Is Australia Losing The Chinese Tourism ‘Arms Race’?

Iconic destinations for global travelers... but is it enough?

Iconic destinations for global travelers… but is it enough?

A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald has warned the Australian tourism industry it is already part of a figurative “arms race” for the Chinese tourist dollar. The piece asserts Australia and New Zealand will be left off the Chinese itinerary if services, infrastructure, amenities and signage is not improved.

Though both Australia and New Zealand are currently experiencing a boom time, several industry insiders say the two nations risk losing their regional relevance and stature in the tourism market. Simply put, Australian businesses are not adequately accommodating for the change in the market. Instead of improving Chinese-language communication skills and investing in newer, high-end hotels and accommodation, some say the industry is resting on its laurels.

Speaking at an American Chamber of Commerce lunch in Sydney, Echo Entertainment CEO Matt Bekier examined the disconnect between Australia’s reputation and its bottom-line. “We’re number one in terms of where they want to go, but we’re only number 15 in terms of where they actually go,” he explained. “Countries are making it easy for people to come and visit not just once but multiple times. That’s what we have to compete against. We can’t just sit back and say ‘well our beaches are better’.”

With trillions of dollars worth of spending on the table, Mr. Bekier and others believe tourism will soon become Australia’s primary industry (currently, it’s the nation’s second largest export earning industry). “This is going to be the next mining boom,” Mr. Bekier added. For many, the government and other relevant authorities are simply not doing enough to ensure that the industry continues to attract the Chinese tourist dollar.

Tourism Australia, the federal tourism body, predicts the Chinese tourist market will expand to more than $13 billion by 2020. But recent reports indicate that the assessment may be flawed; a recent IHG/Oxford Economics study found Australia would not likely place in the top ten markets for Chinese visitor growth over the next decade.


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