More Chinese tourists are visiting Australia than ever before

A family from Shanghai, China, visit Bondi Beach on Christmas Day. Don Arnold/Getty Images
  • China is now Australia’s largest source of short-term visitor arrivals.
  • A mammoth 226,900 Chinese visited Australia in February, the highest on record. That took Chinese arrivals over the year to 1.39 million, also a record high.
  • Chinese arrivals over the year represent just 0.1% of China’s resident population.

China is now Australia’s largest source of foreign visitor arrivals, assuming the mantle long-held by New Zealand.

If the chart below is anything to go by, its share could be about to get a whole lot larger.


According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), a mammoth 226,900 Chinese visited Australia in February, leaving total short-term arrivals over the past 12 months at 1.39 million.

Both were record highs.

Such was the scale of the increase seen in February, it surpassed the previous record high of 175,000 set in February two years earlier by over 50,000.

That’s a Usain Bolt-like record shattering.

The sharp increase reflects Lunar New Year celebrations in China, seeing workers across the country down tools for a week holiday, sometimes longer.

Clearly, a few took the opportunity to visit Australia during this period.

Not only is the rapid growth helping to boost Australia’s tourism sector, the sheer scale of Chinese arrivals nowadays, often with more money to spend from one year to the next, also appears to be spilling over into other parts of the Australian economy such as retail spending.

According to separate data released by the ABS, Australian retail sales rose by 0.6% in February, the largest percentage increase since November 2017.

Spending in discretionary areas, in particular, was unusually strong. So too was spending levels in New South Wales and Victoria, the gateways most Chinese use to enter Australia.

Both suggest that Chinese tourists may have been a factor behind the sharp and sudden spending increase.

While Chinese New Year Holidays only occur once a year, oscillating between January and February depending on the Lunar calendar, overall arrivals throughout the year are also trending higher.

And there’s potentially a lot more growth to come, especially if Australia’s tourism industry plays its cards right.

While a record-breaking 1.39 million Chinese visited Australia in the year to February, that figure only represents 0.1% of China’s total residential population.