China to reclaim top spot in Australia’s tourism market by 2026


China is expected reclaim top spot in Australia’s international tourism sector within three years, according to Tourism Research Australia.

In 2019, China was Australia’s leading visitor market with 1.4 million arrivals each year.

When China reopened earlier this year, the numbers started to rise again but only stood at 40,000 travellers in February. This was hampered by a reduced aviation capacity at just 23 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. That figure is set to rise with aviation expected to be back to 50 per cent by the second half of this year.

Tourism Australia now believes Chinese visitation will bounce back to pre-pandemic levels by 2026.

Speaking to The Australian, Tourism Australia boss Phillipa Harrison said they “are seeing really positive signs” with 135 Chinese buyers attending the recent Australian Tourism Exchange on the Gold Coast but cautioned it was still “very early days”.

“They are all telling us they are really keen to come back to Australia, and I think we’re going to see the business grow,” she said.

“What we think is that in 2024 (the Chinese market) will normalise, and by late 2025 it will be booming and return as the largest inbound market, followed by NZ and then US and UK markets.

“The US tourism market is (also) growing quite fast.”

Harrison said that while domestic market had not fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels, travellers were spending more.

“One thing I would say on domestic, though, is even though numbers aren’t quite where they were, spend is way, way above, so we’re actually seeing a real boost in spending domestically at the moment,” she said.

“And even though there are significant macroeconomic headwinds out there, people are still spending a lot on travel.

“There’s a real sense of optimism, and it feels like things are normalising. I think our industry acknowledges that there are still some frictions, but one of the things we know is there is global demand for Australia and that has not wavered.”