Earlier this week the US and China signed a deal that will allow tourists from either country to obtain 10-year visas, up from one year now. Chinese travellers to Australia can only obtain a visa for up to one year,
The Tourism & Transport Forum has said the shorter visa is causing Australia to lose market share against rival destinations such as the US.
Tourism Australia managing director John O’Sullivan argued that the true measure of Australia’s popularity among the Chinese was not website visits or internet searches but the record number of visitors, forecast to grow to more than 1 million a year by the end of the decade.
“We know from comprehensive research we’ve carried out in China that Australia is number one on their long-haul travel wish list, offering the perfect combination of unsurpassed natural beauty and unique wildlife as well as modern, contemporary cities offering great dining, shopping and entertainment,” he said.
But looking at the numbers, the US attracted 1.8 million Chinese visitors last year – more than double the nearly 790,000 that have travelled to Australia in the past 12 months.
For Chinese travellers that were interested in Australia, Sydney and Melbourne ranked as the most popular destinations in terms of page views. But TripAdvisor said Queensland spots including Airlie Beach, the Gold Coast and Cairns were becoming increasingly popular. More than half of those looking for hotel accommodation were searching for hotels with four stars and above.
Lily Cheng, the Asia-Pacific president of TripAdvisor, said consumer behaviour was evolving fast among Chinese travellers, with the rise of mobile technology and the desire for independent travel.
“For Australian businesses hoping to attract Chinese travellers, a strong, tailored strategy will help them to be aligned with this audience’s evolving expectations,” she said. “Those businesses that are willing to adapt and be proactive in fulfilling their needs will stand a greater chance at winning their loyalty.”
In looking at the most popular Australian attractions viewed by Chinese visitors to daodao.com, the preferences were grouped into four types: those seeking culture, the great outdoors, shopping and entertainment or family-friendly activities.
Tourism Australia is trying to lure more independent travellers from the Chinese market as they tend to spend more than those on package tours. Last year, Chinese travellers spent $5.3 billion in Australia, and that is expected to rise to more than $13 billion by 2020.
Last month, Tourism Australia said it would target the highest-spending Chinese travellers with an exclusive 22-day tour package that would cost $70,000 a person.
The unveiling of the 30 available packages came as Tourism Australia launched its Restaurant Australia campaign in Shanghai, encouraging Chinese travellers to explore the diverse gourmet food and wine available in Australia.