We all knew it, but now it has been quantified by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) – the number of Aussies travelling overseas in 2020 was the lowest in decades, thanks to the global pandemic.
Data released yesterday (Wednesday) by the ABS shows short-term overseas trips last year fell to their lowest level in 24 years. The bureau defines ‘short term’ as trips of less than one year in duration.
Official figures show that, in 2020, 2.8-million Australians returned home after a short-term trip, the vast majority (92 percent) having travelled before restrictions were introduced by the Australian Government on 20 March last year.
Aussies took 8.5-million fewer trips in 2020
ABS Director of Migration Statistics, Jenny Dobak, said 2020 saw a 75 percent drop on the previous year, with 8.5-million fewer trips taken by Australians.
“In a year when there was an unprecedented decrease in Australians travelling, New Zealand continued to be the leading destination, accounting for 438,700 trips in 2020. The majority of these trips occurred in early 2020 before restrictions were put in place,” she stated.
Indonesia was the next most popular destination (310,300 trips), followed by the United States (235,500), India (186,200) and Japan (173,000).
The median duration away for Australians was 17 days. Of the top 10 countries, those returning from India were away the longest (31 days), followed by China (28 days). The shortest durations were for residents travelling to New Zealand (11 days) and Indonesia (10 days).
Uncertainty over when borders will reopen
When are Australians likely to be heading for foreign shores again? According to recent research on the topic by the publication Time Out, health department secretary Brendan Murphy recently indicated to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that borders would probably stay closed for the majority of 2021, but that there was too much uncertainty to be sure.
“It is a big open question. I think the answer is probably no,” he said on the subject of restrictions on overseas travel being lifted before the end of the year.
Even near-neighbour New Zealand seems largely out of reach. Plans for a trans-Tasman travel bubble, which would allow two-way travel between Australia and New Zealand without visitors from either country being required to complete a mandatory 14-day quarantine period, were agreed to in principle by Kiwi PM Jacinda Ardern’s cabinet late last year.
But then, says Time Out: “We had a summer surge and other unexpected outbreaks on both sides of the ditch, continue to pose a problem.
More vaccinations before NZ travel a reality?
“Sydney’s outbreak in the lead-up to Christmas put doubt on when the full realisation of the bubble might happen, which had initially been planned for the first quarter of 2021, and then an outbreak in Auckland in early February caused Australia to temporarily suspend the travel bubble altogether.”
There have, of course, subsequently also been further short-duration lockdowns in Western Australia and Victoria.
So it’s too early to know for sure if there will be a way to manage the reciprocal travel arrangement between Australia and New Zealand before more of both populations are vaccinated.
For the time being, then, it’s a case of ‘see Australia, mate’. Because there’s nowhere else to see.