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National Tourism Satellite Account 2019–20

The Tourism Satellite Account (TSA) examines Australia’s tourism performance through an economic lens. This summary of the TSA looks at the impacts of COVID-19 on this performance and sheds light on where these were felt most deeply.

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

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

This information helps industry and governments monitor performance and support strategies for recovery and future growth.

Disruptions in the tourism sector

Australia’s tourism industry experienced sustained growth from 2009 to 2019. Previous TSAs therefore held a positive outlook. This is in stark contrast to the present situation.

The impacts of COVID-19 on the visitor economy are unprecedented. Sudden restrictions to mobility have caused immediate and severe disruptions to the tourism sector. These include:

  • the closing of international borders which has significantly reduced international arrivals
  • state border closures and internal mobility restrictions that have significantly impacted the domestic tourism markets. Both interstate and intrastate
  • people being more hesitant to travel due to physical distancing and the increased need for safety.

Key results

Total tourism consumption fell by 19% or $29.5 billion in 2019–20. This resulted in:

  • $50.4 billion in direct tourism GDP to the economy. This was 18% or $10.8 billion less than the previous year
  • tourism GDP as a share of the national economy falling from 3.1% in 2018–19 to 2.5% in 2019–20
  • direct tourism employment of 621,000 people. This was 4.8% of the Australian workforce and 6.6% lower than in 2018–19
  • tourism exports falling to $31.2 billion. This is down 21% from 2018–19. Tourism exports are from international visitors spending money on Australian goods and services
  • tourism imports falling to $42.1 billion. This is down 27.8% from 2018–19. Tourism imports are the money Australian residents spend when travelling overseas.

Notes on the data

The TSA produced by the ABS is the basis for this report.

The TSA summarises industry performance over the entire financial year, it therefore tends to smooth out fluctuations in performance. Fluctuations in performance were a significant issue for 2019–2020. For that financial year, tourism performance for the first two quarters was strong. However for the second half of 2019–20:

  • Australia’s summer bushfires had significant impacts on tourism activity during the early part of 2020. This was during what would normally be peak trading periods.
  • COVID-19 has had a major impact on the visitor economy from February 2020. This saw a dramatic slowdown in tourism activity in the June quarter of 2020.

helpHover on line markers over relevant quarter to show total figures

Source: Tourism Research Australia, International and National Visitor Surveys, June 2020

Tourism consumption results

Tourism consumption in Australia decreased 19.3% (or $29.5 billion) to $123.1 billion in 2019–20. This decline comprised:

  • international visitors – down 21% from $39.6 billion to $31.2 billion
  • Australians on domestic overnight travel – down 20.1% from $87.2 billion to $69.7 billion
  • Australians on day trip travel – down 14.2% from $25.8 billion to $22.2 billion.

Taking a longer-term view, international travel is unlikely to return to previous levels for several years. Domestic tourism will therefore be a more important part of Australia’s visitor economy and critical for longer-term recovery.

The fall in tourism consumption had varying impacts on spending across Australia’s visitor economy. While all products were significantly affected, the most severe impacts were for:

  • Transport – down 25.2%
  • Travel agency and information centre services – down 21%
  • Recreation, cultural and gambling – down 19.3%
  • Accommodation and food services – down 18%.

As most international students have stayed on in Australia during the pandemic, spend on education has seen a more modest decline – down 7.5% from $8.7 billion to $8.0 billion.

helpHover over bars to show total figures

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian National Accounts: Tourism Satellite Account, Tourism consumption, June 2020

GDP from tourism

GDP from tourism was $50.4 billion in 2019–20. This was a decrease of 17.6% compared with 2018–19.

This fall in GDP was much worse than for the rest of the economy. In 2019–20, national GDP grew by 1.7%. As a result, tourism’s share of the national economy fell from 3.1% in 2018–19 to 2.5% in 2019–20.

helpHover over bars to show total figures.

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian National Accounts: Tourism Satellite Account, GDP, June 2020

Exports and imports

Tourism’s export value comes from international visitors spending on Australian goods and services. Imports are counted from Australian residents’ spending during overseas travel.


The value of tourism exports was $31.2 billion in 2019–20. This is down 21% compared with 2018–19. This is consistent with the 27.9% fall in visitor numbers over the same period. Due to this fall, tourism has slipped from being Australia’s largest service export to our second largest behind international education.

Over the same period:

  • tourism became Australia’s 5th largest export overall, down from 4th in 2018–19
  • tourism’s share of total exports fell from 8.4% to 6.6%.


Tourism imports were also dramatically affected by closing the Australian border.

The number of trips taken by Australians travelling overseas in 2019–20 fell by 23.8% from 11.2 million to 8.6 million. This is reflected in a 27.8% fall in the value of tourism imports from $58.3 billion to $42.1 billion.

helpHover on line markers over relevant year to show total figures.

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian National Accounts: Tourism Satellite Account, Tourism exports and imports, June 2020


There were 621,000 workers employed in tourism in 2019–20. This is 6.6% less than the 664,900 working in 2018–19.

Over this same period, Australia’s workforce grew 0.1%. As a result, tourism’s share of Australian employment fell from 5.2% to 4.8%.

The fall in tourism employment had the greatest impact among part-time workers. There were 8.5% fewer part-time tourism workers in 2019–20, compared with 4.9% fewer full-time workers. The extent of job losses was also slightly higher among females. There were 7.0% fewer female workers in 2019–20 compared to 6.2% fewer males.

These employment numbers are on the full financial year and under-represent the current situation due to these factors:

  • Many tourism employees are currently not working. However, they remain on company payrolls while on Jobkeeper support.
  • The employment figure is an average for the 2019–20 financial year. ABS quarterly tourism labour statistics show:
    • tourism jobs peaked at 748,200 jobs in the December quarter 2019
    • the number of tourism jobs then fell 18% over the first six months of 2020 to 611,700 jobs
    • jobs held by females declined by 21%, compared with a 14% decline in jobs held by males over that six-month period.

helpHover over bars to show total figures.

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics Tourism Satellite Accounts: quarterly tourism labour statistics, experimental estimates, June 2020

Explanatory notes

The Australian TSA is prepared by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and funded by the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade).

This 2019–20 edition of the TSA (Cat. No. 5249.0) was published on the ABS website on 10 December 2020.

  • Estimates in this edition are based on Tourism Research Australia’s International Visitor Survey (IVS) and National Visitor Survey (NVS), year ending June 2020.
  • Aggregates for the whole Australian economy are sourced from the 2019–20 Australian System of National Accounts (Cat. No. 5204.0).
  • All economic estimates in this issue are recorded at current prices used at the time of the observation. This is regardless of the change of value over time.
  • Estimates and times series for consumption, GVA and GDP are also available in constant price (chain volume measures). This is to remove the effect of inflation and capture the real value of tourism services.

Since the 2013–14 issue, the TSA also includes estimates for hours worked (as a proxy for labour productivity).

Notes on the conceptual framework

The TSA framework was jointly developed by these organisations

  • Commission of the European Communities
  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
  • United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)
  • World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).

The framework was approved by the United Nations (UN) Statistical Commission (EUROSTAT et al. 2000). It has been revised in UNWTO (2008) and Tourism Satellite Accounts: Recommended Methodological Framework (2008).

The framework has been widely applied in Australia and internationally, so the recommended methodology for TSAs is not reproduced in this report.

Changes in this issue

  • Revisions of the source data and estimation methods of a selection of tourism products and industries have also been included. This is to refine and improve estimates of tourism consumption, output and value added. Refer to ABS TSA 5249.0 for details on these changes.

Methodology and glossary

The Australian TSA methodology with glossary of terms are on the ABS website.

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