by state and territory, June 2019
State No of businesses
June 2019
Growth since 2014 (%) Share in total businesses (%)
  Regional Nonregional* Total Regional Nonregional* Total Regional Nonregional*
NSW 34,803 72,312 107,115 2.3% 22.0% 14.8% 32% 68%
VIC 24,586 61,084 85,670 5.5% 23.3% 17.6% 29% 71%
QLD 21,278 37,498 58,776 3.5% 18.9% 12.8% 36% 64%
SA 5,326 12,952 18,278 -0.4% 7.6% 5.2% 29% 71%
WA 5,461 24,048 29,509 -2.0% 16.6% 12.6% 19% 81%
TAS 2,957 3,174 6,131 -1.0% 15.0% 6.7% 48% 52%
NT 807 1,449 2,256 -1.1% 9.6% 5.5% 36% 64%
ACT 0 4,140 4,140 0% 18.1% 18.1% 0% 100%
Australia 95,218 216,657 312,042** 2.8% 20.0% 14.1% 31% 69%
* includes all capital cities and the Gold Coast
** total includes businesses in unknown states and territories

Please note that the total number of business counts for Australia and states may vary when looking at aggregated business numbers. This is due to confidentiality requirements.

Profile of tourism businesses

Compare small and large businesses and see how each sector has grown over recent years.

Profile of tourism businesses by employment size, June 2014 to June 2019
Business type Number of businesses
June 2019
% of tourism businesses Change on 2018 Change on 2014 Largest industries in 2019
Non employing 152,724 48.9 8,746 up 6.1% 34,305 up 29% Taxi transport 25%
Cafes and restaurants 12%
Micro (1-4) 90,333 28.9 -1,507 down 1.6% 1,826 up 2.1% Cafes and restaurants 32%
Other sports and recreation services 4.6%
Small (5-19) 53,793 17.2 272 up 0.5% 782 up 1.5% Cafes and restaurants 38%
Clubs, pubs taverns and bars 5.2%
Medium (20-199) 14,871 4.8 279 up 1.9% 1,251 up 9.2% Cafes and restaurants 32%
Clubs, pubs taverns and bars 14%
Large (200 +) 901 0.3 40 up 4.6% 203 up 29.1% Cafes and restaurants 8%
Other sports and recreation services 8.1%
All employing 159,898 51.1 -916 down 0.6% 4,062 up 2.6% Cafes and restaurants 34%
Clubs, pubs, tavern and bars 4.3%
Other sports and recreation services 4.3%
All businesses 312,622 100 7,830 up 2.6% 38,367 up 14% Cafes and restaurants 24%
Taxi transport 13%
Please note that the total number of business counts for Australia and states may vary when looking at aggregated business numbers. This is due to confidentiality requirements.

Turnover of tourism businesses

Turnover for most tourism businesses is modest. At June 2019:

  • almost half (49%) had annual revenues of less than $200,000
  • 11% had revenues greater than $2 million
  • 44% of businesses in regional Australia had revenues of less than $200,000. This was compared to 52% of those in capital cities and the Gold Coast

The turnover of tourism businesses has decreased while business numbers have grown since June 2014. Just 19% of businesses had turnovers of less than $50,000 in 2014. This share increased to 23% in 2019. The turnover of some individual businesses will have fallen over this period. Most of the decline though is due to the entry of new operators, particularly in the taxi industry.

Turnover of tourism businesses, June 2019 versus June 2014
Turnover of tourism businesses, June 2019 versus June 2014

Data tables

Find out more about tourism businesses in our data tables.

Summary table

A snapshot of the changes in the number of tourism businesses over time.

https://www.tra.gov.au/ArticleDocuments/185/TBIA Summary table.xls.aspx

Geographic breakdown

Counts of tourism businesses across Australia’s tourism regions.

https://www.tra.gov.au/ArticleDocuments/185/TBIA Geographic breakdown.xls.aspx

Employment size data

State and territory employment breakdown for different tourism industries.

https://www.tra.gov.au/ArticleDocuments/185/TBIA Employment size data.xls.aspx

Organisation/employment data

Changes in company structures over time.

https://www.tra.gov.au/ArticleDocuments/185/TBIA Organisation and employment data.xls.aspx

Contact us

Email tourism.research@tra.gov.au