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Tourism business numbers rebounding beyond pre-pandemic levels, report shows


New government report indicates a return to confidence in the travel sector.

The tourism industry represents a huge proportion of Australia's overall business tally.

Australia has nearly 358,300 separate businesses directly involved in the tourism sector – equating to one in every seven across the national economy.

A new government report issued this week shows a rise in the number of businesses directly involved in travel and tourism across every state and territory in Australia.

The ‘Tourism Businesses in Australia’ study covers the period from June 2017 to June 2022 and draws on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Business Register, which itself comes from the number of ABNs registered and information from the Australian Taxation Office.

A massive 95% of Australian tourism businesses are sole, micro or small enterprises.

During that five-year period, the number of tourism businesses rose 21% from 296,910 to 358,277.

Unsurprisingly, growth rates were higher both before and after the pandemic, with climbs of 5.9% in 2018 and 3.1% in 2019 tempering significantly to 1.6% in 2020 and 3% in 2021.

Then, when national borders reopened and the sector was allowed to recover, business numbers climbed once again to 5.7% in the year ending 30 June 2022.

Broken down, only one of nine business categories connected to tourism saw a downturn in their overall number.

Growth was experienced across accommodation, cafes and restaurants, taxi transport, air, water and rail transport, vehicle hire, travel agencies and tour operators, cultural and sports recreation and retail trade, while only casino and gambling services lost businesses.

Most tourism businesses were turning over at least 0k annually.

In the five-year period, Australia saw 1,502 new travel agency and tour operator services start trading, taking the total number of businesses in this category to 8,647 up to the end of June 2022. The report noted a big increase in the number of mobile and very small travel agents seen during this time.

The report found the overwhelming majority of tourism businesses are small operations with less than 20 employees. In fact, 48% were micro enterprises with 1-4 workers and 47% had no employees apart from the owner.

Turnover was more evenly spread across the industry, with 29% of businesses turning over less than $50k annually; 24% at between $50k and $200k; 37% between $200k and $2m and 10% with $2m or more in yearly turnover.

Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of tourism businesses are in capital city areas.

Federal Tourism Minister Don Farrell said it was tremendous to see numbers recovering after a turbulent 2020 and 2021.

“The Albanese Government is focused on ensuring the tourism sector has the right conditions to keep growing,” Minister Farrell said.

“The report shows that the number of businesses with a turnover of $2 million or more grew 11 per cent last year.

“These businesses employ people across the nation and are a large part of the reason that tourism employment is growing again, up 73,100 filled jobs in the latest quarterly statistics.”

Click here to read the government report in full.


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Written by: Matt Lennon
Published: 31 March 2023

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