TTF view March 2017

MARGY Osmond, CEO, Tourism & Transport Forum Australia


While Australia celebrates soaring tourism from China, there’s an even bigger, more exciting story emerging. Visitor arrivals from the whole of Asia are more than triple those of China. And they are also booming.

Last year, China delivered us almost 1.2 million visitors — an increase of over 200,000, or 20%, over 2015. This year, it will overtake New Zealand to become our biggest tourism source market, and following the recent aviation agreement between Australia and China, the potential for further growth is limitless.

But combining China’s growth with that of Asia’s other markets, the influx of visitors to Australia from the world’s fastest-growing region was almost 3.8 million in 2016, 46% of our national total and over three times the number delivered by China alone.

The big question is: Are we ready for even more?

The International Air Transport Association says that by 2035, 1.8 billion additional passenger journeys will be made within the Asia Pacific region. Not surprisingly, China will be the world’s fastest-growing market by passenger numbers (up 817 million to 1.3 billion), followed by the US (+488 million to 1.1 billion), India (+322 million to 442 million), Indonesia (+135 million to 242 million) and Vietnam (+112 million to 150 million).

Investments by the tourism and transport industries will go a long way towards supporting the growth of the visitor economy. But industry also needs iron-clad support from governments to facilitate and invest in tourism, not only for the next year or five years or even decade, but for 20 and 30 years, and beyond.

We need to ensure that our airports can handle the growth. Brisbane will have a new parallel runway by 2020, doubling arrival and departure capacity, and Melbourne is planning a third runway. But our biggest aviation gateway, Sydney, remains constrained not only by an overnight curfew on flights, but by restrictions on aircraft movements during operating hours. The curfew won’t change. But the limit of 80 aircraft movements per hour needs to rise to at least 90. There’s a critical need to expand road, rail and water transport infrastructure, vehicle capacity, networks and connectivity to accommodate both resident and visitor populations. Improving transport connectivity to regional areas is also crucial to enable international visitors to experience a greater variety of authentic Australian experiences.

Attracting more visitors also means that we need more beds, so we must ensure sufficient accommodation is available at all grades, in all cities and key destinations, and at internationally competitive prices, to accommodate the surge in arrivals.

We are on the rim of the world’s fastest-growing economic region, and the cusp of an extraordinary opportunity which we can’t afford to miss. We need to take full advantage.