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Australia's battered tourism puts hope in Chinese market

By KARL WILSON in Sydney | China Daily | Updated: 2023-05-20 07:48

Australian states and tourism sectors are busy trying to rebuild their largest foreign tourist market — China.

Phillipa Harrison, managing director of government agency Tourism Australia, said China remains a critical market for Australia.

"China was our No 1 market in terms of both visitation and spend before the pandemic and it is great to see Chinese travelers returning to Australia," said Harrison, adding that the agency seems confident about the future. "There is no doubt visitation levels will take time to bounce back to 2019 levels, and aviation capacity still needs to rebuild, but there are encouraging signs."

She said the latest international visitor arrivals data showed that Australia welcomed more than 40,000 travelers from China in February, up from 15,000 the previous month.

Even Australia's premier travel industry trade event, the Australian Tourism Exchange, had one word — China — bandied about the most during its recent five-day conference.

In March, Tourism Australia launched its "Don't Go Small, Go Australia" campaign in China. And as capacity comes back, the agency plans to go live with its "Come and Say G'day" campaign in the key market. Executives from Tourism Australia and state tourism bodies may travel to Chengdu next month for promotion.

Prior to the pandemic, China was Australia's biggest visitor source market, with 1.4 million tourists who spent a total of A$12.4 billion ($8.3 billion) in 2019.

Despite an end to global travel restrictions, tourism in Australia has been slow to take off after the COVID-19 setback.

Mark Olsen, CEO of regional tourism organization Tourism Tropical North Queensland, said China was the region's largest international market with 190,000 visitors a year before the pandemic.

"Direct flights are needed to Cairns, and we welcome any movement with China's list of preferred destinations for group travel," he told China Daily.

Erik de Roos, executive director of marketing at the South Australian Tourism Commission, or SATC, said that prior to the pandemic, China was the largest inbound market into South Australia.

"While the pandemic had a huge impact on international travel around the globe, we are firmly focused on rebuilding our global markets — worth a combined A$1.2 billion pre-pandemic — and China is an important part of this," he said.

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