(Australian Associated Press)
China has become the fastest-growing tourist market for Australia over the past 40 years and has almost eclipsed New Zealand as the biggest source country for visitors.
About 1.3 million New Zealand and 1.2 million Chinese tourists came to Australia for short-term stays of less than three months in 2016, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The 1.2 million from China set a new record, in a demonstration of the acceleration in tourist numbers since 1976, when just 500 Chinese people visited Australia.
The two biggest tourism nations also made up about about 19 per cent of the total of 11,530 people who settled in Australia in 2016, with 830 settlers from New Zealand last year, and 1390 from China.
The largest group was the 2720 people who settled in Australia from Southern and Central Asia, mainly India.
A close second was the 2560 settlers who came from the Middle East and North Africa in 2016.
CoreLogic Research analyst Cameron Kusher says there has been a big shift in where settlers in Australia have come from in recent years.
“There has been a substantial decline in settlers from Oceania and Antarctica (region) over the recent year and a significant ramp-up in settlers from North Africa and the Middle East over the past year,” he said in a statement.
“Ten years ago, North-West Europe was the largest source of permanent settler arrivals to Australia, last year it accounted for less than seven per cent of arrivals.”
On the other side of the ledger, there were 447,700 permanent and long-term departures from the country last year.
Meanwhile, 9.8 million Australians made short term trips out of Australia in 2016, with the three most popular destinations being New Zealand, Indonesia and the United States.
Indonesia, which includes Bali, has recorded the largest surge in short-term visits from Australia in the past 10 years.
About 1.2 million Australians visited the southeast Asian nation last year, up from 193,000 in 2006.