Cara Waters | 15 January 2013

Foreign tourist numbers up 6.9% from last year, with Asian marketing increasing

Foreign tourists are travelling to Australia in record numbers, an increase the tourism industry is attributing to savvy marketing by Tourism Australia in Asia.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics released yesterday show the number of people travelling to Australia was up 6.9% on the same time last year.

While New Zealand continued to be the biggest source of tourism arrivals for Australia, Chinese visitors rose by about 14% in November. China is now Australia's second largest source of foreign tourists, beating the United Kingdom.

The growth in tourists from Asia was not limited to China, with Malaysian and Thai tourists increasing by 35% and 27% respectively.

The industry's peak body, the Tourism and Transport Forum, attributed the boost in numbers to an increase in flights by Asian airlines and successful marketing campaigns in the region by Tourism Australia.

John Lee, chief executive of the TTF, told SmartCompany there were increases across the board, with the exception being the UK.

"The passenger movement tax in the UK is just decimating outbound travel from the UK. It means a family of four pay just under $800 in taxes alone to travel from the UK to Australia," he says.

Lee says the strength of the tourist numbers coming from China, north Asia and south-east Asia is "heartening".

He attributes much of the growth to Tourism Australia's advertising campaign that was launched in June last year and garnered over 24 million hits on the ad, with 20 million hits in China.

"Millions and millions have seen the ad and have transferred their psychological intention to booking tickets and that is great news for our sector," he says.

"Now it is the Asian Century with huge growth from Malaysia, India and Thailand and, if we get it right, rather than the rivers of coal of the past 10 years in Australia there is an opportunity to have rivers of visitors from Asia."

Lee describes Tourism Australia's digital campaign and strong reach into new markets as "phenomenal" and singles out the leadership of managing director Andrew McEvoy and chairman Geoff Dixon.

"We are seeing the fruits of that intelligent strategy deployment. It is all about marketing where you are going to make a difference," he says.

"Andrew jokes China is an overnight success but it has taken 10 years to come to fruition."

Some 66,000 visitors traveled to Australia for business purposes. 

The ABS figures also revealed Australians are continuing their love affair with overseas travel, with the number of people flying abroad for holidays or business rising by 2.5% in November.

For the year to November, a record high of almost 8.18 million Australians travelled overseas.

"We still have a passenger deficit of six million inbound and eight million outbound but we were seeing outbound growth of over 10% last year and that is shrinking and is now back to 5.6% and dropping," Lee says.

"So it seems as though that is capped and it is dropping. I think there was an absolute spurt of outbound movement with the rise of the dollar and a perception of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see other parts of the world."

This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.

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