Where’d the Chinese tourists go?

ScreenHunter_796 Jan. 14 08.45

By Leith van Onselen

Yesterday’s release of the overseas short-term arrivals and departures figures for November contained more sombre news for Australia’s tourism industry, with the ratio of annual arrivals to departures fell to its lowest level since November 1985, driven in part by a slump in inbound tourists from China (see next chart).

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In the month of November 2013, the number of tourism arrivals fell by a seasonally adjusted 0.9%, whereas the number of tourist departures rose by 0.1%.

In the 12 months to November 2013, the annual number of arrivals increased by 3.3% relative to the corresponding period of the prior year, whereas departures rose by 5.2% (see next chart).

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The year to November 2013 was a record for outbound and inbound tourism. A record 8.65 million Australians holidayed overseas over the year – a 159% increase on 10 years ago (3.34 million). However, this was partly offset by a record 6.44 million inbound tourists arriving in Australia over the year – a 37% increase on a decade ago (4.71 million).

As always, South East Asia (particularly Indonesia and Thailand) remains by far Australia’s favourite holiday destination, receiving 228,000 visitors in November, or 31% of Australia’s total departures over the month. This was followed by Oceania (21%), the Americas (13%), North East Asia and North West Europe (each 11%):

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By contrast, the most foreign visitors to Australia came from NE Asia (mostly China) – although these fell heavily for the second month – which accounted for 22% of arrivals in November, followed by Oceania (21%):

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The slump in arrivals from China – which have fallen by 29% over the past two months and are down 9% over the past year – are reportedly due to a crack down by Chinese authorities and poses a problem for Australia’s tourism industry:

REPORTS of a fall-off in Chinese inbound visitor arrivals last November sent shivers through the tourism sector yesterday as it has pinned long-term recovery hopes on mainland China…

China Eastern Airlines general manager Kathy Zhang said 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 which is aimed at stamping out cheap Chinese tour operators who offer very low prices and very low quality.

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  1. Immigration powering, tourism tanking. Sounds like they’re saying to hell with visiting, let’s just move there permanently.

  2. I was in Bangkok last week for 3 days on business. While the streets were relatively quite from fewer tourists, there is no doubt that Thailand has become the Mecca of cheap tourism for Westerners. However, the tackiness is overwhelming and I expect that the Thais themselves are starting to understand this. The Australian accent is pervasive and I’m sure the locals are accustomed to it now.

      • Yes Thom being an Aussie is no longer a ntaural badge of honour. However I have to say that some europeans, and my language wasn’t good enough to tell where from but I suspect just East, certainly out-bogan us in their own way.

  3. So much for the power of currency devaluation. Outbound tourism prices to rise significantly but inbound falling, perhaps because Australia is not as interesting without a mining boom and the wealthiest population per capita in the world (close enough at the AUD peak).

    And we now have a great big new tax on all our oil and petroleum products being the higher AUD price required to pay the same USD price.

    And that extra cost must come out of the pockets of all the significant users of petrol for commuting to work, leaving them less money for consumer goods, meaning retail faces a bit of a headwind it might not otherwise have faced.

      • English immersion for perceived career advancement. opera house, harbour bridge, barrier reef, crocodiles, sharks, gold coast, Cairns, cheap with currency devaluation, good experience of others, different culture, get out from under watchful eyes of relatives…..why do Aussies go overseas?

      • You can learn english in plenty of places. There are bridges, reefs, crocodiles, desert cities and property bubbles in other places too.

        Cheap with currency devaluation?
        Different culture?

        Might be time for you to get out of the country for abit Explorer 🙂

      • Sounds like you should probably take some of your own advice Dave, or abit of perspective atleast….

      • Me? Aside from Russia, parts of the middle east and Africa, I’ve seen the world. And I currently spend half my life overseas. They’re not criticisms I make without context.

      • Our problem is that it is expensive to stay here and especially expensive to move around here. The Opera House, Barrier Reef, the Rock, Marble Bar are all how far apart and how expensive to get to? It’s prohibitive especially for a Chinese person who has worked really hard for their money.
        One other issue…the Chinese are kind of ‘different’ Note that they do NOT like sun! Sun turns their skin blackish which, back home in teh great socialist nation of the world, indicates that they are a labourer….tsk! tsk! Not socially desirable!
        Second they like crowds. i took one bloke to the Gold Coast years ago. We went up to the Bar (river mouth) where there is a fair strip of beach which looks natural…no buildings overshadowing the beach. Hios first comment was ‘ Look at that! You could put high rise all along there!” Then we went up to dinner at Broadbeach. For an old country bloke like me it was crowded and noisy. for him it was ‘too quiet’

        We really need to have a careful look at our market!

  4. I am a bit surprised that over half of the tours from China to Australia are those “illegal shopping tour”. I know they are quite popular in Hong Kong. Luring mainland tourists across the border with impossibly cheap tour rates, only to use “unethical” selling tactics to pressure the tourists to buy “commissioned” products from selected stores. There was a pretty famous incident happened in Hong Kong where a tour guide was “taped” cursing her mainland tourists for not buying enough. (her cursing speech was the best part)

    Anyway, still too expensive to tour Australia due to distance involved and non favorable currency exchange rate. All we need is to promote property viewing tour guides for $0 to kick start tourism again.

  5. I can answer the question … we had some Chinese friends tourists due to come on a 2 week holiday. Wealthy & cashed up with hundreds of thousands of aud in the bank (millions of kuai), they were denied on the basis that AusImmigration thought they were incapable of supporting themselves and hadn’t travelled abroad before (event though they have been to GB, Japan & USA) and were therefore likely to overstay their visit. Certainly wasn’t a proud ozzi moment

  6. Leith
    In the ABS release, they state that the majority of emigrants returned within one year.
    “There were 6,260 Australian residents who stated their intention was to depart permanently from Australia during November 2013, which decreased 6.5% when compared with November 2012 (6,690 movements). However, analysis shows that the majority of those with an intention of permanently departing, return to Australia within the following year. For example, in the calendar year 2011, out of the 84,240 Australian residents who stated they were departing permanently, only 15,890 spent 12 months or more overseas.”

    From here….http://www.immi.gov.au/media/statistics/statistical-info/oad/perm-dep/permdep.htm

    It states that out of the 50% who leave as non-AU born emigrants (students, etc who have been counted as permanent) that the vast majority, 35,000 out of 48,000, ticked they intend to be away for 5 or more years. In reality, for many to return to OZ they would need to get another visa.

    I am confused….
    Can you shed any light on this claim by the ABS?

    • Although international students and WHV backpackers staying more than 12+ months are included in the NOM and accordingly included the ‘estimated resident population’, appears they are not included in this particular data (the churnover of students and backpackers both <12 months and 12+ months is somewhere near 1 million, and these temps under the latter category described as 'immigrants' cause spikes in estimated resident population)

      It appears (no definition is provided), 'non AU born emigrant' means Australian citizens and permanent residents, as the numbers are quite negligible.

  7. Oh dear. Our “The Commmies’ll save us!” cargo cult starting to look a bit green about the gills. I wonder if the North Korean junta could be tempted to make up the numbers?

  8. maybe they tick the “here to buy up Aus residential property” as they arrive in Sydney and Melbourne for the afternoon shopfest before flying up to Queensland for the holiday.
    Perhaps if you tick that box there is a special queue to fast track you through immigration as well as Real estate agents manning customs