Record visitor numbers to Australia

Australia is set to capitalise on its status as a preferred destination for visitors and working holiday makers, with record interest from overseas tourists, according to Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) statistics issued today.

Increases of up to almost 30 per cent in visa applications were translating into significant benefits to Australia’s economy. 

“The Australian labour market benefits from increased numbers of tourists and working holiday makers,” a departmental spokesman said.  “Despite the high value of the Australian dollar, our strong economy and unique natural and cultural attractions have drawn a record high number of international visitors and working holiday makers.”

In the period July-December 2012, there were almost two million visitor visas granted, up 5.8 per cent over the same period in 2011. Demand from Asia continued to increase, particularly from China and Singapore. Tourism visa applications from China were up 16.5 per cent to 194 204, while applications from Singapore increased 28.7 per cent to 81 364.

At the end of December 2012, there were 401 362 visitor visa holders in Australia, a 9.2 per cent increase compared with the same date in 2011. Tourism from Asia was a particular draw, injecting billions of dollars into the economy every year.

“We are making it easier than ever for tourists from the Asian region to visit Australia and contribute to our economic and cultural growth, with the progressive expansion of online lodgement this year,” the spokesman said. “We need to be able to take advantage of the increased tourist markets, and our online visa lodgement system is part of our improved service for visitors.”

There was a 23.2 per cent increase in working holiday maker (WHM) visa program grants (136 155 grants) compared to the same period last year. This continues the strong growth in the program during 2011-12 when there was a record 222 992 grants.  There were 162 475 WHM visa holders in Australia at December 2012, a 20.5 per cent increase over December 2011.

The United Kingdom continues to supply the largest numbers of WHMs with 24 135 grants in the six months to December 2012, followed by Taiwan which increased almost 100 per cent to 17 969. South Korea, Germany and France rounded out the top five countries for working holiday maker visas.

Expansion in the working holiday maker program is set to continue with the recent announcement of a new work and holiday arrangement with Uruguay. 

Negotiations also commenced in late 2012 for new work and holiday visa arrangements with the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Latvia, Poland and the Slovak Republic.

The latest visitor and working holiday visa statistics are available at

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