News

Chinese visitors go online to head down under

A brand new program aimed at streamlining the visa process for Chinese visitors is now underway, with the first round of applicants to trial the online system given the green light to visit Aussie shores.

Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb said the online visa application trial, which kicked off on December 1, is aimed at engaging with the booming Chinese tourist market, an incredibly valuable audience for Australian tourism.

In 2013, Chinese outbound tourist numbers stood at 100 million, with this number expected to leap to the 200 million mark by 2020.

“Tourism is a globally competitive industry and since taking office, I have been working with colleagues and stakeholders to find ways to make it easier for visitors – particularly those from our key target market in China – to travel to our shores,” Robb said.

February will also bring the introduction of three-year multiple entry visas for Chinese business travellers, as well as an upcoming trial of SmartGate for Chinese e-Passport holders to fast track their arrival into Australia.

Negotiations have also recently been finalised under which Australia will grant visas for up to 5000 Chinese work and holiday makers every year.

The announcement marks a major step in making Chinese visitors feel more welcome down under, with Tourism & Transport Forum’s chief executive Margy Osmond saying the news has been a long time coming.

“TTF has consistently called for easier, cheaper online visas from our most important visitor market – China,” she commented.

“We congratulate the government for applying common sense and listening to calls for reform from industry.”

Across 2013 and 2014, nearly 760,000 Chinese travellers spent $4.8 billion in Australia, while 150,000 Chinese enrolled in Australian institutions.

But Osmond said recent figures show that growth in Chinese visitation is slowing, with annual growth for this year dropping from 19.3% last year to just 10.5%.

“While our growth is slowing, rival destinations are making significant gains. Chinese visitors to the USA, for example, grew by 23% and those to Canada by more than 30%,” Osmond said.

“There is still work to be done. When a Chinese citizen has to pay a minimum of $130 to visit Australia, whereas those from Hong Kong pay only $20, there is clear room for improvement.

“We look forward to working with the government to take this trial to the next stage of a fully-operational, online and affordable visa system for this vitally important market.”


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