Chinese tourists translate to a new gold rush in Australia
Victoria and Melbourne are in the grip of a new gold rush – Asian tourism – with Melbourne Airport reporting a 15 per cent jump in international visitors last month.
The increase led to a record 477,000 passengers passing through the airport last month, up almost 61,000 on the same time last year.
Surging through the airport last month were the Japanese, their numbers up 69 per cent on a year ago, Chinese up 58 per cent, Singaporeans up 46 per cent and Malaysians up 33 per cent, according to official counts.
In absolute numbers, New Zealanders still led the way with 48,500 traversing the terminals last month, although the Chinese are a gathering force, with 27,000 passing through Melbourne.
A new and burgeoning market of middle-class Chinese are arriving in such numbers that the chief executive of Tourism Victoria, Greg Hywood, expects Chinese tourists to overtake New Zealanders in the next four years.
”China is going to be a huge provider of export income through tourism,” he said.
Last year, more 163,000 flew to Victoria, according to Tourism Victoria.
”If 120 million Japanese transformed the global tourism industry 20 years ago, what are 1.4 billion Chinese going to do?” Mr Hywood said.
It has helped, too, that Australia was the first destination to be granted the Chinese government’s Approved Destination Status, which allows permission for its citizens to travel here, albeit on defined itineraries.
The Chinese tend to embark on a whirlwind tour of Victoria: the city of Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road (albeit from a bus seat) to see the Twelve Apostles, Phillip Island to see the penguins, the Healesville Sanctuary for wildlife, Sovereign Hill to reconnect with the Chinese goldfield history and the Morning Peninsula for wineries and fresh produce.
But is Victoria ready to maximise the industry’s potential?
To help this along, the state government has budgeted $8 million for a marketing campaign aimed at the Chinese.
Already, Melbourne Airport is ahead of the curve. Its chief executive, Chris Woodruff, has long been aware of the potential of the inbound Chinese market and has introduced signs and announcements in Mandarin at the airport as well as Chinese cultural training for front-line staff. Tourism pocket guides are printed in Chinese.
Mr Woodruff is also keen to get as many Chinese airlines as possible to use Melbourne as a port (Air China, China Eastern, China Southern already do), beyond the established players servicing China-Melbourne, such as Qantas (and Jetstar), Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific.
”We’ve been quite successful in attracting new airline capacity in Victoria,” he said. ”From November, China Southern will be going from three flights a week to seven, Air China from five to seven and China Eastern are upgrading their aircraft size for more seats.”
Mr Woodruff said the key to prosperity was liberalising the skies through bilateral agreements. ”I would urge our federal government to ensure that the bilateral arrangements, which determine the amount of times an airline can fly between two countries, are negotiated well ahead of demand.”