Is Australia really losing the China tourism race?

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By Leith van Onselen

TripAdvisor has released new data claiming that Australia is losing the race to lure Chinese tourists, ranking just 17th on the list of the most popular international destinations for Chinese travellers. From The Canberra Times:

Data based on page views recorded on – TripAdvisor’s official website in China – between September 2013 and September 2014 found Australia ranked behind several non-Asian long-haul destinations including the United States, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, the United Arab Emirates and Germany.

The most popular destination searched by the lucrative Chinese tourists was Hong Kong, followed by the US in second place.

This looks like overly simplistic analysis to me. The latest overseas short-term arrivals and departures figures from the ABS revealed that tourist arrivals from China are booming, and hit a record 77,700 in September 2013:

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Moreover, in the year to September 2014, tourism arrivals from China hit a record 801,500, with their share of total tourists also a record 11.8%. In fact, the total number of tourist arrivals from China has more than doubled since the beginning of 2010 (see next chart).

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The signs are also good for continued strong growth in tourist arrivals from China.

As shown in the next chart, tourism is highly sensitive to the strength of the Australian dollar:

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With the Australian dollar now falling, and likely to continue doing so as commodity prices and the terms-of-trade unwind, there is likely to be a big lift in tourist arrivals, including from China.

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About the author
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.