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CATO shares top trends driving Aussie overseas leisure travel for future planning

Australian international travel continues to rebound with holidays accounting for more than half (57%) of total outbound travel in 2023. Australian international leisure travel trends are also adhering to pre-pandemic traveller tendencies with some notable preference shifts in destination, duration and demographics.

Australian international travel continues to rebound with holidays accounting for more than half (57%) of total outbound travel in 2023. Australian international leisure travel trends are also adhering to pre-pandemic traveller tendencies with some notable preference shifts in destination, duration and demographics.

Of particular note for travel agents, Australian travellers have a distinct preference for leisure travel from July – September with almost two in three (62%) booking their trips six months in advance and using a mix of online and offline retailers (70%).

The Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) revealed its Australians on Holiday – International Leisure Travel Trends Report, based on 2023 data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), CATO members and independent consumer surveys.

Where are they going?

Female traveller at Bali temple illustrating Australian international leisure travel trends.
Bali continues to be perennially popular among Aussies. Image: Shutterstock

The findings underline Australians’ enduring enthusiasm for global holidays, despite international travel tracking 12 per cent below 2019 levels, with almost 10 million Aussies heading overseas in 2023 on almost 5.7 million trips, led by Indonesia, New Zealand, Japan, Thailand and the US.

Rounding out the top 10 destinations for Aussies in 2023 were Fiji (up 16.6% on 2019), the UK, Italy (up 22.6%), Vietnam and Singapore.

While there was a seven per cent decline in travel to South-East Asia overall, this region remained a favourite among Australian travellers.

Southern and Eastern Europe recorded a six per cent hike in Aussie visitors, highlighting a shifting interest in these regions.

Who’s travelling?

Couple watching hot-air balloons in Turkey, illustrating Australian international leisure travel trends.
The majority of Australian international travellers are couples. Image: Shutterstock

For Australian international leisure travel trends, young travellers led the charge with 28 per cent of those aged 18-35 heading overseas in 2023, followed by the 36-50 age group (23%).

Couples were the dominant group at 35 per cent of total travellers with families with kids under 18 (20%) and solo travellers (17%) also counting as significant segments.

How much are they spending?

Tourists on coach, illustrating Australian international leisure travel trends.
Traditional coach touring drew more than 225,000 Aussie travellers in 2023. Image: Shutterstock

While overall tourism spend is tracking at 22 per cent less than 2019, Australian tourists still spent more than $50 billion in international travel in 2023, pointing to a robust recovery.

Of this, land-based, multi-day tours attracted $4.4 billion in total spend and traditional coach touring reported $2.1 billion, showcasing the sector’s significant contribution to overall travel spend.

During the peak July-September travel period, Australians are spending an average of 17.7 days overseas and visiting 3.1 countries per trip, accounting for 30 per cent of all trips.

Head here to read the full report.