More efforts needed to strengthen exchanges amid challenges: analysts
The 2017 China-Australia Year of Tourism is to enhance tourism and economic communication between the two countries, but analysts said more efforts are needed such as simplifying visa applications and joint supervision on services providers amid various challenges.
The China-Australia Year of Tourism kicked off in Sydney on Sunday, marking a new phase in the two countries' relationship. The project is expected to create more opportunities for in-depth communication in economics, society and academics.
In a congratulatory message on the opening ceremony, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said "people-to-people exchange is one of the key pillars supporting China-Australia relations… I hope we will make the best of the tourism year to broaden and deepen our communication and cooperation in various areas and further consolidate the popular basis for the all-round development of our bilateral relations."
China is the most valued tourism market for Australia, with the market value expected to exceed $13 billion by 2020, said Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Steven Ciobo.
Some 1.2 million Chinese tourists visited Australia in 2016 and spent about A$9 billion ($6.9 billion), the People's Daily reported Tuesday. Meanwhile, more than 600,000 Australians visited China last year.
Recently, a series of measures have been rolled out to promote the bilateral tourism exchange between the two nations. For example, the Australian government has launched 10-year multi-entry visas for Chinese tourists, starting from December 2016, and the online visa application process in simplified Chinese makes the Australian visa more convenient.
Boosting business ties
Increasing people-to-people exchange helps boost the development of the aviation industry in both countries. Australian airlines supply 28 direct flights every week to China, while Chinese airlines provide 167 direct flights a week, making it China's second largest long-distance international aviation market only after the US.
The Chinese tourist rush to Australia is also helping drive Chinese investment in the country.
Chinese companies' investment in Australia's tourism sector has surpassed A$10 billion, the Financial Times reported on January 4. Dozens of domestic developers and investors such as Dalian Wanda Group, Nanshan Group and Greenland Holdings Corp have rushed to invest in hotels, apartments and entertainment projects, aiming to make profits from the tourism sector, according to the report.
Hangzhou-based performing arts company Songcheng Performance Development Co announced in November 2016 that its subsidiary Songcheng (Australia) Entertainment planned to invest 2 billion yuan ($291 million) in an amusement park project in Australia's Gold Coast.
"The two [countries] should take advantage of the [Year of Tourism] project and the chance that the US is withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal to lift their cooperative relationship to another level," Song Ding, director of the tourism and real estate center of the Shenzhen-based China Development Institute, told the Global Times Tuesday.
The year-long project serves as an excellent opportunity to promote bilateral economic cooperation, but more efforts are needed from both countries amid various challenges.
Uncertainties in the exchange rate of the yuan, high flight prices as well as simple tourism product structures may affect Chinese visitors' enthusiasm for Australia, Zhu Zhengyu, a tourism analyst at Beijing-based market consultancy Analysys International, told the Global Times Tuesday.
"Australia's stance on the South China Sea issue is another potential risk that may impact Chinese tourists to that country," he added.
Both sides should continue to make an effort in terms of enlarging the China-Australia tourism market, boosting tourism investment and strengthening online tourism education and academic exchange, said Bai Changhong, dean of the college of tourism and service management at Nankai University in North China's Tianjin Municipality.
More efforts are also needed to prioritize the tourism market and improve the experience of tourists, including simplifying visa applications, joint supervision on services providers and tourism insurance and international rescue cooperation, according to Bai.
Though China is a large market for the tourism industry, its product quality and natural environment still lags behind that in Australia, Song said, noting that China should learn from Australia to become a strong tourism destination.
For example, China can learn from Australia in self-driving sector, as the government stressed to develop its self-driving industry in the 13th Five Year Plan (2016-20), Bai said.
About 70 percent of Australia's domestic tourists favor self-driving tours, for which the government has heavily invested in infrastructure and related facilities and services to encourage the development of that mode of travel, he explained.