WELLINGTON, New Zealand – China and Hong Kong are poised to overtake New Zealand as the biggest source of tourists to Australia in a landmark development for the hospitality sector, research suggests.
Australia will attract more tourists from China and Hong Kong than it does from New Zealand from mid next year, based on current trends, the report says.
After years of stellar growth, the number of tourists from China and Hong Kong hit 1.14 million in the year to June — up 17.5 per cent on the previous year.
Five years ago, fewer than 600,000 tourists visited from Hong Kong and China each year. Tourist numbers from New Zealand totalled 1.27 million in the year to June and have also been growing steadily, but at a far slower pace.
A CommSec report says that based on figures released this month by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, China and Hong Kong will become our leading market for tourists next July.
In all, a record 7.1 million international tourists hit Australian shores in the past year — up 7.7 per cent on the previous year.
“With rising prosperity in Asia and a lower Aussie dollar, tourists numbers will keep rising,” CommSec chief economist Craig James said. “Governments and businesses need to ensure that the infrastructure, hotels and transport are in place to meet the rising inflows of people.”
There was also a modest increase in Australian tourists heading overseas in the past year, up 2.3 per cent.
“Clearly, the increase in tourism is good news for airlines, retailers and the transport sector,” Mr James said.
Australian marketing agencies and tourism companies have increasingly focused on China and other Asian economies for growth in recent years.
Ballarat’s popular period tourist park, Sovereign Hill, has set up an office in China. Sovereign Hill management have said about a quarter of Chinese tourists who visit Melbourne now travel to Ballarat to visit the park.
Michele Levine, chief executive at research company Roy Morgan, said the tourism export market was worth about $14 billion a year — potentially the nation’s “most valuable new-age export industry”.
“The commodities boom is over, iron ore prices have fallen. The associated substantial drop in the Australian dollar makes other industries more competitive, such as education, agriculture, manufacturing and tourism,” Ms Levine said.
Australia has always been an aspirational destination, people want to come to.’’