China is on the cusp of overtaking New Zealand for the first time as Australia’s biggest source of international visitors, according to new figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Tourism & Transport Forum Chief Executive, Margy Osmond, said the latest Overseas Arrival Data (OAD) continued an upward trend that puts China it well on track to become our largest overseas visitor market by year’s end, dislodging long-time leader New Zealand.
“The rise and rise of the Chinese visitor market continues to be one of Australian tourism’s great success stories,” Ms Osmond said.
“In the period to March 2017, Australia welcomed 1.3 million Chinese visitors, an increase of 12.3 per cent on March 2016, and just 100,000 fewer than New Zealand.
“Chinese visitors are the highest spending of all nationalities visiting Australia with an average spend of $8,328 per trip, and with the number of Chinese tourists traveling overseas each year expected to double to 200 million by 2020, the Chinese tourism boom is well and truly set to become the backbone of Australia’s visitor economy.
“This growth is reflected across other Asian nations, with markets such as Malaysia (11.1 per cent annual increase) and Singapore (7.4 per cent annual increase) recording strong growth.
“Asian nations comprise seven of our top 10 source markets, and have delivered almost 50 per cent of total arrivals over the past 12 months.
“The data also continues to show Thailand and Vietnam – long favourites for Aussie travelers – are now returning the favour with double-digit growth in the number of visitors from both countries to our shores.”
The OAD showed that 8.37 million people travelled to Australia over the past 12 months.
“This is a record level,” Ms Osmond said. “But there are early signs that the pace of growth is starting to cool.
“International visitor numbers were up a healthy 9.1 per cent over the year – but this is the slowest pace of annual growth in a year, and the sector will be hoping to return to the 10 per cent plus rates in the coming months.”
New Zealand continues to be our largest market, with 1.4 million visitors, but has recorded one of the slowest growth figures of the top 10 markets at just 2.6 per cent. The strongest growth in the top 10 countries was achieved by Japan (17.6 per cent), followed by South Korea (17.0 per cent).
The USA has also edged out the UK into third place, with 726,800 American visitors (up 14.1 per cent) compared to 715,600 British (up 1.5 per cent).
Ms Osmond warned that the forecast strong growth in international visitor numbers has been put at risk by the latest Federal Budget.
“Next year, Tourism Australia will have $8.5 million less than they had this year to spend on promoting Australia to the world,” Ms Osmond said.
“This will inevitably have a negative impact on growth in international visitor arrivals in the year ahead.
“This decision is a serious blow to the sector and the almost one million Australians with a job that is linked to tourism.”