May mile­stone: Chi­nese vis­i­tors take #1 rank­ing

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - BUSINESS - Bernard Salt

CHINA will soon eclipse New Zealand and dom­i­nate in­bound tourism for a gen­er­a­tion.

By my es­ti­ma­tion, a sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ment will take place this month, and it will pass with lit­tle fan­fare.

The num­ber of vis­i­tors to Aus­tralia from China will fi­nally over­take the num­ber of vis­i­tors from New Zealand.

The Cen­sus snap­shot of overseas vis­i­tors shows three spikes: 16-year-old ex­change stu­dents; 20 to 25-year-old back­pack­ers; and 55 to 64year-old lifestylers, and pos­si­bly some busi­ness­peo­ple.

In the year end­ing Jan­uary 2017, there were 1.345 mil­lion vis­i­tors to Aus­tralia from New Zealand and 1.229 mil­lion from China ex­clud­ing Hong Kong.

The Chi­nese visi­tor mar­ket has in­creased 285 per cent over the past decade.

China over­took New Zealand as Aus­tralia’s most valu­able visi­tor mar­ket sev­eral years ago.

The fru­gal Ki­wis stay with friends and rel­a­tives; the bigspend­ing Chi­nese stay in ho­tels, shop and visit at­trac­tions.

The May tran­si­tion from New Zealand to China as our big­gest overseas visi­tor mar­ket (by num­ber) is sym­bolic.

Aus­tralia’s overseas visi­tor mar­kets are driven by lo­cal pros­per­ity, by con­nec­tiv­ity (di­rect flights), and by mi­grant and stu­dent flows.

It is pos­si­ble to fly to Aus­tralia from six cities in New Zealand. Such con­nec­tiv­ity makes it easy to come to Aus­tralia.

Aus­tralian air­ports now of­fer di­rect flights into 13 main­land cities in ad­di­tion to Hong Kong.

By the end of the 2020s there could be di­rect flights be­tween Aus­tralia and 30 cities in China – let alone an up­lift in the fre­quency of flights on es­tab­lished routes.

There’s no di­rect flight to Aus­tralia from Tian­jin, for ex­am­ple, a city of 11 mil­lion. Or in­deed from Dong­guan (7 mil­lion), Foshan (7 mil­lion), Shenyang (6 mil­lion), Suzhou (5 mil­lion), Haerbin (5 mil­lion) or Dalian (4 mil­lion). China can drive con­nec­tiv­ity for an­other 20 years.

China is now Aus­tralia’s lead­ing ex­port mar­ket and has been since it over­took Ja­pan at the time of the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis. It is the coun­try with which we have most con­nec­tion points.

The reign of the Ki­wis lasted 18 years, the Ja­panese per­haps a decade.

The China in­com­ing visi­tor as­cen­dancy could re­main in­tact for a gen­er­a­tion into the fu­ture.

In a decade’s time, it is quite pos­si­ble Kiwi vis­i­tors to Aus­tralia will top the 1.6mil­lion mark while Amer­i­cans could top the mil­lion mark. The Chi­nese at this time could of­fer two mil­lion vis­i­tors, clos­ing in on three mil­lion by 2030.

What does the Aus­tralian tourism in­dus­try look like with dou­ble the num­ber of Chi­nese vis­i­tors? The busi­nesses to be in would be avi­a­tion, air­port man­age­ment (and de­vel­op­ment), as well as ded­i­cated ho­tels and re­sorts. There would be de­mand for Man­darin-speak­ing staff and as­so­ci­ated ser­vices such as re­sorts, casi­nos and per­haps even medical tourism.

At some point per­haps in the 2030s the mar­ket for Aus­tralian tourism will peak in China, but by that time per­haps the mid­dle class of In­dia, Viet­nam, Thai­land and In­done­sia will de­mand overseas travel.

Tourism in Aus­tralia has al­ways been an in­dus­try com­prised of a vast num­ber of smaller op­er­a­tors. In many ways it’s a lot like agribusi­ness.

And like agribusi­ness, we have never re­ally pro­jected gen­uinely large-scale tourism busi­nesses into the global mar­ket. But per­haps with the out­look for vis­i­tors promised by the rise of China and other coun­tries, there will be scope for en­ter­pris­ing Aus­tralian busi­nesses to lever­age into glob­ally scaled op­er­a­tions.

Pic: SHANE NI­CHOLS

Chi­nese tourists — now more nu­mer­ous than the Ki­wis, who were #1 for 18 years

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