Leap in tourist numbers highlights potential of Asian Century

Recent bushfires may have hampered parts of the Australian tourism industry, but new figures show foreign tourists are flocking to Australia in droves, suggesting start-ups can cash in.


According to new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of people travelling to Australia is up 6.9% on the same time last year, with New Zealand remaining the biggest source of tourism arrivals.


However, when looking at the top 10 source countries for short-term visitor arrivals during November, the biggest increase was recorded for Malaysia (25.6%), followed by China (20.4%).


The biggest decrease was recorded for New Zealand (3.4%) followed by Korea (1.3%).


John Lee, chief executive of the Tourism and Transport Forum, described the strength of the tourist numbers coming from Asia as “heartening”.


“Now it is the Asian Century with huge growth from Malaysia, India and Thailand,” Lee told SmartCompany.


“If we get it right, rather than the rivers of coal of the past 10 years in Australia, there is an opportunity to have rivers of visitors from Asia.”


The number of US visitors to Australia has also gone up – by 4% in a year. According to the ABS, US visitors have increased by almost 20,000 to 475,000.


The spike has been attributed, in part, to Oprah Winfrey’s visit to Australia in late 2010.


The US figures will be welcomed by tourism operators involved in bringing The Ellen DeGeneres Show to Australia later this year.


DeGeneres will film segments in Melbourne and Sydney that will air in about 60 countries in April.


Meanwhile, Lee said the passenger movement tax in the United Kingdom is “decimating” outbound travel from the UK.


“It means a family of four pay just under $800 in taxes alone to travel from the UK to Australia,” he said.


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