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Interview: China drives fundamental shift in Australia's tourism

By Marcus Casey (Xinhua)    10:18, July 13, 2015

SYDNEY, July 13 -- A fundamental shift is taking place in Australian tourism and it is being driven by China, Tourism Australia (TA) managing director John O'Sullivan has told Xinhua.

Speaking recently in Xinhua's "Talk to China" show, the managing director said "What we've seen over the last year (in the year to June) is approximately 920,000 Chinese visitors to Australia."

This number " grew by 19 percent from the previous year, and they spent approximately 6 billion (Australian) dollars in Australia which grew by 22 percent year on year", O' Sullivan said.

In 2012, TA set goals in a program called"China 2020" in which it hopes to see more than 1 million Chinese visitors spending in excess of 13 billion (Australian) dollars arrive each year by then. Figures have shown it is on track to do that. "Over the last four years the Chinese market has been our fastest growing source of visitors to our country as well as the fastest growing in terms of value", O'Sullivan said, citing that Chinese market has been (growing) at 18 percent on average in terms of both number of visitors and how much they spend in Australia. "Within the next two or three years, China will be our number one market in terms of number of visitors, as well the amount of money that Chinese visitors spend in Australia."

In his eyes, the recently signed Tree Trade Agreement between the two countries has opened new opportunities. One is a 10-year multi-visit visa to be introduced for Chinese tourists from next year. Another is 5,000 holiday working visas a year as Australia grants, mainly to young backpackers, from many other countries.

O'Sullivan said all visitors, particularly the growing independent, non-group visitors, should intensively research and create their own itineraries and zero in on what they will enjoy most.

TA recently teamed with Chinese ecommerce company Alibaba to promote independent travel to Australia. O'Sullivan said entering a partnership with Alibaba is a coup for Australia. "I think the world has been astounded by the success of the Alibaba story, so for us it was a really important partnership," he said.

"Australia is the first long haul destination that Alibaba through their Alitrip entity have partnered with, and what we'll be doing with Alibaba and Alitrip is really exciting. We will be creating a dedicated Australian webpage on which our key distribution partners in market will be able to offer specific ( Australian) itineraries to the Chinese mainland."

"What's staggering for us is that this gives us, through this program, access to over 600 million people who we know want to come to Australia, and our job is about providing that connectivity with our partners in-market to this database."

"What our figures and data show is that Chinese visitors predominantly go to Sydney and Melbourne which are the main destination gateways in Australia from the Chinese mainland," O' Sullivan said. "what we're also seeing is a dispersal of Chinese visitors to other parts of the country to destinations such as Tasmania, which (Chinese) President Xi (Jinping) visited last year, destinations such as Adelaide and also Perth where there is some direct aviation connectivity between there and also mainland China. "

TA is partnered with 5,000 Chinese travel agents, and has a marketing budget targeting China. "What that program and strategies are built around is a number of key pillars. Partnership is one of them, So partnerships not only with Alibaba but the key Chinese airlines. So we work with China Eastern, we work with China Southern, we work with Air China in-market." "Australia is a big country, and Australia has a lot of attractions which we know Chinese visitors are really interested in," he added.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Jin Chen,Liang Jun)

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