Australian tourism businesses will be pleased a boost in Chinese tourist numbers could be on the horizon, as last night the Coalition committed to making it easier for Chinese visitors to obtain a visa.
Despite the recently high Australian dollar, the number of Chinese tourists arriving for short-term visits to Australia has continued to grow to record numbers in the past few years.
Domestically tourism slowed, as more Australians travelled overseas thanks to the high Australian dollar.
The strong numbers of Chinese visitors have provided much needed support for the 514,000 people employed in the sector, as well as hospitality, retail, transport and accommodation businesses.
Speaking at a China National Tourism Administration dinner last night, opposition tourism spokesman Bob Baldwin said if elected in September, the Coalition will improve visa access for Chinese people as part of the free-trade negotiations.
“I have been asking a simple question – what can the Australian government do to better support more Chinese tourists coming to Australia – and there is one message I hear loud and clear: we need to have a more welcoming visa arrangement,” Baldwin said, as quoted in The Australian Financial Review.
The Coalition plans to simplify the visa process by having electronic lodgement of visas, encouraging repeat visits and a 24-hour turnaround for visa application with an additional fee.
Tourism and Transport Forum spokesperson Rowan Barker told SmartCompany he applauds any move designed to increase international tourism.
“Anything which makes it easier for Chinese visitors to come to Australia is a positive move. There are moves to get the processing done online and this is very important.
“The United States has a national tourism campaign for the first time ever. It’s chucking a lot of money at it and that’s a bit scary for the rest of us, so we need to encourage Chinese visitors to keep coming here,” he says.
In the 2012-13 financial year there were more than 685,000 short-term visitor arrivals from China, about 10.9% of all tourists, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Chinese visitors were exceeded only by travellers from New Zealand.
Barker says tourism in Australia generates $107 billion for the economy annually.
“It’s almost $300 million a day coming from tourism and it’s growing. Recently we released the business count and employment atlas and there are at least 2400 direct tourism employees in every federal electorate in 283,000 businesses around Australia,” he says.
In the past 10 years tourists arriving from Asia have tripled.
Barker says increasing tourism from Asia is the biggest opportunity for Australian operators and businesses.
“We need to use our proximity to our advantage. There are barriers in front of people who want to come. We need to streamline our visa processing and make it easier for people from other countries to come here,” he says.
Other election wishes for the tourism industry include reducing excessive taxes, increased funding for Tourism Australia, expansion of the working holiday-maker scheme and a focus of government resources on Asian Century opportunities.