Has there been a significant and sustained downturn in the amount international tourists are spending in WA?

By James Lane and Louise Evans

The Statement

"It has been a significant, unusual and sustained loss and it's also been unique to Western Australia. The rest of Australia has been doing very well."

WA Tourism Council chief executive Evan Hall. June 21, 2019.

The Analysis

WA Tourism Council chief executive Evan Hall claimed the latest tourism data should be ringing alarm bells because the state had lost significant revenue over the past few years. He said the number of nights tourists were staying was down and they were staying for shorter periods. [1]

AAP FactCheck examined Mr Hall’s claim there has been a “significant, unusual and sustained loss” of revenue from foreign tourists and this was “unique to Western Australia” while the rest of Australia had been “doing very well”.

Mr Hall told AAP FactCheck that his claim referred to international visitor expenditure in WA between March 2017 and March 2019. He stated WA’s decline was “unique” as it was the only state to experience a revenue fall across each survey during this period.

Data from Austrade’s website Australian Tourism Research (ATR) shows international tourist spending in WA fell almost $300 million or about 12 per cent from 2017 to 2019. The data shows international tourists spent $2.2 billion in WA for the year ending March 2019, down slightly from $2.26 billion in March 2018 and $2.5 billion for the year ending March 2017. [2] [3]

Regarding Mr Hall’s claim that WA’s decline was unique, AAP FactCheck found over the same period international tourism spending did not fall in any other state. While South Australia and Tasmania experienced falls in the March 2018 to March 2019 years, WA is indeed unique in falling across the two year period. [2] [3]

The ATR data shows WA was ranked fourth nationally for international tourism revenue for the year ending March 2019. WA trailed NSW ($11.1 billion), Victoria ($8.5 billion) and Queensland ($5.9 billion) but was ahead of South Australia ($1.08 billion), ACT ($603 million), Tasmania ($490 million) and the Northern Territory ($473 million). [2]

While the tourism spend nationally across that two year period grew by $4.2 billion, it was mostly NSW, Victoria and Queensland that experienced strong growth. Both SA and Tasmania's international tourism spends have fallen in the past year while Tasmania failed to keep pace with inflation in the past year and the NT grew by only 2.8 per cent across the two years.

Based on this data AAP FactCheck found Mr Hall was correct in claiming WA had suffered a significant, unusual, sustained and unique decline in international tourism spending between March 2017 and March 2019. However, his comment that the rest of Australia has been "doing very well" is arguable considering the performances in SA, Tasmania, the ACT and the NT.

The Verdict

  • Mostly True - Mostly accurate, but there is a minor error or problem.

The References

1: ‘Triponomics’: WA’s tourism industry should be our pride and joy, so why are experts worried?’, by Nathan Hondros. The Sydney Morning Herald. June 21, 2019: https://www.smh.com.au/politics/western-australia/triponomics-wa-s-tourism-industry-should-be-our-pride-and-joy-so-why-are-experts-worried-20190620-p51zoy.html

2: ‘International Visitor Survey - Charts. Year ended March 2019’. Tourism Research Australia. Austrade. Australian Government: https://www.tra.gov.au/charts/ivs

3:’Data and research’. International Visitors in Australia Year Ending March 2017'.Tourism Research Australia. Austrade. Australian Government: https://www.tra.gov.au/data-and-research

  • First published June 28, 2019 14:52 AEST


  • Corrected July 2, 2019 13:59 AEST

This FactCheck article was corrected following detailed discussions with WA Tourism Council chief executive Evan Hall who also provided more detailed and accurate data that AAP FactCheck has since verified with Australian Tourism Research. The initial figures AAP FactCheck used from the ATR website for the tourism spend in SA were substantially rounded up. The more accurate data shows the tourism spend in SA actually increased slightly (rather than decreasing slightly) from March 2017 to March 2019. AAP FactCheck apologises for the error resulting from the rounded-up data taken from the ATR website.