Tourism industry booms with Chinese New Year celebrations

With Chinese New Year lunar festivals well underway, the early economic winners from the festivities include the Australian tourism industry, hotel and luxury retail sectors.

Eighty thousand Asian tourists were expected to fly in for the festival, mainly from China and Hong Kong, an increase of 50% on the monthly average – and they’re spending more money than ever before.

Tourism Australia spokesman Leo Seaton told SmartCompany foreign visitors are spending more every year.

“Total trip spend by visitors from China surpassed the $4 billion mark on a 12-month ending basis, up 16% for year ending September 2012.”

“This is at the back of a strong 33% growth in holiday spending,” he says.

Chief executive of the Retail Doctor Group, Brian Walker, told SmartCompany Australian retailers need to be more aware of the growing market.

“There’s no doubt the capital markets of Sydney and Australia are increasingly prime destination for Asian consumers, we see areas of Sydney and Melbourne that are predominantly Asiatic.

“Retailers should be aware of products for this target market and consider training staff in second languages,” he says.

According to Tourism Australia, the number of tourists arriving each year for the festival has increased steadily over the past few years in line with overall increases from Chinese visitors.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported the number of Chinese visitors to Australia grew by 16% in 2012 to 626,000 people.

Tourism Australia spokesman Leo Seaton told SmartCompany it’s too early to predict the precise impact the festival will have on the tourism industry, but it is expected to give a “significant boost”.

“The Chinese love Australia. The Chinese New Year Lunar Festival is acknowledged to be a big boost to tourism and a number of airlines have added additional flights for the period,” he says.

China Southern Airlines has been running extra flights from China to Cairns this year to meet the demand and in the past flights have also been increased to Adelaide and Uluru.

A spokesperson for the City of Sydney, Keeley Irvin, told SmartCompany luxury retailers are also benefiting from the boom.

“Based on anecdotal feedback at this stage, luxury retailers are doing well. These tourists have a fair bit of money to burn and as part of tradition, people buy new clothes as part of the celebrations,” she said.

President of the Haymarket Chamber of Commerce, Brad Chan, says the weekend saw more visitors of both Australian and Chinese descent to the popular Sydney CBD precinct.

“Generally speaking the weekend just past has been busy for the Haymarket area. Australians like to venture into town to celebrate with their families and enjoy the festivities and the Asian tourists, even though they’re on holiday, like the familiarity.

“Most of the restaurants have stayed quite full, but retail in general is also doing quite well,” he says.

Chan says he expects the area will remain busy for the next few weeks and there has been steady growth in attendance at the celebrations over the past decade.

“Over the past five to 10 years we’ve seen a steady improvement in the Chinese New Year celebrations in Sydney and this has been partly driven by the City of Sydney who have invested a lot of time and money in these celebrations,” he says.

Hotel company Accor – which owns hotels such as the Novotel, Quay West, Ibis and the Sofitel – has seen significant growth of nearly 20% in the number of Chinese guests staying at their hotel in the past year.

Accor expected significant numbers of Chinese visitors to continue to stay with them over the festival period. The company has been developing a strategy to better cater to Australia’s growing number of Asian tourists.

Accor now has welcome kits in Mandarin, as well as Chinese newspapers, television channels and electrical adaptors. They also train their staff in cultural differences.

The number of Chinese visitors to Australia has tripled in the past decade. China is now the fastest growing tourism market of visitors in Australia and the second largest overall.

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