The increasing importance of the lucrative Chinese market to Australia's tourism industry has become even clearer, with new figures showing the 2.7 per cent growth in inbound arrivals in May can be attributed solely to an increase in Chinese visitors.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics overseas arrivals and departures figures released on Tuesday show 483,000 short-term international visitors arrived in May, including a 29 per cent rise in Chinese visitors to 62,300. But the overall growth rate of 2.7 per cent was the slowest since a 1 per cent decline in international tourists reported in January.
The additional 14,000 Chinese tourists in May outstripped the 12,900 rise in tourists from all nations combined, although notably the 2014 figures had been boosted by arrivals for series of large global conferences such as the World Congress of Cardiology. May is traditionally one of the weakest months for inbound tourism.
"We continue to see impressive numbers out of China, our fastest-growing and most valuable international market which is undoubtedly the engine room of inbound growth at the moment," Tourism Australia managing director John O'Sullivan said.
The national tourism marketer has been undertaking several initiatives to boost Chinese tourism such as building an elite network of travel agents in China who are specially trained to sell tour packages to high-yielding clients. In addition, Chinese airlines have been boosting capacity to Australia after an expanded bilateral air services agreement was signed in January.
In the 12 months to May, short-term arrivals have risen by 6 per cent, which Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive Margy Osmond said was similar to the average growth rate over the past three years.
"We also saw more than 920,000 Chinese visit Australia over the year to May," she said. "If the past six months are anything to go by we should crack 1 million Chinese visitors some time this year."