Chinese and Indian tourists visiting Australia surge to record

A small yacht sails on the Sydney Harbour as it passes the Sydney Opera House in Australia on Oct 23, 2017.
A small yacht sails on the Sydney Harbour as it passes the Sydney Opera House in Australia on Oct 23, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) - Chinese and Indian tourist arrivals in Australia jumped to a record last year as growing middle-class wealth in the world's most populous nations fuels the travel bug.

Almost 1.4 million visitors from mainland China travelled to Australia last year, a 13 per cent increase from a year earlier, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Tourists from India climbed to 302,900 over the period, a 15 per cent advance from a year earlier.

"While much of the focus has been on Chinese tourism, Indian visitors are coming Down Under in their droves," said Ryan Felsman, a senior economist at the securities unit of Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

"Most are coming to visit family members studying in Sydney and Melbourne. Cricket pilgrimages to the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Bradman Museum in Bowral are also a priority."

The Asian century is increasingly coming to pass as economic modernisation in the region's two giants brings hundreds of millions of new consumers keen for overseas travel. 

Australia's pristine coastline, sparkling Sydney Harbour and the vast outback showcased in actor Paul Hogan's 1986 comedy Crocodile Dundee proved a magnet for US and Japanese tourists late last century.

The decline in the currency from its 2011 peak during the mining boom has made Australia attractive to visitors again and local operators are scrambling to refurbish outdated tourism infrastructure or build new facilities to cope with the influx.

Chinese visitors are also expanding their horizons, with trips to the island state of Tasmania soaring 40 per cent in the year through September.

There are now increasing calls for direct flights between mainland China and the state capital, Hobart, according to Felsman.

"China and India's growing and more affluent middle class are attracted to Australia's clean and unique environment, high quality restaurants and hotels, fresh food, safe cities, museums, art galleries and warm weather," he said.