Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Wednesday that Chinese tourists are playing a vital role in helping Australia hit its 2020 tourism targets.
Speaking at the 16th Annual Tourism and Transport Forum Leadership Summit, Turnbull acknowledged the tourism industry's banner year, commending the sector for welcoming a record number of tourists in 2015-16.
"Just this month, the ABS released some figures which showed that we have, for the first time, welcomed more than 8 million international visitors to Australia over the last year," he said.
"That comes just 18 months after we passed 7 million annual visitors. Before that, it took more than six years for visitor numbers to climb from 5 to 6 million."
Turnbull attributed the ever-growing number of Chinese tourists for the sector's success, adding that attracting more tourists to Australia was playing an important flow-on role in boosting the economy through trade and exports.
"We know that tourism builds personal links to our country and it encourages further trade and investment. Chinese visitors, for example, are more likely to buy Australian products and services after visiting," Turnbull told the forum.
"When I have been down in Tasmania, which has really benefited from the China export story, again and again I met people running family businesses who would say that the order they got had come because Chinese tourists had visited, had sampled it and gone home and said 'Gosh, maybe we can share this with some of our friends and customers in China'."
Turnbull said it was crucial over the next few years to entice more Chinese tourists, particularly after both countries agree 2017 would be the "Australia-China Year of Tourism."
He said the government was also exploring new measures to make it easier for Chinese tourists to obtain longer-lasting visas for their visit.
"China is already our No. 1 market by value and it is about to become our No. 1 market by volume," Turnbull said.
"China, as I note has such a significant portion of the market, will only continue to grow, particularly with (the upcoming) Australia-China Year of Tourism.
"We are working to improve the competitiveness of the Australian visa system, including by trialing 10-year multiple entry visitor visas for China."
Turnbull said Australia was well on track to meet the government's Tourism 2020 target, which aims to double overnight visitor expenditure from 52 billion U.S. dollars in 2009 to between 85 and 105 billion U.S. dollars by 2020.