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TTF view: Asian visitors seek unique Australian experiences

"The grand old Australian past-time of caravanning has taken off with the Chinese in a big way" writes Tourism & Transport Forum Australia CEO Margy Osmond.

by Margy Osmond, CEO, Tourism & Transport Forum Australia

Growth in Australian tourism is being driven by increasing demand from Asia. In the past 12 months we welcomed more than seven million international visitors – 920,000 from China alone.

If this trend continues, we should soon achieve the one million Chinese visitor milestone. And in a few years’ time, China may very well overtake NZ as our largest source of short-term arrivals.

But it’s not just China. Other markets in South East Asia like Malaysia and Vietnam are also seeing record growth, while the massive Indonesian market on our doorstep is poised to become a major source of visitors to our shores.

Over the past 12 months, more than 320,000 Malaysian visitors came to Australia. This represents an increase of 20 per cent – the highest of any of our major tourist markets.

Traditionally, the Australian experience of many tourists comprised of trips to our great natural icons at Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef. But times are changing. While many Asian visitors still follow the ‘Rock and Reef’ model, they are also looking for more diverse and personalised experiences, especially on return visits.

The grand old Australian past-time of caravanning has taken off with the Chinese in a big way. As a result, our rental car companies and caravan parks are seeing a boost in the number of Chinese visitors renting their vehicles and staying in their facilities. With the freedom and flexibility provided by caravanning, it’s little wonder the Chinese are embracing the quintessentially-Aussie road trip.

Another group of visitors chasing the unique Australian experience are those from Malaysia. Many of our alpine resorts are experiencing huge growth in the number of international visitors coming from Malaysia to take in the unique pleasures of skiing amongst the snow gums.

Altogether, Malaysian visitors last year spent $1.1 billion in Australia. According to Tourism Australia, this market segment has even greater potential for growth. By 2020, it could be worth $2-2.5 billion to the Australian economy annually.

And with more than 200 million Chinese forecast to take international holidays this year alone, there is a great opportunity for our tourism industry to take advantage of this growth and convert it to jobs and income for generations to come.

To do this, we need our governments to reduce taxes and charges on tourism, streamline visa processing and invest substantially in destination marketing and tourism infrastructure. Doing this will encourage more visitors from places like China and Malaysia to visit our country, and make it easier to come to our shores, stay in our hotels and – increasingly – ski our slopes.

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