Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

TRA release: Australian Tourism in 2020

Australian Tourism in 2020, Tourism Research Australia, August 2021


2020 was a year of environmental, epidemiological and economic disruption for Australia’s visitor economy. While Covid-19 dominated global events, the start of 2020 saw some of the most devastating bushfires in Australia’s history.

As the bushfires were finally beginning to be controlled and recovery was in reach, the Covid-19 pandemic took hold. Australia began to restrict arrivals from countries with high Covid-19 cases from February 2020 and closed borders to all international tourists on 20 March 2020. This was followed by a national lockdown to limit the spread of Covid-19. As a result, the industry faced sharp declines across all sectors, with the deepest impacts occurring in April 2020.

Despite this, tourism experienced a tentative, domestic-led recovery in the months that followed. Australian tourism is underpinned by a strong domestic sector. For instance, in 2019, 77 percent of visitor spend came from Australians seeing Australia. This strong domestic demand, combined with our success in limiting the spread of the virus and growth in traveller confidence was critical to tourism recovery.

However, the recovery of tourism was uneven. Some businesses rebounded relatively quickly, while others faced prolonged downturns. Factors affecting business recovery included:

  • location and business activities
  • reliance on international tourists
  • outbreaks of Covid-19 and resultant lockdowns
  • effectiveness of Covid-safe restrictions.

These factors led to additional challenges for businesses that had already faced difficulties because of bushfires and lockdowns. Many relied on JobKeeper to remain operational.

The events of 2020 and their unparalleled impacts on Australia’s visitor economy are complex and in some cases long lasting. This report looks back on what happened during the year, the impacts to the different parts of the visitor economy, and the challenges currently being faced by the industry.


Council of Australasian Museum Directors c/o Mr Brian Oldman, South Australian Museum PO Box 234 Adelaide, South Australia 5001 Australia, © CAMD 2023
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