Number of Aussies heading overseas soars to 7.8 million

Australia's tourism figures continue to make for bleak reading, with nearly 10,000 fewer international visitors arriving here in 2011, and the number of Aussies taking overseas holidays soaring to 7.8 million.

The Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) says Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data released on Tuesday shows Australians took nearly two million more trips overseas in 2011 than in 2010.

According to the ABS, Australia had just under 5.8 million international visitors in 2011 - 9700 fewer than the previous year.

TTF boss John Lee says Australia's annual tourism balance of trade deficit blew out to a record of almost $8 billion as a result.

"A record 1.4 million Australians went to Thailand and Indonesia last year, meaning fewer people chose an Australian beach or island resort holiday," Mr Lee said in a statement.

"With the dollar likely to remain strong for some time and investment in new resorts in South-East Asia, many leisure tourism operators in Australia are facing an uncertain future."

Mr Lee says global economic uncertainty has pushed down visitor numbers from Britain, Europe, Japan, Canada and the United States.

"Growth from emerging markets including China, now our third largest source country, Indonesia, India and the Philippines has not made up for the falls," he said.

"Although we are expecting arrivals from many Asian markets to continue to trend up, we cannot afford to take that for granted and we cannot continue to do the same thing and expect a different result."