2016 was another stellar year for Australia's tourism sector

Tennis players Rafael Nadal and Kei Nishikori show some love for all things Australian. Photo: William West/ AFP/ Getty Images

Australia’s tourism sector went from strength to strength in 2016, recording yet another huge increase in short-term visitor arrivals.

According to data released by the ABS on Monday, short-term arrivals grew by 0.6% to 706,900 in December in seasonally adjusted terms, some 6.8% higher than the levels of December 2015.

That left total arrivals in 2016 at a whopping 8.2412 million, up 788,300, or 10.6%, on the numbers of a year earlier.

Given the continued growth, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the annual figure was the highest on record.

That’s good news for Australia, delivering a much needed economic windfall to the Australian economy at a time when other sectors have been struggling.

And while arrivals from other major markets have improved over the past year — aided by past weakness in the Australian dollar — a fair chunk of the growth recorded in total short-term arrivals last year came from one nation in particular: China.

Including arrivals from Hong Kong, short-term visitors from China swelled to 1.4566 million in 2016, the highest number on record.

That was up 15.1% on the levels of 2015, or a massive 190,900. Put another way, 24.2% of the total increase reported last year came from Australia’s largest trading partner.

Yet another reminder that Australia’s trade relationship with China now goes far beyond commodity exports such as iron ore and coal.

China is now the largest source of short-term arrivals by some margin, displacing New Zealand for that title earlier in the year, and the numbers are only continuing to surge at present.

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