Australia’s dollar is coasting downward as China devalues the yuan, a situation Canberra hopes can translate into more of dollars coming in from Hong Kong – half a billion of them a year, to be exact. Even though fewer people visit the country from Hong Kong than from most of its neighbours, Andrew Hogg, the new general manager of Tourism Australia who oversees the Greater China region, expressed optimism that the weaker currency would bring more of them south. Some 202,000 Hongkongers visited Australia between June last year and end of this past May, an increase of 2.5 per cent from the same period prior. However, the growth was much weaker than both Taiwan and South Korea, which saw increases of 6.7 per cent increase in the same time. Mainland China, meanwhile, logged 918,000 visitors to Australia during the same period, an astounding increase of 21.7 per cent from the year prior. “Hong Kong is a very mature travel market; it’s certainly not an emerging travel market. The number is conservative in its growth, [but] it’s a good number to work from,” Hogg said. With costs on the ground comparably lower thanks to a weakening dollar, Hogg said “hopefully people might do more travel to Australia.” The Australian dollar has declined from a high of HK$8.50 in July 2011 to HK$5.60 on Wednesday. It was at HK$5.75 on Monday, the day before Beijing devalued the yuan. In an effort to attract more visitors, his agency is launching a new campaign it is calling Aquatic and Coastal, designed to showcase uniquely Australian experiences. It follows another campaign launched last year, called Restaurant Australia, which touts the country’s food and wine as a draw for visitors. Tourism Australia hopes the campaigns, coupled with the weaker Australian dollar, will help increase Hong Kong visitors’ spending by half, to A$1.5 billion a year by 2020. At the moment, there are some 90 direct flights between Hong Kong and six Australian cities every week, but no more can be added thanks to existing bilateral agreements between Hong Kong and Australia. The two governments are expected to meet this year to discuss the arrangements. Hogg said he doesn’t see the agreement slowing down travel between the two places and added that he would like to see more flights added as tourist numbers grow. He did not think there was a risk of mainland tourists crowding out visitors from Hong Kong on those limited flights. “It’s a decision for the airlines to make how they allocate the capacity from mainland China via Hong Kong to Australia,” he said. “There’s a lot of competition in mainland China … I don’t think it is taking anything away from the marketplace.” Asked if Hongkongers would be able to travel to Australia without visas in the near future, Hogg said it was “up to the Australian government to make a decision”. But he stressed that the current procedure to apply for a visa was already quick and easy.