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Newly Rich Chinese Tourists Flock to Australia

  • Phil Mercer

Chinese tourists are flocking to Australia like never before. About 300,000 made the journey last year. That figure is expected to triple within five years, and Australia's multi-billion dollar travel industry is eagerly cashing in. From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports.

Australia has spent a fortune trying to attract more tourists from overseas.

The signs are good. In the first half of this year, overall figures were up by five percent. But it is the strength of the Chinese market that has the industry buzzing. The number of visitors from China has risen by 20 percent.

No so long ago, China was one of the poorest countries in the world. Now, the country is rich, and so are a lot of its 1.3 billion people.

For the first time in history, there is a Chinese middle class. They have money to burn, and like the Japanese, South Koreans and Taiwanese before them, they are rushing to see the world.

The authorities in Beijing have played their part, by adding Australia to a list of countries approved for Chinese group travel.

John O'Neill, the head of Tourism New South Wales, says the boom is likely to continue.

"We recently hosted the head of the China National Tourism Authority to Sydney, and he visited other parts of Australia, and we talked about what sort of numbers we might expect when, and he said, 'Look, by 2012 we expect that you'll be receiving more than a million Chinese each and every year,'" he said.

Henry Heung, a Chinese businessman, runs a travel agency in Sydney. He says business is very good.

"It's strong and the number is gradually increasing every month and every year, so we're looking very optimistic on the Chinese market. Probably it's going to last for quite some time," he said.

Last year, about 300,000 Chinese visited Australia, a reflection of China's exceptional economic growth. Australia is a lengthy plane ride from Chinese cities, and tickets are not cheap.

A round-trip flight will cost around $1,200, considerably higher than the average Chinese monthly salary, and having a good time can be expensive. The two major attractions here for Chinese visitors are shopping and restaurants.

Sydney has a vibrant Chinatown to make the visitors feel at home, and there are thriving expatriate Chinese communities all over the country. The food in Sydney is considered to be of a high standard.

But this young traveler has his own list of things to experience, and they are not all Chinese.

"My name is Chow Sun, yeah, I come from China and I in Sydney," he said. "Sydney - very good, beautiful. Australian people is very good, yeah, very well. I like a little food. Chocolate is very good, and cake."

Chinese holiday-makers are not afraid to spend their money here, on chocolate or cake or anything else. They are - along with British and South Korean visitors - the biggest spenders.

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