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Australia has developed strong global links through its tourism and sport. Both industries are of great economic importance to Australia and are a significant source of growth for the Australian economy. While tourism is also an important source of employment in Australia, sport is significant for its image as a national 'religion' or 'obsession' with its own potential for attracting sport and business relationships with other countries. This chapter discusses the contribution of overseas tourism and sporting links to Australia's cultural and economic integration with other countries.


The importance of tourism to Australia may be seen in the number of Australians travelling overseas and, in turn, the thousands of overseas tourists visiting Australia each year. It has been Australia's single largest source of foreign exchange dollars and a significant source of employment and economic growth. Further, international visitors have consumed a large number of Australian goods and services. The recent high tourism share of Australia's GDP was reflected in part by the impact of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Since then, overseas issues linked to the impact of the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings, 2005 and 2006 London bombings, and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome 'SARS' scare has caused a decline in the number of international visitors to Australia and the willingness of Australians to travel overseas.

Sources of inbound tourists

Millions of visitors have recently come to Australia, with an increase in arrivals over the previous decade. Inbound tourism has traditionally come more from Europe and North America but the fastest growing source of tourists with significant increases has been in Asia-Pacific countries, particularly New Zealand. Overall, the top source countries for visitor arrivals have often been New Zealand, followed by Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. See animation 1

Significant increases for tourists have recently occurred for China, New Zealand, and Japan. Tourist numbers from European countries such as Italy, France and Ireland have also significantly increased. While New Zealand has seen the most visitor arrivals to Australia, Japan has often been Australia's largest financial tourism market.

Outbound destinations for tourism

The number of Australians travelling overseas has steadily increased, and is currently at the highest annual number of departures so far recorded. The most popular destinations have often been New Zealand, followed by the United States, the United Kingdom, Indonesia and Thailand.

Significant increases for departures have occurred for Indonesia, China, Thailand and Malaysia, most of which were for Australians 'holidaying'. However, a longer-term decline for departures to Indonesia has occurred due to the impact that the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings have had on the willingness of Australians to travel to such parts.


Sport is considered by some to be a national 'religion' or 'obsession' with its own opportunities for attracting business in Australia with sporting countries. In 1964, Donald Horne suggested that Australia's success at competitive international sport was even considered an important part of its foreign policy. Similar comments followed the announcement that Sydney would host the 2000 Olympic Games, when New South Wales premier, and president of the Sydney 2000 Games Bid, John Fahey, said that its Olympic involvement may 'perhaps teach our youth to take on the world and do their best'. See image 1

The 2000 Olympics has been Australia's most prominent international sporting link, attracting high levels of investment from participating countries and reinforcing cultural and other overseas links. More far-reaching sporting links are shown in Australia's involvement in the Asia Cup. Like the Olympics, the Asia Cup includes a highly diverse group of countries, many of which have otherwise been considered hostile to Australia in political or other ways. These include Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Oman, China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia and Thailand.

Australia has also participated in the Commonwealth Games, Asia Pacific Games, Pan Pacific ('Pan Pacs') swimming meet, Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne, Australian Open (tennis), the World Rugby 7s and the Commonwealth Bank Cycling Classic held annually in NSW. Australia's oldest sporting ties still exist with England through Test cricket—one-day cricket matches have since been held with other Commonwealth countries such as New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the West Indies, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Australia also has a competitive world profile in soccer, rugby union and Tri-Nation rugby union tests (played between Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the UK), as well as boxing, cycling, golf, middle-distance running, motor cycle racing, pole vaulting, swimming and tennis.

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1. Which part of the world is Australia's fastest growing source of tourists?

North America

South America




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