Australia has a new competitor for the Chinese tourist dollar

The feast of the Santo Nino in Manila. Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images

The Great Wall of tourists from China has developed a sudden appetite for the Philippines.

Overall, Chinese tourists grew by about 10% to 128 million in 2015 with travel in Asia preferred.

And the stand out for growth at the start of 2016 is the Philippines with 441,000 Chinese tourists, an increase of 130%.

“The January tourist number from the mainland into the Philippines saw a huge 130% YoY rise,” according to Hong Kong-based investment bank and broker CLSA which has been tracking the phenomenon of the Chinese tourist.

“While much of this was driven by a low base in January 2015, we are encouraged by the recent trend, which has been strong for many months now.”

When the Chinese come, they can come in large numbers and quickly. Thailand grew from 800,000 in 2009 to 8 million in 2015. Japan doubled to 5 million last year.

But Australia is still a winner. Chinese tourists topped 1 million last year and the tourists kept coming at the start of 2016.

Also ahead of Australia in the growth stakes are Japan (66%), Vietnam (66%) and Singapore (62%), as this chart shows:

ASX-listed companies to benefit from the rise in Chinese tourists to Australia include the vitamin maker Blackmores.

“An increasing number of tourists means that more vitamins and infant formula products are carried back by Chinese tourists on their return to China (given to family and friends),” says CLSA.

This also builds brand awareness. Blackmores and unlisted Swisse are seen as Australia’s premier vitamins companies.

A2 Platinum and Bellamy’s are seen as the best Australian infant formula brands.

CLSA says fears that the depreciation of the Chinese currency RMB would derail the upward trajectory of tourists have so far been unfounded.

“While this doesn’t prove that currency moves don’t have an impact on the typical Chinese tourist’s psyche, it may not have as much of an impact as originally feared, with other factors apparently higher up the priority list,” CLSA says in a note to its clients.

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