Aussie tourism needs to shift focus amid waning Chinese interest, experts warn

4 young Chinese on bridge Melbourne

Experts from Charles Darwin University (CDU) and Griffith University said that Australia should push to attract tourists from its traditional markets amid waning Chinese interest.

CDU senior lecturer in economics Dr Maneka Jayasinghe said new research revealed that word-of-mouth advertising and repeat visits were the key drivers for Aussie tourism, so efforts should be made to engage traditional tourism markets.

The study by CDU and Griffith University academics, published in Tourism Economics, recommended this re-engagement as Chinese tourism numbers were anticipated to drop. Over the last decade, the number of Chinese tourists in Australia increased by about 15 per cent annually, rising from 353,000 a decade ago to 1.44 million in 2019.

In 2018, about 15.5 per cent of tourists in Australia came from China, knocking New Zealand (15 per cent) off the top spot.

“The growth rate drastically reduced even before the COVID-19 pandemic, to be almost stagnant,” Jayasinghe said.

“It’s set to worsen due to the political and economic tension between Australia and China.”

Jayasinghe, from the Asia Pacific College of Business and Law, said tourism is a highly political phenomenon.

The study looked at the top 20 source countries for the past two decades and found that for every one per cent increase in visitors for any one country there was an additional 0.3 per cent growth the following year.

“This indicates that tourists have a good experience and make repeated visits to Australia or spread their positive perception about Australia to other potential visitors,” Jayasinghe said.

A fellow lead author on the study, Griffith University’s professor Saroja Selvanathan, said the study indicates the Chinese migrant population in Australia should be enough to bring over Chinese tourists, despite the slowdown in growth of tourists from Chinese markets.

“This study finds that despite the deteriorating political relations between China and Australia, the stock of Chinese migrants in Australia would continue to help to increase the Chinese tourist arrivals to Australia,” Selvanathan said.

“One of the recommendations of the study to increase the shortfall in Chinese tourist arrivals to Australia is for the Australian Tourism Industry to target the growing middle-income classes in other growth markets such as India and Indonesia.”

The study also suggested that the Aussie tourism industry re-engage with traditionally strong markets to capitalise on any goodwill.

Featured Image: Four young Chinese tourists on a Melbourne bridge – iStock/allensima

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