Tourism success: Chinese tourists continue to lead growth in the number of arrivals and value of spending

04 Aug 2015


  • Edmund Tang
  • Australian Economy

The number of short-term (that is, involving stays of less than one year) Chinese visitors to Australia rose by 21 per cent to 921,800 in the year to May 2015, making China our second largest source of tourists after New Zealand. If the trend continues, the number of Chinese arrivals will hit one million over the next year. The pace of change has been dramatic: Five years ago, the annual total of Chinese tourists was just 370,400.

Arrivals from India have also grown rapidly, up 20 per cent to almost 220,000 over the same period, albeit from a low base: The flow of short-term arrivals from India was a mere 122,000 in the year to May 2010.

In total, there were 7.1 million international visitor arrivals for the year ending May 2015, an increase of 6.3 per cent relative to the previous year, according to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Eight out of our top ten tourism markets are now from the booming Asia-Pacific region, with total number of 3.8 million in the year to May 2015. The inbound travellers from these eight markets rose by 8.2 per cent over the same period in 2014 and accounted for almost 55 per cent of total international tourist in Australia in the year to May 2015.

Tourism Research Australia in its latest survey showed foreign visitors to Australia aged 15 years and over spent a record breaking A$32.5 billion for the 12 months ending March 2015, up 10 per cent or A$2.9 billion more than the previous year. Seven out of our top ten inbound value markets are also from the region with total combined tourist spend growing by around 15 per cent to A$14.7 billion over the same period. Collectively these seven markets accounted for 45 per cent of Australia’s total trip expenditure.

Tourism Australia Managing Director John O’Sullivan commented “the double digit increase in international spending was impressive, boosted by strong distribution and aviation partnerships and, most recently, by Chinese New Year and the staging of two of the world’s most prestigious sporting events.”1

Another key driver of the strong increase in tourist arrivals and spending was the sharp depreciation of the Australian dollar, which has made Australia a more attractive destination. At the same time, that’s also making it more expensive for Australians to holiday overseas and so supporting the domestic side of the tourism sector. Our currency against the US dollar had fallen by 30 per cent to US$0.7449 on 31 March 2015 from its peak of US$1.1055 on 28 July 2011, according to the Reserve Bank of Australia. Meanwhile, the Australian dollar against the Chinese Renminbi had depreciated by 34 per cent to CNY4.7346 from CNY7.1225 over the same period.

As well as providing the second largest number of short-term arrivals, China was also the highest value inbound market with total spend of A$6.4 billion in the year to March 2015. This was 25 per cent more than the same period last year. Visitor spend was also up for most other key markets: USA visitors’ spending was up 14 per cent to A$2.9 billion, New Zealand up 7 per cent to A$2.5 billion and Singaporean spend 8 per cent to A$1.2 billion. Across all markets, India had the strongest growth, with total spend up 35 per cent to A$959 million, boosted by the 2015 Cricket World Cup, which was held in Australia and New Zealand during February and March 2015. Top ten markets - short term overseas arrivals and spend