TA on track despite slip in Chinese arrivals

TA on track despite slip in Chinese arrivals
By admin

Tourism Australia has said it continues to track at the lower end of its 2020 targets despite a fall in the number of Chinese visitors in the final quarter of 2013.

Figures released this morning show total international arrivals climbed 7% to 1.7 million in the three months to December with spend – regarded as the more critical performance indicator – rising 9% to just over $8b.

Over the full year, arrivals increased 6% to 5.9m with spend by overseas visitors rising 6% to almost $29b.

Managing director John O’Sullivan said much of the growth in the final quarter was driven by the leisure sector and was spread across Tourism Australia’s key markets, including the UK and US.

It demonstrates Tourism Australia’s strategy of following a “balanced portfolio approach”, he said.

China was again singled out for special mention despite a 4% fall in arrivals, a decline likely to be attributed to a clampdown in China on tour operators who offer cheap, but sub-standard tours

“A lot was written late last year about the introduction of China’s new tourism law and the impact clamping down on coercive shopping tours would have on our numbers,” O’Sullivan said. “The good news is that despite Chinese arrivals falling 4% during the quarter (to 144,000), total spend is up 13% and average spend per visitor is up 17%.”

The figures show Chinese tourists spent $946m in the December quarter and $4.8b in the 2013 calendar year, up 16% on 2012.

Nevertheless, the dip in arrivals will concern Tourism Australia which has banked heavily on achieving significant growth from China as it chases its 2020 targets.

Those targets include doubling total overnight expenditure to between $115b and $140b by the start of the next decade. Tourism Australia said it was still tracking at the “lower end” of the range.

Despite a focus on Asia, traditional markets remain critical to achieving its goal and a healthy 12% lift in the December quarter from the UK, with spend soaring 19%, will have buoyed tourism leaders. Arrivals and expenditure from the US also showed solid growth, climbing 11% and 9% respectively.

But Japan remains a weak link with arrivals falling 3% in the quarter to 84,000 with spend tumbling 9%.

The Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) heralded the performance from traditional markets.

“China has been a strong focus for the industry for the past few years but we are now seeing a return to good growth in markets including the UK and the US,” managing director Peter Shelley said. “This is a reflection of a more favourable currency exchange, increased confidence in the strength of local economies post the GFC, as well as a release of some pent up demand which has grown over this period.”

ATEC also played down the significance of the fall in Chinese arrivals, arguing the new Chinese tourism laws have had a positive effect on spend.

“While Australia should be focused on growing visitation from China, we must continue to improve both the quality of the experience and the yield within the holiday segment of the market,” Shelley said.

He added that easing the visa process for visitors remained a priority.

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