Australian tourism operators are preparing for the arrival of thousands of Asian visitors who will spend big on accommodation, retail, transport and attractions.
Chief Executive of Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) Margy Osmond said, “This is an exciting time of year for our industry, with additional visitors pouring into Australia to celebrate Chinese New Year in our backyard. Lunar New Year always brings a real boost to all sectors of our industry as visitors go all out to celebrate.
“Chinese New Year is a major holiday and there is significant demand for travel to Australia at this time of year. Gold Coast Airport, which does not usually have direct flights from China, has already seen a record number of charter flights in 2015. Last year interest was so high that that the government had to increase the number of flights permitted from China to meet demand.
“There is also evidence that these visitors are spending big once they get here. Shopping is the number one activity for Chinese travellers and, on average, they spend twice as much as tourists from Europe. This year data shows a tenfold increase in the average duty free spend at some airports, with a particular focus on high end, luxury items.
“This is great news, but there is a lot we could do to make the experience of visiting Australia easier for Chinese visitors. Our outdated visa process means Chinese visitors must fill in a paper form, pay $130, apply in person with documentary evidence and wait over a week. By contrast, Hong Kong visitors can apply for a visa online, pay $20 and receive almost immediate approval.
“We could also make it easier for Chinese travellers to spend their money here and collect back the GST on their purchases. In other countries private operators have taken over management of tax refund schemes and have invested heavily in promoting local shopping to China and other visitor markets. There is no reason why this could not be considered in Australia.
“Customs has made a start on reform, with a new app for travellers to input their claims as they purchase. In the two months since going live, it has been downloaded by 75,000 people, 47% of whom were Chinese. While this uptake is pleasing, a Chinese language version has unfortunately been delayed and will miss this important time of the year.
“Governments around Australia should invest in the reforms we need to make our industry globally competitive and not take for granted the success of this year’s Chinese New Year,” said Osmond.