20 April 2012

Australian tourism not prepared for influx of Chinese visitors

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Australia's federal tourism minister, Martin Ferguson, has told a Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) Outlook conference that the country is underprepared to cope with the influx of Chinese and other Asian tourists which Australian immigration can expect.

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Federal Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson says Australia has much to do to be ready for an influx of Chinese tourists.

Mr Ferguson said serious issues within both the Australian visa system and the tourism industry will struggle to cope with a surge in demand from newly wealthy Chinese tourists travelling abroad for the first time.

Mr Ferguson's warnings come after global tourism bodies claimed the Australian tourism industry was facing the 'Asian Century' which, if handled successfully, could yield the country millions in revenue and thousands of new jobs.

Chinese tourists already contribute AU$3.5 billion (£2.4 billion) to the Australian economy; a figure that is predicted to reach AU$9 billion (£5.8 billion) by the end of the decade, if Australia can cope with the demand.

The tourism minister said several infrastructure issues, particularly Sydney's sole airport needed to be addressed.

"For too long Sydney's second airport has been put in the too hard basket," said Mr Ferguson.

"This issue must be resolved sooner rather than later," adding that suggestions Canberra could be used as a secondary airport for Sydney were futile as "Sydney has and will continue to be the gateway to Australia".

Suggestions made at the conference also included greater investment in Australia's hotels, more nature based attractions and greater numbers of Indigenous staff at existing natural sites such as Ayers Rock.

Australia's mining boom has prevented the country from following most of the world into recession but it has often come at the expense of the tourism and hospitality industries whose staff have flocked to high paying jobs in remote areas in Australia.

Mr Ferguson said there were currently 30,000 vacancies in the tourism industry; this figure is expected to almost double by the middle of the decade.


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