AUSTRALIA has become a magnet for visitors from Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Indonesia and has experienced a significant rise in arrivals for the first four months of this year, according to PKF Consulting. Improved flight frequencies, recovering economies and political factors were cited for the growth in the tourism industry. According to PKF manager Paul Macpherson, visitors from South Korea jumped 96 per cent to 80,904 for the first four months of this year over the same period last year. South Korea's economic recovery, which resulted in a greater disposable income, was largely responsible for the surge in arrivals. Mr Macpherson said Australia was an attractive destination for travellers from Asia because it was geographically and culturally different from its neighbouring countries. ''Physically, Australia is quite different from Asian countries, such as the Philippines and Indonesia. The country is culturally different because it's British-based and it has many attractions like the Great Barrier Reef, nice beaches and the outback,'' he said. Taiwanese visitors were also flocking to the country. The number grew a massive 53 per cent to 124,931 during the first four months of the year. Political factors were partly responsible for the jump in the number of Taiwanese visitors. The ban on tour groups to China at the end of March by the Taiwanese Government, following the murder of 24 Taiwanese aboard a leisure boat in China, helped divert traffic from China to Australia. ''In situations like these, where a place is perceived as being unsafe even though that may not be the case, people tend to go to places which are seen as being safe. ''Also, when people travel with their families they tend to be more conservative and mindful of their security. ''As a destination, Australia is deemed to be a place which is very safe and which has lots of places for family activities - like the beach,'' said Mr Macpherson. The number of visitors from Hong Kong grew 18 per cent to 94,901. There was also a rise in the number of visitors from Indonesia and Thailand, reflecting the boost to their economies. The number of visitors from Indonesia rose 58 per cent to 52,835, while that from Thailand increased 43 per cent to 55,466. Mr Macpherson said that better air links between Australia and Asia contributed to the greater number of visitors. He said the recovery in Australia's economy meant that more companies expanded and held more meetings and trade shows, which attracted more business travellers. In PKF's survey of hotel performance in the Asia-Pacific region for April, Melbourne hotels experienced the largest increase in occupancy. They achieved an average room occupancy of 65.4 per cent compared with 42.2 per cent in April last year. However, average room rates declined 8.8 per cent to US$102.56 a night. Hotels in Sydney reported a 15.3 per cent increase in occupancy, but a 3.8 per cent decline in the average room rate for April. Hotels overall in the Asia-Pacific region experienced a rise of 4.6 per cent in the average room rate to $106.29. Room occupancy increased by three percentage points to an average of 71.6 per cent.