Chinese tourists are spending up big in Australia

Don Arnold/Getty ImagesA family from Shanghai, China, visit Bondi Beach on Christmas Day.
  • More international tourists than ever before visited Australia in the year to March.
  • Total overseas tourist spend grew by 6% with over half of that coming entirely from Chinese visitors.
  • Growth in visitor numbers and spend was strongest in Australia’s eastern states, especially in Tasmania.

More international guests than ever before are visiting Australia, but they’re getting older and spending less time here than in the past.

According to data released by Tourism Research Australia (TRA), international visitors aged 15 years and over reached a record 8.3 million in the year to March, up an impressive 8% on 12 months earlier.


The strong increase saw total spend also increased by 6% to $42.3 billion, driven by enormous growth from China.

“China continues to drive growth in visitation with an increase in visitors and spend, both up 13%,” TRA said.

“With an increase of $1.3 billion to $10.9 billion, China alone accounted for 52% of total growth in international visitor spend during the year.”

Perhaps helped by a recovery in the US economy and previous strength in the greenback, visitors from the United States increased by 10% to a record 751,000, helping to boost spending levels by a smaller 4%.

Visitor numbers from Hong Kong and India also grew strongly, lifting by 26% and 18%, helping to boost spending levels from both groups by 9% and 14% respectively.

In contrast, visitor growth from New Zealand and the UK rose by a smaller 4% and 1% respectively over the year.

Contributing to the slower growth in spend nationally, TRA found that total nights spent in Australia grew by just 3% to 269 million over the year, indicating a move to shorter trips on average.

“There has been much stronger growth for visitors aged 45 years or more (12%) than those aged under 45 (4%),” it said.

“This is contributing to the trend towards shorter trips, as the average length of stay in Australia for older visitors is much less than for younger arrivals– 20 nights compared with 44 nights respectively.”

As seen in the map below, most of the growth in visitor number and spend occurred in Australia’s southeastern states and territories, especially Tasmania where visitors and spend surged by 20% and 32% respectively.


Tassie’s secret is now undoubtedly out, contributing to stronger economic conditions and recent strength in home prices.

In the 2016/17 financial year, the tourism industry employed 924,600 Australians directly, accounting for 8% of the entire employed workforce.

Given current trends, that number looks set to get a whole lot larger in both numeric and percentage terms in the years ahead, especially with the ranks of middle class in Asia continuing to swell.

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