Saturday, June 4, 2011
In breathtaking evidence of how the high dollar is shifting Australians' spending overseas, the Bureau of Statistics reports that three Australians went overseas in April for every two overseas visitors coming here.
Unreported bureau figures this week suggest that even before the April surge, more than a fifth of the growth in consumer spending in the March quarter was spent overseas by Australian tourists.
While the national accounts showed household spending up 3.4 per cent in the year to March, the detailed figures suggest the growth in household spending within Australia was only 2.8 per cent.
In the March quarter, consumer spending locally grew only 0.46 per cent. Yet in a year, net consumer spending overseas almost doubled, rising in real terms from $1.05 billion to $2 billion.
These figures exclude online purchasing from overseas websites, so actual growth in local spending was even lower.
The shift of consumer spending overseas is accelerating. Visitor arrivals in Australia grew only 3 per cent in April, and were down 3 per cent in the April quarter.
But Australians are making the most of the strong exchange rate, taking their dollars overseas, and spending them when they buy more.
A record 78,000 Australians spent April in Indonesia, which is challenging New Zealand (93,000) as our top overseas destination.
But there were also record departures for the United States (71,000), Thailand (46,000), China (33,000), Fiji (29,000) and almost everywhere else - except Australia.
The high dollar discourages foreigners, since their currency buys less in Australian stores, hotels and restaurants. In April, only 462,000 tourists came here but more than 690,000 Australians travelled overseas.
Year on year, tourist arrivals rose by by only 19,000, whereas Australian tourist departures rose by 137,000. The growth in arrivals is mostly from Asia, where soaring airfares have diverted tourists from America or Europe to nearby Australia.
Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive John Lee expressed alarm at the trend and urged the government to give tourist operators transitional help with the carbon tax.
''If international aviation is exempt, but the tax applies to domestic travel, that will encourage more people to head overseas, as travelling locally will be relatively more expensive,'' Mr Lee said.
The strong dollar had already meant that fewer Australians were taking their holidays in Australia, he said.