Chinese Tourism in Australia - Statistics

Page last updated: 10 March 2020

Growth in Chinese visits to Australia

  • The majority of growth in Chinese visitors has occurred in the last decade and is driven to a significant degree by a steady increase in the number of Chinese students in Australia.
  • In 2017/18, China became the top source of international visitors to Australia, overtaking New Zealand.
Growth of Chinese and New Zealand visitors to Australia between 1990 and 2019.
Data source: ABS. Image credit: Camper Champ
  • The potential for further growth is still significant since, as of 2019, only 13% of Chinese residents owned passports, compared to 70% of New Zealand residents.
  • Chinese visitor growth slowed down in 2018/19. The number of Chinese tourists to Australia grew by only 0.8% that year, compared to 12.9% in 2017/18.

Why did Chinese visitor growth to Australia slow down in 2019?

The number of Chinese tourists to Australia grew by only 0.79% in 2018/19, compared to 12.9% annual growth in the previous year. This slowdown has been attributed to:
  • a slowing of the Chinese economy2
  • the ongoing US-China trade dispute
  • a growing number of attractive alternative educational options for Chinese students, including New Zealand, UK and Canada.

Impact of Coronavirus Travel Ban in 2020

  • A travel ban implemented by the Australian government on the 1st of February 2020 for non-citizens travelling from or through China is expected to cause significant disruption during the peak travel period for Chinese visitors.
  • February has been the most popular month for arrivals from China in the last couple of years, with over 206,000 visitors in February 2019 and 227,000 in February 2019.
  • It is estimated that more than half of the 200,000 Chinese students enrolled in Australian universities have been affected by the travel ban7
February is the peak period for Chinese visitors to Australia.
The coronavirus travel ban has impacted over 100,000 students.
The full impact on visitors to Australia in 2020 is not yet known.
Data source: TRA/ABS. Image credit: Camper Champ

Quotes and Media Statements

“There have been more than $10 million in direct bookings in the Cairns and Great Barrier Reef region cancelled to date as a result of the coronavirus. (…) Tourism Tropical North Queensland members have seen more than 25,000 direct cancellations of experiences and accommodation.”

Mark Olsen, Tourism Tropical North Queensland CEO, 3 February 2020 8

“Out of 200,000 Chinese international students studying in Australia, 107,000 are still offshore”,

Phil Honeywood, chief executive of the International Education Association of Australia, 5 February 2020 9

China's share in the Australian tourism industry

  • China and New Zealand together contribute over 30% of visitors to Australia.

Top countries that sent visitors to Australia in 2019

Data source: ABS. Image credit: Camper Champ

China's contribution to tourism expenditure in Australia

  • At $11.9 billion in 2018/19, China accounted for more than 26% of all expenditures from international tourists in 2018/19 — three times more than the next-largest Australian tourism spenders: Americans. 3
Australian tourism top spenders in 2019 by country.
Data source: TRA. Image credit: Camper Champ

Top Chinese Travel Trends in 2019

What do Chinese tourists spend on in Australia?

  • When airfares are excluded, Chinese visitors spend the most per day in Australia, with above-average spending on education and shopping and slightly below-average spending on tours and transport.
Australian visitor spends per day in 2019 (by country)
Data source: TRA. Image credit: Camper Champ

China's Capability to Travel

  • Because of its sheer size and population, China is among the top international tourist sources for many countries, including Australia.
  • Between 2009 and 2018, Chinese travellers made over 1 billion international trips as per data from COTRI, of which 160 million trips were made in 2018 alone.
  • Around 13% (which translates to 180 million) of mainland residents have passports, making China the top potential source of international travellers.4
  • The low percentage is also indicative of the massive and unmatched future potential of China as a tourist source, as a much higher proportion of the population is expected to get passports in the coming years.

Chinese Travellers’ Top Destinations

  • As per available data from COTRI, the top 10 international destinations of Chinese travellers are Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, the US, Italy, and Malaysia.
  • Australia currently does not feature in the top 10 international destinations for the Chinese, yet earns its maximum tourism revenue from the Chinese.
  • A high proportion5 of Chinese international travellers have been travelling to Greater China (Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan), but every year a growing number of tourists are choosing farther destinations.

Where Do Chinese Travellers Visit? Preferences within Australia

  • Chinese travellers have shown a clear preference for visiting and staying in major cities as opposed to country towns.
  • Around 10-15% of the Chinese were found to have among the lowest regional dispersal (in terms of % of nights spent), as per 2012-2017 statistics.
  • The three major reasons for this, as per a recent Tourism Research Australia report6, are:
    1. Perceived safety issues
    2. Lack of time
    3. Lack of information about regional Australia.

References

  1. ABS: Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia, August 2019
  2. Bloomberg: China’s love affair with Australia fizzles
  3. TRA: International Visitor Survey, 2019
  4. COTRI: One billion trips in a decade
  5. Telegraph: Rise of the Chinese Tourist
  6. TRA: Regional Dispersal Report, October 2019
  7. Al Jazeera: Overreaction’: China students stuck as Australia closes border
  8. Tourism Tropical North QLD: CEO Statement on Coronavirus impact
  9. Al Jazeera: Overreaction’: China students stuck as Australia closes border
  10. Department of Health: Press conference at Parliament House about novel coronavirus