Pent-up demand for tourism and family reunions means all eyes are on Australia when the border reopens on February 21.
But the pandemic has changed everything, including where Australia’s first visitors will come from.
“The reopening of Australia’s border to international visitors is a huge milestone in the tourism industry and amazing news for those who have been dreaming about coming Down Under, whether for a holiday or to see loved ones,” said Paul Whiteway, Asia-Pacific regional director for flight booking website Skyscanner.
“This will be an emotional day for those people who have waited such a long time to be able to see their nearest and dearest.”
Skyscanner data provided to The New Daily shows the top five countries that searched for trips to Australia in January were the UK, India, the US, South Korea and Ireland.
Unsurprisingly, these are countries where many Australians have family ties.
British travellers have consistently topped the rankings of Skyscanner searchers to Australia since March 2020, while interest from the US has been steadily climbing since the start of the year.
India and South Korea were also among the most-interested countries in visiting Australia in January 2020 – before the pandemic decimated international travel – but one noticeable change is the absence of New Zealand, Japan and Indonesia from the top five.
New Zealand’s international border remains closed, even for most citizens.
China is historically one of the largest sources of international tourists to Australia, but the country’s commitment to zero COVID means very few citizens are able to travel internationally.
Skyscanner data also shows an uptick in interest in Australia from Germany, with searches increasing by 52 per cent from December to January.
Peter Shelley, general manager of the Australian Tourism Export Council, previously told TND that Australia is still seen as a desirable and even aspirational destination overseas.
The fact Australia spent much of the pandemic until now relatively unscathed has boosted those perceptions.
But people are still hesitant to travel in general, he said, meaning many of the early arrivals will be things like family reunions.
Another airfare and accommodation search engine, Kayak, had overseas interest in Australian cities jump 22 per cent, on average, a day after the announcement.
“Most flight searches were coming from the UK, the US and South Korea for destinations including Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane,” Nicola Carmichael from Kayak told TND.
All that remains is for airlines to reconnect Australia with more and more cities around the world.
Qantas, Emirates, Etihad and Singapore Airlines are among the few major airlines offering daily international flights to and from Australia.
But as the search data shows, there are potential visitors all over the world waiting to head our way.