SYDNEY— Australia is hoping to double the number of Chinese visitors to the country by 2020. This week a delegation from Tourism Australia, a state-run agency, has been meeting Chinese investors, airline executives and government officials.
More tourists visit Australia from China than from any other country apart from New Zealand.
Chinese travelers spent $102 billion worldwide last year, according to the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization, and Australia is keen to cash in on a booming industry.
Andrew McEvoy, the managing director of Tourism Australia, says more needs to be done to boost the numbers of Chinese visitors.
“Look, China is our fastest growing market. It's already our highest value market - almost 700,000 Chinese visitors spending in excess of AUD$ 4.5 billion [USD $4.1 billion]. I think we're still a long way from being completely China ready but there are a lot of steps being taken and I would argue that the tourism industry is better geared than most industries to welcome Chinese engagement," said McEvoy.
Tourism Australia officials this week signed a three-year agreement with Air China to increase the number of flights into Australia. The airline is the only carrier to operate a direct service between Beijing and Sydney.
Other industry groups are also helping holiday companies cater to the Chinese market.
The managing director of Tourism Accommodation Australia, Rodger Powell, says even small measures can make a difference.
“It is really a matter of paying attention to the little things. Welcome letters for Chinese guests in Chinese language, kettles and teapots in the rooms and teacups and a selection of teas, specific local snacks and beverages. Some hotels are offering Chinese satellite news, Chinese newspapers available on request," said Powell.
Australia is also keen to attract Chinese gamblers, but faces competition from Macau, the world's largest gambling destination, and the Philippines.
Then there is an ambitious proposal to build a Chinese theme park north of Sydney, Australia’s biggest city. The local authority in coastal Wyong is exploring plans by a Chinese businessman to build a $480 million tourist attraction that will include a full-size replica of Beijing's Forbidden City and a nine-story temple housing a giant Buddha.
Officials predict the bold venture, which is due to start construction next year, will attract millions of Chinese tourists.