Australian federal, state and territory tourism ministers have for the first time jointly held a meeting in Beijing as Chinese visitors are poised to become Australia’s biggest market.
- About 1.2 million Chinese people visited Australia last year
- Chinese short-term visitors in Australia will soon overtake those from New Zealand
- Australia is taking steps to make most of growth in Chinese tourism market
China is forecast to overtake New Zealand in the coming months for the number of short-term visitors.
There were 1.2 million Chinese visitors to Australia last year, but Australia still trails the US, Russia and 11 Asian countries as preferred destinations.
Speaking in Beijing, Australia’s Tourism, Trade and Investment Minister Steve Ciobo said the joint meeting of ministers aimed to “reinforce that Australia is very welcoming of Chinese tourists”.
As part of the visit, Tourism Australia signed a memorandum of understanding with China’s government-owned electronic payment service UnionPay — an alternative to Mastercard and Visa.
But in China’s fast-moving mobile payment environment, use of UnionPay is already declining domestically as increasing numbers of Chinese use privately run mobile payment services WeChat and AliPay.
“There’s no doubt as more merchants want to make it convenient for tourists to make payments, we will see the commercial rollout of new payment methods,” Mr Ciobo said.
Australia, like many other countries seeking to capitalise on the huge growth in the Chinese tourism market, has recently taken steps to encourage more visitors.
Among those steps are the introduction of 10-year multiple entry visas and a new aviation agreement that lifts restrictions on Chinese airlines operating services to Australia.
According to Chinese government figures, China’s total outbound tourism growth is slowing slightly this year, but will still expand 4 per cent to an estimated 127 million trips.
By Bill Birtles