Australia looks to China, India for more tourists

AUSTRALIA’S tourism industry has been urged to switch its emphasis to attracting travelers from emerging economic superpowers China and India if it wants to see sustainable growth. Tourism Australia chairman Tim Fischer, a former deputy prime minister and trade minister in Prime Minister John Howard’s government, told a Queensland Tourism Industry Council seminar yesterday that both countries had huge untapped potential.

“Tourism Australia sees it as a top priority and Australia needs to work very hard to build those links further,” he said.

Official figures show that in 1999, some 92,000 Chinese tourists visited Australia, rising to 176,000 in 2003.

“We expect another increase this year from China, to reach 220,000 arrivals. This is huge,” Mr. Fischer said.

Japan has for many years been Australia’s major tourist market but has faded to some extent in recent years because of the downturn in the Japanese economy.

Mr. Fischer said that in Beijing, 32 percent of potential travelers were considering a trip to Australia, ahead of France (27 percent), and the United States (21 percent).

“Word of mouth is working, the right political dynamic between Beijing and Canberra is also working,” Mr. Fischer said. ‘The trick is to encourage sustainable rather than explosive growth in Chinese tourists to Australia.’

Mr. Fischer said Australia has had a rocky relationship with India in the past but the doors were now opening.

Some 45,000 Indians visited Australia last year, but Mr Fischer said that with an increasingly affluent workforce, he hoped this figure would improve.

“India is changing. The people who want to travel have the money to travel,” he said.

Indian visitors, he said, could be attracted to travel to Australia for many reasons, including cricket, the national sport in both countries.

author: Associated Press

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