Australia is preparing for its annual peak holiday season in May, when more than 1.6 million tourists will flock to the nation.
But while the tourism industry is in the middle of a period of great uncertainty, there are a number of reasons for Australians to be optimistic.
Australia has the third-highest number of Australians aged 18-34 living overseas, after New Zealand and France.
It has the highest number of foreign visitors in the world and the fourth-highest proportion of international students in the country.
The number of people who are overseas is also increasing rapidly.
Australia’s foreign student numbers are now more than doubling, from about 1.1 million in 2014 to more than 3.4 million in 2019, according to the Australian Institute of Sport and Exercise (AISE).
As the nation prepares to welcome a record 4.3 million tourists this year, the Australian tourism industry, which provides tourism to almost a quarter of the country’s population, is expecting to see an influx of international visitors in early May.
According to Australian Institute for Tourism and Culture (AITC) chief executive officer Richard Johnson, the industry is currently on track to attract more than $1.5 billion in visitors to Australia this year.
“Our tourism infrastructure is now able to handle this,” he said.
In the past two decades, the AITC has invested in the industry to build up its capacity and provide the facilities that overseas tourists will need to make the most of the season.
Its 2016-17 visitor bookings and visitor spending forecast shows the sector is on track for a $4.1 billion increase in visitor spend this year compared to last year, with overseas visitors expected to spend $3.9 billion.
There is also a significant amount of work to do to ensure the industry can sustain itself, with a budget shortfall of $1 billion in 2019-20, according a letter from the AISE to its members last year.
The Australian Institute said it is also considering a range of measures to address the tourism sector’s needs and provide more certainty about what is expected of Australian citizens in the months ahead.
“While this is not something we would wish to impose on our guests, we will continue to work closely with our members and stakeholders to ensure they are fully engaged in the planning process to secure the future of the industry,” it said.
“In the meantime, we are taking a cautious approach to the outlook for this year’s peak holiday period and will ensure that we continue to deliver our most ambitious plans for the coming year.”
What is the season?
Australians are not likely to be travelling in May this year as a result of a record rainfall and high temperatures.
There will be a mix of cloudy skies and clear skies over the state and the country, with highs of about 37 degrees centigrade (78.5 degrees Fahrenheit) forecast in Melbourne, 38 degrees in Adelaide and 40 degrees in Perth.
However, temperatures in the region will drop to between 35 degrees centigress (78 degrees Fahrenheit), and 40 to 45 degrees in the south-east.
The region is likely to experience a few milder conditions, with temperatures in most parts of the state forecast to drop to around 25 degrees centibusto (78 Celsius).
There will also be some rain showers in the east of the nation, with some areas in the Adelaide Hills, North Adelaide, South Australia and Brisbane seeing more than five inches (11.6 centimeters) of rain, the Bureau of Meteorology said.
In Melbourne, rain is forecast to fall on Thursday.
A strong trough will then hit the south west on Friday and will bring rain to the south of the city for the next few days, before continuing south to the Gold Coast.
It will be followed by a high pressure system moving over the Goldfields on Saturday, with the centre of the system moving to the eastern end of the Sunshine Coast on Sunday.
At least two to four more severe thunderstorms are possible in the Goldfield, with up to 15 millimetres (4.2 inches) of rainfall expected, and a flash flood warning for the state.
With the risk of flash flooding on the rise, many residents in some parts of Melbourne have already been advised to evacuate their homes.
More than 1,500 flood warnings have been issued across the state, with more than 200 being issued in the past 24 hours.
An increased number of flood warnings and warnings have also been issued for the Brisbane area, with many parts of Queensland being warned to evacuate ahead of an expected rain storm on Thursday morning.
Rainfall forecasts show the Brisbane CBD will see rain for about three to four hours, with gusts of up to 80 millimetre (32.4 inches).