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Overseas visitor numbers slow to a trickle

The number of international travellers entering Australia has screeched to a halt.

A measly 5400 foreign visitors entered the country in June, a quarter of them Kiwis.

Almost 16,000 Australians returned from overseas during the month, an eye-watering 98 per cent lower than June last year.

Roughly 12 per cent flew home from India, which was the largest share of any country.

Australia recorded 6.7 million overseas visitor arrivals for the 2019/20 financial year, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has found.

The arrival numbers were down 27.9 per cent on the previous year and the lowest since 2013/14.

ABS director of migration statistics Jenny Dobak said arrivals increased every month until February, when the coronavirus began taking hold.

“Once the tighter restrictions came into effect on March 20 the drop in visitors arriving was dramatic, being close to 100 per cent,” she said on Friday.

Less than 60 international students arrived in Australia in June, compared to the 45,980 in the same month the previous year.

Australians took 8.6 million overseas trips in 2019/20, a 23.8 per cent decrease on the previous year and the lowest number since 2012/13.

Health Department secretary Brendan Murphy, who was until recently the chief medical officer, doesn’t expect regular travel to resume this year.

“My view is that normal international travel is not likely to resume until we have a vaccine,” he told a Senate committee on Friday.

Professor Murphy said some diplomatic and corporate travel would need to continue.

“There may well be some travel bubbles set up,” he said, noting stalled talks between Australia and New Zealand, and Victoria’s progress in containing the virus.

“Broad spread international travel I think is going to be something we won’t be seeing this calendar year.”

Australia’s tourism industry has taken a $12 billion hit due to the coronavirus pandemic.

People who are able to travel are being encouraged to take domestic trips and help tourism operators struggling to stay afloat.

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