Published on Mar 14, 2016

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Record tourism numbers have been in the news a lot recently. Much focus has been on the booming Chinese sector, and indeed it is growing rapidly. More than one million Chinese tourists visited Australia last year, injecting $7.7 billion into the economy.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry National Tourism Council Manager Steve Whan said Chinese visitor numbers for January 2016 had more than tripled compared to 10 years ago.

“More than 114,000 Chinese people visited Australia in January, making it the first time there have been over 100,000 Chinese visitors in January (on original figures),” Mr Whan said.

“A decade ago, in January 2006, there were just 32,000 Chinese visitors. The February figures promise to be even better, given the month includes the lunar new year celebrations, typically making it the busiest month for Chinese short-term arrivals.”

As impressive as those numbers are, less than one per cent of all international Chinese tourists choose to visit Australia.Chinese tourism

Each year around 120 million Chinese tourists head overseas. Even though Australia is a close and desirable location, only a small proportion ends up here.

Tourism analysts point to Australia’s multi-tiered visa system as a barrier to realising the full value of the Chinese tourist market.

When it comes to the process and cost of an Australian passport stamp, not all countries are treated equally.


Visitors from Europe, the United States and Hong Kong can apply for a visa online for a fee of $20. Visitors from Lebanon and Libya can also complete applications online. Chinese visitors must complete a 21 page application and pay $135 for the same type of visa.

Australia’s fee structure for 10-year multiple entry visas is not internationally competitive. Canada charges Chinese tourists $105 for this type of visa. Singapore charges $28. Australia charges $1,000.

Mr Whan said to maintain this growth momentum and stay competitive as a destination the government needed to focus on visa reforms to bring requirements for Chinese visitors in line with those imposed on other visitors.

“There is no justification for this significant difference. With some of our competitors removing all visa requirements for Chinese visitors we must ensure we don’t lose our competitive advantage,” Mr Whan said.

Council’s Economic Development Manager Jane Holdsworth said cultural awareness was also a factor which could affect international visitation. Ms Holdsworth said investigations were underway to develop relevant and useful information for the region’s businesses to understand visitor expectations.

“The world is opening up. Many emerging economies like China and India have a very fast growing middle class,” Ms Holdsworth said.

“This means more people with greater levels of disposable income that can be spent on luxuries like international travel. We are seeing this play out in fantastic international tourism sector growth across Australia.

“However, because this is a relatively new customer demographic for our region it’s critical we recognise the cultural differences and expectations that can make or break our reputation as an internationally friendly destination.”

More information about visas and visiting Australia for leisure, business or work can be found at the Federal Department of Immigration and Border Protection website.

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