Packer: Australia is being left behind

Packer: Australia is being left behind
By admin

Australia must stop looking at Asia “through western eyes” if its tourism industry is to capitalise on the Asian century, according to Crown chairman James Packer.

While the number of China’s middle class is rocketing, and is expected to hit one billion by 2030, Australia’s share of the “critical” market is declining, Packer told delegates at the Tourism and Transport Forum Leadership Summit in Canberra this morning.

“Australia is not keeping up with other countries like Singapore in creating tourism products that cater to the desires of the Chinese market,” he said.

Luxury experiences were a priority for the Chinese market, Packer insisted, with China expected to represent 20% of the global luxury market by 2015. This trend towards high end product had seen 83% of Chinese visitor nights in Australia spent in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide.

Gambling represents a significant part of a luxury proposition, he continued. He cited figures that showed 80% of Chinese travelling overseas for the first time headed for a destination with a casino.

Furthermore, 90% of those visiting the US headed for its gambling capital Las Vegas.

Crown’s proposal for a six-star hotel and casino at Sydney’s Barangaroo precinct would help Australia capture some of this growth, Packer argued, in addition to giving the city’s tourism a “kick start” by adding luxury hotel inventory where little investment had been seen in the years since Australia’s hosting of the Olympic Games.

Packer admitted Australia’s natural experiences are “absolutely critical” but he stressed the importance of manmade attractions, and urged industry to combine the two.

“It’s no longer about just providing a backdrop for photo opportunities. Tourism is about life experiences,” he said.

He pointed to Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands Resort and Resorts World Sentosa, launched in 2010, as examples of the country’s efforts to capture the market.

The successful impact of the projects can be seen in tourism revenue figures which showed a 49% increase in 2010 year on year. In 2011, the destination saw 68% growth in Chinese visitor numbers on 2009 levels.

Packer underlined his confidence that the Australian industry also stands to benefit from the Chinese boom, referring to his decision to turn his attention entirely from media to tourism as proof.

But he stressed the government has an important role to play and urged it to “recognise the importance” of the industry and realise the evolution of China into a “modern member of the industrial world”.

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