The data for overseas arrivals and departures was released today and I decided to see if there was any sign this latest ISIS conflagration was changing Aussies’ travel.
This chart shows the travel by Australians to Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, UAE, Pakistan and an ABS category called “Other Middle East and North Africa.”
If the government is trying to instil fear, it hasn’t been that effective, apparently. Let’s look at a longer time scale.
(It’s worth noting that the number of Australians who identify as Muslim increased from 280,000 in 2001 to 480,000 in 2011. Some of them have family backgrounds in these countries, and might account for a modest share of that increased travel, so it isn’t all exploratory tourism.)
The share of total travel going to that group of countries dips from a peak in 1998 to a low in February 2003. It might be tempting to blame that on the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, but half the fall had already happened when those attacks occurred.
The reason for the peak and the pre-2001 fall is prosaic and sensible. IN 1998 opportunistic Aussies were riding a wave of Indonesian exchange rate appreciation that pulled back by 2000.
September 11 may explain a short blip but a more powerful explanation for the weakness in the middle of the graph is the 2002 and 2005 Bali Bombings. Both these events had sharp effects on travel to Indonesia.
And it seems Aussies weren’t turned off Islamic countries in general. In fact, between the 1998 peak and now, the numbers of Aussies visiting Islamic countries rose 150 per cent.
And we’ve been more willing to get off the beaten path of Indonesia and Malaysia. The following graph shows how the shares changed.
Statistics show Australians aren’t as jerky and petrified as the opinion leaders might think. I’m not surprised.
Let’s hope some of this tourism helps spread a message that even if our government falls into the trap of following the US into war after war, friendship is possible between Australian people and people of Islamic states.