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Tourism on way to becoming Australia’s biggest export

July 29, 2015 Corporate, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59It may not be something you dig out of the ground, but tourism could end up being Australia’s main export. Tourism has overtaken coal as the country’s second-biggest export, when measured for the year to May, and some pundits say it could end up as the biggest.

Research from Barclays, cited yesterday by Australian Financial Review, says the value of non-mining, non-farm exports climbed 7% over the past 12 months, with  services such as tourism in the forefront.

There are several reasons, but prime among them is a sharp fall in the value of the Australian dollar and a plunge in the price of Australia’s two biggest export commodities, iron ore and coal.

Also, tourism is doing well. Latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), shows the value of inbound tourism, including that connected to education and business, for May this year was up by 11% when compared to a year ago, the Financial Review notes. Total receipts for the year to the end of May are worth about AUD 17 billion, more than coal at around AUD 16.5 billion.

In short, commodities are falling and tourism is rising.

Here is how the picture looked back in 2013, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

The first column of figures shows the value of exports in millions of Australian dollars and the second column shows the percentage share.

1 Iron ores & concentrates 69,494 21.8
2 Coal 39,805 12.5
3 Education-related travel services 15,020 4.7
4 Natural gas 14,602 4.6
5 Gold 13,897 4.4
6 Personal travel (excl education) services 13,115 4.1
7 Crude petroleum 9,016 2.8
8 Wheat 6,085 1.9
9 Aluminium ores & conc (incl alumina) 5,902 1.9
10 Beef f.c.f. 5,695 1.8

The AFR article quoted Barclays chief economist Kieran Davies saying that nominal (before inflation) exports of tourism had climbed by 11% over the past year, the fastest growth since 2007 after a long period of stagnation.

If the trend continues, Davies argues, tourism may replace iron ore as the biggest contributor to Australia’s export revenue.

Written by Peter Needham

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