Desperation to see family and friends might have underwritten mid-pandemic travel plans, but Aussies are again prioritising leisure, with blissfully unadulterated "holidaying" now the top reason for overseas travel.
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has revealed no less than 169,000 holiday makers returned from short trips overseas in June 2022, ahead of "family visits" and "business trips".
ABS director of Migration Statistics Jenny Dobak said this was the first time this had happened since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, overtaking "visiting friends or relatives" (152,000), which had been the most popular reason for heading overseas since April 2020.
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"Since the reopening of Australia's international border in late 2021, international travel has been steadily increasing for both visitors and residents," Dobak said.
"We are seeing people opting for holiday destinations and trip durations this June that are more consistent with what we would usually see in June, particularly warm winter getaways."
According to the ABS, increases in overseas travel volumes in recent months continued to the point where short-term residents returning for June reached 46 per cent of the June 2019 level and short-term visitors arriving reached 42 per cent of the June 2019 level.
Shorter breaks return
Additionally, Australian residents were once again taking shorter overseas trips (defined as a duration of stay less than 12 months), the June ABS data highlighted.
When travel restrictions were in place, Australians were making fewer, but generally longer, overseas trips, with the duration of stay for short-term resident returns peaking at 258 days in December 2020, the ABS explained.
In June this year, however, the median duration of stay was 16 days - two days longer than what it had been in June 2019 - it said.
The recent travel surge showed no sign of abating, with provisional data for July 2022 indicating further increases in international travel: 1,083,000 arrivals and 973,000 departures.
Interestingly, both were the highest since the pandemic began, reaching 54 per cent and 55 per cent of July 2019 levels, respectively.
Given the limited international travel during the 2020/21 financial year, the 2021/22 financial year saw the number of short-term visitor arrivals increase nearly eightfold - up to 1,192,000 - and seven times as many short-term resident returns - up to 1,591,000.
Put into greater context, though, these increased financial year totals are still less than 15 per cent of those for 2018-2019, the ABS confirmed.
New Zealand was the largest source country of short-term visitor arrivals in 2021/22, with 192,000 for the financial year, followed by both India and the UK, with 134,000 each.