Illegal shopping tours crackdown leads to fall in Chinese visitors
Mainland residents have become the world's biggest travellers and the biggest spending travellers. A total of 97 million mainland tourists left the country last year and about 700,000 headed Down Under - where they splashed out in excess of A$4 billion (HK$27.76 billion) during their average eight to 12-day trip.
But within six years it is anticipated that mainland tourists' spending will be closer to A$20 billion.
So, a fall in Chinese inbound visitor arrivals last November has sent shockwaves through the tourism sector. Australian Bureau of Statistics data for the month revealed Chinese arrivals slipped 9.4 per cent compared with November 2012 - an unwelcome surprise following years of solid growth.
Chinese visitors spent an estimated A$4.6 billion in the year to September, according to government figures. This figure is eclipsed only by tourists from neighbouring New Zealand.
China Eastern Airlines general manager Kathy Zhang told The Australian newspaper that Chinese tourist arrivals had been dropping since October when the Chinese government cracked down on the operators of illegal shopping tours that make up more than half of the tours between China and Australia.
Tourism groups also blamed the new China Tourism Law, aimed at stamping out cheap Chinese tour operators who offer rock bottom prices and similarly low quality.
Destinations such as New South Wales and Queensland, where commissioned shopping activities are more prevalent, are more likely to be affected than Tasmania and South Australia.
Tourist and Transport Forum chief executive Ken Morrison said the reforms were aimed at ensuring Chinese visitors had a quality tourism experience that represented good value and returned home sharing positive stories of Australia.
Tourism Australia managing director Andrew McEvoy told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that Australia should not focus only on the number of Chinese visitors it attracted to the country.
"The Chinese consumer is the highest spending consumer we get," he said. "They spend on average over A$7,000 each. It means that you don't have to get mass volume. You get good volume with great yield."
One in four of Tourism Australia's international marketing dollars - about A$200 million - goes towards promoting Australia to China, McEvoy said.
Australia has received a glowing report card from Chinese visitors, with new research showing that 90 per cent are satisfied with their holiday.
Chinese visitors feel safe and secure when they visit Australia, they like the friendliness of the people and they enjoy the natural attractions such as the beaches, the Great Barrier Reef, wildlife and dolphin and whale watching.
But the findings released by Tourism Research Australia also show that satisfaction levels are lowest for shopping and for value for money.
Of the 3,600 Chinese visitors interviewed for the study, 96 per cent said they were satisfied with personal safety and security, 94 per cent with the friendliness of locals, 77 per cent with attractions, 72 per cent with wine experience and 69 per cent with food and beverages.
But value for money only rated 57 per cent and shopping 51 per cent.
The highest dissatisfaction level was 16 per cent for shopping, while 12 per cent were dissatisfied with value for money.
The study also revealed that 80 per cent of Chinese visitors eat Chinese food daily and that 98 per cent eat it some time during their trip.
Chinese food was rated as average by 57 per cent, high by 29 per cent and poor by 13 per cent.
Group tour visitors are among the least satisfied with the food and the report recommends that they be given more Chinese options for breakfast.
China is Australia's fastest-growing inbound tourism market and largest contributor to international visitor spending.
Tourism Australia has established 5,000 dedicated "Aussie Specialist" travel agents in 13 of China's primary cities. These agents received specialised training to sell Australia to the Chinese travelling population.
McEvoy said the massive increases in Chinese visitor numbers had been made possible through significant increases in aviation capacity.
He said the response in China to Tourism Australia's current "There's nothing like Australia" campaign has been better received than anywhere else overseas, with high numbers who see the campaign (more than 90 per cent) confirming they had started researching a future trip to Australia.
The influx of Chinese tourists is putting pressure on Australian businesses to adapt. There was a 35 per cent growth in Chinese tourists climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the nine months to June 2013.
BridgeClimb chairman and co-founder Paul Cave told the ABC the growth has prompted the creation of a separate climb led by Putonghua-speaking guides.
"We're dealing with a market that's growing and evolving and we need to be closely tuned-in to it," he said.