By Brian Haratsis
International tourism is growing at the fastest rate in Australia’s history. Our tourism boom is being fuelled mainly by an increase in tourists from Asia, and in particular, China.
The Chinese tourism market is huge. Globally, 100 million Chinese go on holiday every year. Around one per cent, or one million of them, choose to visit our shores. The Chinese so enjoy vacationing abroad that the forecast for 2020 suggests 200 million will be packing their suitcases to make a trip – doubling the current number!
If Australia did nothing to make itself a more attractive destination but simply maintained its share of outbound Chinese tourists, we would be hosting two million in just five years’ time.
Our current hotel and accommodation system would be highly unlikely to cope, making it difficult to retain our market share.
And there’s not much time to play catch-up as Chinese tourism keeps surging ahead.
By 2025, when it is forecast to reach 300 million, our share of three million tourists would equal just half of our total current international tourist numbers – from every country around the world!
The first wave of Chinese tourism has been very skewed, with a focus on our city centres – especially Sydney. Our recent research suggests that when Asian tourists return for a second visit, they come back as free independent travellers, more interested in seeking out our natural sights, such as the Great Ocean Road or the Great Barrier Reef.
Nature-based tourism is a very strong requirement of Chinese holiday-makers.
The story with Australia’s domestic tourism is not as bright. It has only been growing just over one percent per annum. In fact, post GFC, tourism numbers to some destinations even dropped. One such place, the Gold Coast, is turning things around with a renewal of accommodation.
The proposed new casino and new light rail, as well as the coming Commonwealth Games, will also ignite new markets.
Around the country, there is a regeneration in tourism product. In Melbourne, there’s 1,500 rooms under development; in Sydney, a new casino coming as part of Barangaroo; in Brisbane, Jupiters have contracted to build perhaps the biggest casino in Australia with another 1,000 rooms. There is an understanding of the renaissance in tourism.
It is, however, international tourism which is driving this sector, not so much domestic tourism. But as the Australian dollar comes off its peak of $1.10 to 50 or 60 cents, we’ll see a lot of Australians holiday in Australia rather than abroad, as many of the less expensive destinations, such as Bali and Thailand, become relatively more expensive.
The challenge for our local hospitality industry will be to develop enough product to accommodate demand, and to extract value from it.
This means not only large investors, but also small investors utilising services like Airbnb.
We have to think, not just about investing in central cities which are booming, but look further afield. We need to deepen our tourism product and shift our tourists, international and domestic, into our regional areas.
Brian Haratsis is MacroPlan’s Founder and Executive Chairman. Brian is an economist and future strategist with over 30 years experience as an advisor to governments and major corporate clients throughout Australia and New Zealand.