The Chinese have discovered Tasmania

Chinese President Xi with ‘Bobbie the bear’ – a souvenir of a Tasmanian lavender farm, Bridestowe Estate, which has become a popular tourist destination after Chinese model Zhang Xinyu posted an image featuring the stuffed toy on social media in 2013. William West/AFP/Getty Images
  • Spending by international tourists in Australia grew by 6% to $41.3 billion last year.
  • Spending in Tasmania surged by 31%, propelled higher by an even larger increase in Chinese tourist arrivals.
  • Hobart airport recently underwent an upgrade that will allow direct flights from Asia.

After exploring Sydney, Melbourne and increasingly the Gold Coast, it appears Chinese visitors to Australia are now setting their sights on Tasmania.

According to data released by the Australian government today, spending by international visitors on the Apple Isle soared to $497 million in 2017, recording the fastest growth of any state or territory.

“Tasmania continues to enjoy the strongest growth in the country, with spending by international tourists surging 31% during the year and up an incredible 90% over the past three years, the government said.

The increase was well above the ACT in second place at 23%, and around three times faster than spending growth in New South Wales and Victoria over the same period.

Helping to explain the spending surge witnessed in Tasmania, Chinese tourism numbers have soared in recent years following a visit from Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2014, creating unprecedented exposure for the once sleepy tourism sector.

In the year to September last year, 34,600 Chinese visited Tasmania, according to Tourism Tasmania, up 40% on a year earlier.

Yes. 40%.

Tourist from Hong Kong also swelled by 27,900, or 33%, over the same period.

Combined, that made China the largest source of international tourist arrivals to Tasmania, easily overshadowing the United States at 39,900.

Source: Tourism Tasmania

While growth may slow in the percentage terms in the years ahead, the dollar spend by Chinese tourists could be about to get a whole lot larger following a recent upgrade to Hobart Airport, allowing direct access to Tasmania for larger aircraft, including those flying from Asia.

Based on current trends, it looks like exciting times ahead for the Tassie tourism sector.