Tapping back into Asia

OCT 2010

Despite Queensland’s tourism industry facing a $1 billion deficit only five months ago, the Gold Coast is slowly clawing its way back.  Could Asia hold the key?

Tourism Research Australia figures released show the Gold Coast’s largest industry is on its way to recovery.

Total visitor spend in the city is up 4 per cent to $4.6 billion despite an overall slight decrease in tourist numbers to 9.8 million. In a positive sign for the economy, domestic overnight visitor spend is up a massive 12 per cent to $3 billion.

International visitors to the Gold Coast increased by 5 per cent in the last financial year – contributing just more than $1 billion to the local sector.

Gold Coast Tourism (GCT) CEO Martin Winter, says figures acknowledge the city’s tourism operators as the best in the country, but concedes ‘it is still a long and tough road to full recovery’.

He expects the forecasted visitor returns to increase the yields of accommodation providers in particular.

“These latest tourism figures should give our city’s 500 tourism businesses and our 20,000 full time tourism employees confidence,” says Winter.

“The Gold Coast really is Australia’s No.1 tourism destination. Our ability to attract a 5 per cent increase in international visitors is a credit to the city’s wide popularity and the positive work of our tourism businesses as they are out there fighting for every tourist.

“We have outshone the national and state tourism trends, increased our market share over competitor destinations and have a major national marketing push ready for the remainder of the year.”

Visitors from the UK were the best inbound performers at 18 per cent increase, followed by strong increases in Chinese (up 15 per cent) and Japanese (up 5 per cent) visitors.

Winter says the positive gain in the three international markets make the figures ‘even more satisfying’ given increased marketing efforts by both GCT and Tourism Queensland into the regions.

The Gold Coast was recently used as a filming backdrop for the annual Chinese Miss Guangzhou beauty pageant, a move Tourism Queensland CEO Anthony Hayes says exposes the Gold Coast to the world’s most populous nation.

The 12 pageant contestants from Guangzhou also visited Brisbane and were accompanied by Chinese film crews, print journalists and several Guangzhou Television VIPs.

“The filming of the Miss Guangzhou pageant usually involves an overseas component, and Queensland had been selected to be showcased in the filming this year, which is a great honour,” says Hayes.

“The exposure our vibrant destinations will receive through this film shoot will hopefully entice more Chinese visitors to book their next holiday in Queensland. The filming of the contest will feature the best of South East Queensland, including some of Greater Brisbane’s most popular precincts, landmarks and leisure activities.

“It will also showcase popular Gold Coast locations and experiences such as QDeck and Palazzo Versace, wildlife attractions, indigenous culture, local beaches, surfing lessons and sailing.”

The state-wide increase in Chinese visits experienced comparable growth to the boom on the Gold Coast. This year Tourism Queensland opened an office in Shanghai to promote Queensland to potential Chinese visitors through various marketing initiatives.

Hayes reiterates that China is one of Queensland’s fastest growing and most important international visitor markets.

“There were 198,000 Chinese and Hong Kong visitors to Queensland in the year ending June 2010, representing a 14 per cent increase compared to the year prior,” he says.

“In the year ending June 2010, Chinese and Hong Kong visitors spent $420 million on trips to Queensland, $77 million more than the previous year. It’s also forecast that by 2014 there will be approximately 754,000 Chinese and Hong Kong visitors to Australia.”

China Southern Airlines is also set to start direct flights between Guangzhou and Brisbane later this year – another initiative Hayes expects will bring more Chinese visitors to Queensland.

“In addition to adding a potential 3600 extra Chinese visitors into Queensland each month, this new route means Chinese travellers will be able to fly direct into Queensland and bypass Australia’s southern states,” he says.

“This initiative coupled with campaigns such as the Miss Guangzhou film shoot are what place Queensland in the limelight and hopefully keep our state front of mind for when Chinese visitors make their next holiday booking.”

Japanese on a mission

The Gold Coast has notched another first by becoming the only Australian city to host the Japan Australia Mission Downunder (JAM Downunder) international travel trade.

Tourism Australia first introduced the initiative in 1992 but it has been held annually at locations in Japan.

With more than 40 Japanese travel trade buyers familiarising themselves with Gold Coast holiday experiences, hosting JAM Downunder provided the city an opportunity to enhance its status as a destination of choice among Japanese travellers.

Winter described the event as ‘a major coup for the city’.

“Among the 40-plus buyers attending from Sapporo, Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka are the four major travel organisations that facilitate most Japanese group and individual itineraries,” he says.

“Pre-scheduled appointments during a day and a half of official workshops at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre (were) complemented by further post event familiarisation activities.

“We welcome our Japanese guests who will assist to create more business and investment dollars into the city.”

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