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2023 set to be 'big year' for international travel as Australia returns to pre-pandemic levels

After almost three years of border closures, countries like Japan and China have finally reopened — and many Australians are heading there.

Blog / News / 2023 April 25, 2023

After almost three years of closing their borders, countries like Japan and China are finally reopening, and many Australians are heading there.

Searches for flight and travel insurance in Australia are currently on the rise, according to Google data.

This is the number of international travellers to Australia.

We are the February 2019 levels

The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show that travel activity in December 2022 was flat compared to February 2019.

"It's a project," said Judy Bird, CHOICE's director of finance and travel.

Where are Australians travelling to? 

The top international destinations, based on accommodation demand on, as of January 10, are:

1.Bali, Indonesia

2.Tokyo, Japan


4.London, United Kingdom


6.Phuket, Thailand

7.Queenstown, New Zealand

8.Los Angeles, United States

9.Rome, Italy

10.Bangkok, Thailand

"Throughout 2022, we saw surges in demand when countries like Bali and Japan relaxed border restrictions, showing that we were all eager to get back to exploring the world," Mr Finch said.

"Australians are savvy travellers, so in 2023 we anticipate we’ll see this trend continue as airlines add new flight routes and demand continues to increase."

What about domestic travel?

According to Webjet's data, these are the top domestic destinations from December 1 to January 15:




4.Gold Coast







When it comes to domestic travel, Mr Finch says this data shows that Australians "continue to favour our world-famous coastline, with strong demand for the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast in QLD and North Coast in NSW".

"We’re also seeing demand for regional destinations like Launceston, Newcastle and the Hunter Valley, which are set to be top holiday spots in 2023," he said.  What does this mean for air travel?

Prices seem to be going up

According to aeronautical research firm Cirium, despite an increase in global aviation capacity over the past 12 months, airfares will continue to rise as long as demand is high.

Cirium said airfares to Europe are 21% higher than pre-pandemic levels, with the average round-trip fare rising from $1,743 to $2,109 (based on October 2019 and 2022).

Domestic airfares are also well above pre-pandemic levels, according to a report by the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC)  last month.

Why are ticket prices going up?

“Airfares have risen due to strong demand for travel and constrained supply as airlines have scaled back their schedules in response to high jet fuel costs and operational challenges,” ACCC Commissioner Anna Brakey said.

The ACCC said the average revenue per passenger — an indication of average airfares across all fare types — was 27 per cent higher in October 2022 than it was in October 2019.

“We accept that the airlines are still experiencing some pandemic-related resource challenges," Ms Brakey said.

"But the ACCC will be monitoring them closely to ensure they return capacity to the market in a timely manner to start easing pressure on airfares."

With the rising cost of living still at the forefront of many Australians' attention right now, Mr Finch believes people will likely favour destinations closer to home.

"Some Australians will likely seek on-the-ground costs and a favourable exchange rate to minimise travel costs."

What destinations are Australians searching for? 

Data from Google provided to ABC News revealed the top searched international destinations from January 1 are:











Search interest in international flights has been higher than interest in domestic flights in all states and territories except Western Australia and Tasmania this year.

Interestingly, Google also said that search interest in cruise ships is 90 per cent higher this year than it was in 2022.

It's been more than two and a half years since the cruise ship at the centre of one of Australia's largest coronavirus outbreaks — the Ruby Princess — docked in the region.

The Carnival Cruise liner was linked to 28 coronavirus deaths and more than 700 infections after thousands of passengers were allowed to disembark in Sydney. The class action was filed in the Federal Court in Sydney in October last year.

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