Background Australia is known for its aquatic locations and serene landscapes, attracting many international tourists, students, and workers. International travel is not without risk as water-related injuries are known to occur; drowning being one of the main causes of tourist deaths. This study aims to review international traveller drowning deaths in Australia to propose prevention strategies by traveller type.
Methods A total population retrospective study exploring drowning deaths of travellers was conducted over a 10-year financial year period 2009–2019. Data were extracted from the Royal Life Saving National Fatal Drowning Database. Data was categorised into four tourist sub-groups: overseas visitors, international students, work-related and working holiday-makers.
Results 2686 people drowned in Australia during the study period. International tourists represented 7.4% of all drowning deaths; a crude drowning rate of 0.27/100,000 travellers compared to 0.95/100,000 for the Australian population (RR=0.26 95%CI:0.02–0.03). Most traveller deaths were males (80%) and people aged 18–34 years (49%). Travellers most frequently drowned in regional location (52%), at beaches (35%) ocean/harbour (24%), when swimming (45%) and diving (25%), 15% of tourist deaths involved alcohol (BAC ≥0.05%) and/or illegal drugs.
Conclusion This study identified the risk profile of international tourists to Australia varies by purpose of travel. The challenge in prevention strategies for tourists is targeting a transient population, and therefore future drowning prevention strategies need to be innovative to be impactful.
Learning Outcome Drowning prevention strategies should be specifically targeted to tourist type, age, location, and activity to help prevent future drowning incidents.
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