Traditional markets in Far North's sights
THE Far North's traditional sources of visitors, the UK, US and western Europe, are not being forgotten, despite the focus on Asia, particularly China, Tourism Australia chairman Geoff Dixon has told industry players in Cairns.
"China is now Australia's largest tourism export market in terms of economic value, up to $4 billion in annual expenditure," he told the Australian Institute of Company Directors breakfast meeting.
"It is both our highest yielding and fastest growing."
Mr Dixon said the latest data showed a record for Chinese visitors, rising up to 20 per cent a month and nearly 600,000 people a year.
In the Far North, the growth to the 12 months to June 30 was up 27 per cent to 94,000 visitors.
"Amazingly, China will soon overtake the UK as our second largest inbound visitor market by volume," he said.
"The Asian markets are front and centre for Tourism Australia, led by China, but also including Japan, South Korea, and across South-East Asia to Singapore, Malaysia and the ever-emerging India and Indonesia.
"These markets last year delivered 2.4 million of the 5.9 million visitors to Australia.
"So we are now very engaged with Asia. But engaging more with our region does not mean we abandon our more traditional markets.
"I assure you Tourism Australia still has a significant focus on a balanced portfolio including the UK, the US and western Europe.
"These are still very important countries and regions, particularly for north Queensland, and constitute a large portion of your international visitors.
"But last year alone visitors from the UK and Germany, traditional long-stay markets for north Queensland, fell 18 per cent and 13 per cent respectively.
"It could be some years before they recover from their current problems, so we must take advantage of what we have now."
Mr Dixon said Australia must speak with "one voice, a uniform single message about Australia to other countries".
"In China, India and most recently Indonesia, we have been told point-blank that Australia spoke with too many voices," he said.
"Speaking collectively about Australia through stronger and singular joint federal and state government backed foundation campaigns will make our marketing much more effective."
Mr Dixon said challenges remained and the high Australian dollar was now the "new normal".
He said air capacity and the number of Australians holidaying overseas were other factors.
"The toughest challenge is the 100,000 new employees needed for the tourism/hospitality industry by 2020 in a close to fully employed economy," Mr Dixon said.
"All that said, I personally am becoming much more optimistic for our industry."
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Not forgotten: European tourists such as Marcus Schnieder and Hanna Ghordsen from Germany are on Tourism Australia's radar.