The number of Chinese tourists visiting Australia over a 12 month period has smashed through the one million mark for the first time.
The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics overseas arrivals figures show that 1,001,200 Chinese tourists travelled to Australia in the 12 months to November 2015.
Tourism Australia managing director John O’Sullivan said that that key to building the market had been moving away from traditional group tours and instead targeting China’s rapidly emerging middle class.
“Tourism Australia’s marketing, distribution and partnership strategies are all now geared towards targeting this new breed of young, independent traveller with the desire and the financial means to explore our country,” he said.
Other initiatives have included building an “elite” network of travel agents in China who are specially trained to sell tour packages to high-yielding clients. The tourism body has also signed major agreements with China’s largest carriers, including China Southern, China Eastern and Air China.
“The good news is that the industry is really starting to embrace this incredible opportunity by developing experiences which better meet the needs of the many Chinese visitors now flocking to our country,” O’Sullivan added.
The Tourism and Transport Forum also welcomed the news.
“More than one million Chinese visitors to Australia each year is great news for our economy because Chinese visitors stay longer and they spend more when they are here,” chief executive Margy Osmond said.
“Chinese visitors spent more than $7.72 billion in the year to September 2015 according to the latest research which is over 200 per cent more compared to the $2.55 billion spent by our current largest tourist market of New Zealand.”
However, although the milestone is “significant”, Osmond highlighted the “tremendous potential” that remains within the booming market.
“It still represents less than 1% of the more than 100 million Chinese travelling overseas each year – a figure which is expected to double to 200 million by 2020,” she said.
The ability to capitalise on this lies in a “stronger partnership” between government and the industry, according to Osmond.
Minister for tourism senator Richard Colbeck underlined the government’s commitment to ensuring the future growth of the industry, with tourism identified as one of five key National Investment Priorities.
“We have, and will continue to, focus on targeted international marketing and undertaking visa reforms,” he promised.
“Our measures, such as opening a new Australian Visa Application Centre in Chengdu, China and streamlining visa application processes are making it easier for Chinese tourists to come to Australia, which will support continued growth into the future.”
Colbeck too acknowledged the challenges that lie ahead.
“While the tourism industry is clearly thriving, there is still more work to be done to ensure we can cater for the increased demand into the future and to encourage tourists to visit our unique rural and regional areas,” he said.
“The government will be working hard to spread the benefits from the surge in tourists to all Australians through greater infrastructure investment and further streamlining visa and entry processes, leading to more job opportunities in regional Australia.”
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