Tourism numbers up, but experts say we're falling behind
THE latest tourism figures show international visitor numbers to Australia continue to grow each year with the Chinese leading the charge.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics latest Overseas Arrivals and Departures figures show the number of international visitors rose 2.9% in August to be up 8.2% for the year.
However, tourism advocacy group Tourism and Transport Forum claims the figure also represented a missed opportunity.
Tourism and Transport Forum chief Margy Osmond said the growth was healthy but it could be even better.
"The growth in overseas arrivals to Australia shows that we have plenty to offer international visitors," she said.
"China is making a significant contribution to that, with arrivals up 21% in August and 12.2% over the year.
"While the growth from China is solid, it also shows that Australia is falling behind other comparable countries which are competing for Chinese visitors."
Ms Osmond said the number of Chinese tourists going to Canada had grown more than 30% while the United States had grown 23%.
She said this was a clear indication Australia needed urgent reforms to make it easier for Chinese visitors to visit our shores.
"Our national and state tourism organisations already make significant investments in marketing to China, however our visa regime does not support this investment and means potential visitors are choosing other destinations over Australia," she said.
"Independent travellers from China wanting an Australian visa must pay $130, provide considerable evidence, complete a 15-page paper-based application in English, and wait up to 15 days for processing.
"By contrast, a potential visitor from the US, the UK or even Hong Kong can simply fill in a quick online form and receive an electronic visa for $20."
- APN NEWSDESK