Starting next month, Chinese tourists planning a trip to Australia will be able to apply for a 10-year multiple visit visa.
The move is part of an effort to improve a growing relationship with Australia’s biggest trading partner, and capture an even greater piece of China’s largest international tourism market.
Last year China’s more than one million visitors led Australia’s tourism industry boom.
They not only accounted for more than $6.5 billion in economic activity, but Chinese tourists spent more - about $6,000 per visit, compared with an average of $3,600 from international visitors.
That helps explain why Tourism Australia Managing Director John O’Sullivan is optimistic about the impact from the country’s plan to offer Chinese tourists 10-year multiple entry visitor visas.
John O’Sullivan said “Recently the Australian government introduced a new 3-year visa for holiday visitors from Indonesia. Over the last few months we’ve seen consistent double digit growth in visitor numbers from that particular market.”
Under the new visa, visitors aren’t allowed to work, and can stay for up to 3 months at a time. And it allows for repeated visits.
John O’Sullivan said “what that leads to with the particular visitor is hey, I don’t have to do everything in this particular visit or I don’t have to do everything in this particular trip I can come back multiple times.”
Several countries including the US and Canada already offer 10-year multiple entry visas to Chinese tourists.
Economists say a similar change for Australia also sends an important message to the country’s biggest trading partner.
UNSW economist Professor Tim Harcourt said “I think it is saying to China that you are our partner, not just a market. You are a partner of people and we want to form long term business relations with you, not just a market where we sell commodities to.”
Many Australian products are in demand in China - from food to wine. And tourism officials say some of the best advertising comes from overseas visitors.
“If I say to you that I have been to a particular restaurant or a particular destination and I had an amazing experience, you are more inclined to take my recommendation over that of paid advertising it’s just a simple fact.” said John O’Sullivan.
Despite growing international competition, Tourism Australia hopes the new visas, along with an aggressive campaign early next year, will capture an even greater slice of the Chinese tourism market.