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  • Crispin Till

    Email Crispin Till

    TNQ set for boom with Chinese tourists to Australia set to 'double'

    A predicted doubling of Chinese visitors to Australia over the next three years and the continued popularity of Tropical North Queensland as a destination of choice could place enormous pressure on tourism infrastructure in the region.

    That’s the view of a new report into Chinese travel habits, which found Australia had jumped up the list of preferred destinations to number 4, up from number 10 just two years ago.

    The report by Chinese investment firm CLSA predicts a massive rise in visitation into Australia from 1.2 million Chinese tourists a year to 2.9 million.

    That growth rate would potentially see Chinese visitor numbers to TNQ rise from its current total of around 220,000 annually to more than 450,000 over the next few years. 

    But the report warned “Australian infrastructure is unlikely to be able to support such growth” if the forecast became reality.

    Tourism marketing consultant Ron Livingston said Cairns had been successfully attracting Chinese visitors to TNQ even with the stop–start nature of direct flights from mainland China.

    China Southern is due to begin year-round direct services between Cairns and Guangzhou from December, delivering an estimated 30,000 extra visitors into the region annually.

    “If the predicted boom in visitor numbers from China to Australia materialise, Cairns will see an increase for sure and we are likely to see a boom in tourism infrastructure as well, particularly in the Cairns CBD,” he said.

    “Visitor numbers and the length of stay will also increase and there is a risk this will make room rates unaffordable for segments of the market if infrastructure does not keep up.”

    But there are signs TNQ is starting to get ahead of the game in terms of infrastructure with the $370 million development of three inner-city Cairns hotels by Crystalbrook Collection.

    The projects will add more than 800 rooms to the CBD in the next three years and are expected to spark other upgrades and projects throughout the city.

    The potential spike in Chinese visitors comes on top of continued signs of strength in TNQ from traditional Japanese, European and US markets.

    “We are continuing to see strong arrivals from all source markets, including significant regrowth in the Japanese market,” he said.


    Trends in the Chinese tourism market reveal travellers are concerned with safety and there is a shift in focus away from shopping towards experiencing nature.

    Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast are the three most favoured Australian destinations for Chinese tourists and 70 per cent of those surveyed this year named safety as the most important factor in determining their holiday destination.

    “Chinese tastes in tourism are maturing beyond shopping and casinos with an increasing preference for natural environments,” the report said.

    “Australia’s natural heritage and access to wilderness and wildlife will contribute to its increasing attractiveness.

    “Australia was ranked the number two world destination for Chinese tourists when it came to relaxation and embracing nature.

    “Chinese tourists are likely to be younger, with less interest in tour groups and more focus on individual travel. While shopping remains important experiential travel becomes more so.”