Are Australians bored with Bali?

All of a sudden, Bali is wondering whether its boom in international visitors is over.

In the past five years, Australia has led the way in the rush to Bali, which is now the top international holiday spot for Aussies. In the past few years, Australia has also become the No. 1 source market for Bali visitors.

But, in the first month of the new year, the growth in visitors to the island suddenly halted, which prompted the local Bali Update newsletter to speculate whether the drop-off would continue through the year.

“Is the party over?” Bali Update last week headlined one of its leading articles. “January 2013 foreign arrivals suggest Bali's halcyon days of growing tourist total may be at an end.”

Of course, statistics jump around, but it’s interesting that the drop-off was consistent in many of Bali’s leading markets.

Over all arrivals in January, compared with the same month last year, were down from 248,289 to 212,657 or more than 14 per cent. The number of people arriving from Australia was down nine per cent, although the 58,000 Aussies who headed there dwarfed the influx from the next-biggest markets, China (25,000) and Japan (16,000).

"Although still early to begin predicting where the year will end, if the 14.35 per cent January decline is emblematic of the entire year ahead, Bali will end 2013 with 2.47 million tourist, far short of the 2.892 million foreign tourists who came in 2012,” the newsletter.

Noting the fall in Australian arrivals, it said: “A recent survey declared that the USA has supplanted Bali as Australia’s most preferred overseas holiday destination.”

In fact, New Zealand is the biggest destination for Australians, although Bali and the USA are now jostling for second place.

I wonder whether over the next few years where we travel will depend more and more on the strength of the Australian dollar.

One of the great attractions of the US nowadays is the shopping because the Aussie dollar is worth more than the Greenback.

That won’t last forever, but there’s no indication that the AUD will return to its Pacific peso status anytime soon.

Australians in their hundreds of thousands are already shopping online in the US; it’s logical that a desire to physically shop in the States becomes a new trend, even though it may not be readily apparent in the reams of statistics published by the tourism industry.

In any case, tourism trends are a moving feast. Remember when Australia was flavour of the month for Americans and Japanese? In the case of the latter at least, the Japanese dropped Australia as their favourite favourite in the 1990s and, even though planeloads of Japanese still arrive in Australia every day, they’re now much more inclined to look at alternatives for holidays, like China and Europe.

The Australian tourism industry isn’t as worried about that as it used to be, since China has become the hot new replacement market for the Japanese phenomenon.

It’s still possible to pay $2000 for a return ticket from Australia to the US, but it’s now also possible to get one for around $1200 depending on the time of year.

The surge in travel between Australia and the US still hasn’t caught up to the number of seats on the route, which became available when Virgin Australia began flying to the US and America’s Delta started a daily flight from Los Angeles to Sydney.

Qantas is also exploiting demand for travel from Australia to the eastern US with its exploratory service to Dallas, Texas, going daily last year.

How has your desire for international travel changed in the past few years? Are you bored with Bali? Are you planning a US shopping holiday? Do you find the shopping is better in Asia or elsewhere? If it’s a choice between Asia and the US, who wins? Post your comments below.