Australia saw overseas visitors fall 99% in April amid coronavirus lockdown

FILE PHOTO: A traveler wearing a protective face mask and gloves makes her way through the arrivals section of the international terminal of Kingsford Smith International Airport the morning after Australia implemented an entry ban on non-citizens and non-residents intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Sydney, Australia, March 21, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia saw overseas arrivals collapse to almost nothing in April as it closed its borders to fight the coronavirus pandemic, in a massive blow for the tourist industry.

Preliminary data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics released on Wednesday showed arrivals of 21,600 in April, down 98.7% from a year earlier. Returning Australian citizens accounted for 15,100 of them.

The biggest decline was in arrivals from New Zealand, which dived by 161,950 to just 1,180. Arrivals from China, where closures had already badly curbed tourism in March, dropped 132,040 to only 320.

Departures from Australia likewise plunged 96.5% to 63,500, mostly foreigners returning home.

Reporting by Wayne Cole; Editing by Clarence Fernandez