The ACT recorded the largest drop in tourism numbers in the country in February, largely driven by travel bans imposed on China and a decline in international students due to coronavirus.
New figures from the Australia Bureau of Statistics showed Canberra had a 37 per cent decrease in the number of tourists visiting the capital in February compared with the same time last year.
The number of visitors from China into Canberra fell by 83 per cent, while travellers from the US decreased by 39 per cent.
It comes as Australia recorded 685,400 international visitors in February. This was a drop of 26 per cent on a year earlier. Every state and territory registered a drop in overseas visitors in the month.
There was an increase in the number of Australian residents returning from overseas in the same time period, rising by 5.3 per cent or 785,400 travellers.
While broader coronavirus restrictions such as a ban on international travel had yet to be implemented in Australia in February, bans were in effect for travel to and from China.
Further travel bans on Iran, South Korea and Italy were implemented in early March, before a ban on international travel altogether was put in place a few weeks later.
Data shows Canberra recorded a decrease of 4710 international students arriving in Canberra in February compared with the previous year, representing a drop of 61 per cent.
The ban on Chinese travel into Australia heavily affected international student numbers; ABS data showed China was the largest source of international students.
The bureau's director of migration statistics, Jenny Dobak, said there was a decrease of visitors to Australia from most countries.
"Although China was previously the largest source country for [February], it had decreased by nearly 90 per cent when compared to a year ago," she said.
The largest number of visitors to come to Canberra during the month still came from China, followed by the US and New Zealand.
Despite the drop in tourists, visitors from Hong Kong to the ACT rose by 68 per cent in February, while Indian and New Zealand tourist figures rose by 40 and 27 per cent respectively.
HSBC chief economist Paul Bloxham said the number of international visitors would continue to plummet, causing damage to the economy well beyond just tourism and education.
Mr Bloxham said in the past decade Australia had one of the fastest growing populations among developed countries, and two-thirds of that was driven by net migration.
He said this influx of people had helped drive economic growth, support the property sector and buttress consumer demand, and the plunge in arrivals would have a big impact across the economy.
University of Technology Sydney economist Warren Hogan said the slump in overseas arrivals was a "perfect example" of the long-lasting damage being done to the economy by the measures taken to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Professor Hogan said it would take time for the number of international students coming to Australia to recover.
They contributed $34 billion to the economy in 2018.
"And how can anyone expect, when the borders are open, that tourism is going to go back to where it was?" he said.
"People aren't going to either have the money because they have been out of work, or the appetite."
Professor Hogan warned that the economy was "not going to go back to where it was".
Last year had the highest number of international visitors coming to Australia on record. About 9.5 million visited the country, and 1.4 million of them came from China.
The ABS said large decreases in international travel occurred during previous disease outbreaks such as SARS in 2003.
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