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Tuesday, 12 January, 2021, 13 : 30 PM [IST]

Australia to take USD 1.4bn hit due to absence of Chinese tourists this Feb during New Year celebrations

Australia’s retail and hospitality sectors are expected to suffer a USD 1.4 billion financial hit because of the absence of cashed-up Chinese tourists during Chinese New Year celebrations, reports

Chinese New Year falls on February 12, and it’s also the month that traditionally has the biggest influx of Chinese tourists to Australia. The absence of Chinese tourist to celebrate Chinese New Year in Australia is going to have a major impact on the retail, hospitality and entertainment sector. 

In 2019, more than 200,000, or 14 per cent, of short-term visitors from China arrived in February, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. That number was drastically reduced to 21,000 in 2020 as the borders closed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

With tourist flights from China grounded, let alone the rest of the world, the financial fallout will be immense, says National Retailers Association CEO Dominique Lamb. Lamb says Chinese visitors are renowned for going high-end gift shopping in Australia. 

She said Chinese visitors more or less came to Australia with “empty suitcases” in February with a plan to go on a high-end spree for gifts to take home. “It will be interesting to see what happens because we know they come here and shop big and then return,” Lamb said.

“It’s as though they come with empty suitcases and do a lot of gifting in high-end items, and I think we are going to see a fallout around that Chinese New Year time when in the past it has been very beneficial for retailers.”

Of the 206,284 Chinese short-term visitors in February 2019, 39 per cent landed in Sydney, 28 per cent in Victoria and almost 20 per cent arrived in Queensland. The average Chinese tourist spent slightly more than USD 8,500, totalling USD 1.755bn, in February 2019.

QUT professor Gary Mortimer says major tourist attractions and even casinos will be part of the fallout of Australia having no Chinese tourists in February. Mortimer said travelling and shopping tours had become a trend among the Chinese middle class.

Their absence would be felt across all sectors, from retail through to tour operators and even casinos. “The latest numbers indicate a 99.8 per cent decline in short-term visitors from China, so I would expect it to be close to a USD 1.4 billion loss to the economy, and that’s not even including domestic flights,” the Queensland University of Technology professor said.

“I had to dig through the ABS and Australian Tourism data to draw those figures, and that includes food, hospitality entertainment, tours, retail, accommodation, casinos and car hire. I’ve rounded it down to USD 1.4 billion as I’ve taken out spending on conference fees and education expenses and international and domestic flights.”

Sydney’s Taronga Zoo is expected to be quieter than usual in February because of the absence of Chinese tourists that flock to Australia to celebrate Chinese New Year. He said popular tourist destinations, such as Cairns and the Gold Coast, would be hit hard as well as Sydney and Melbourne’s most popular tourist attractions like Sydney’s Taronga Zoo and the Penguin Parade at Phillip Island.

“There’s usually a dip in local sales during February which has been underwritten by the influx of Chinese tourists but not this year, and it’s going to be felt right across all those sectors,” he said.

He said retailers should have started, or even be planning to start, selling on Tmall, an online Chinese-language website set up for businesses to sell to consumers.

“Retailers who can’t get the customers to come to them need to find a way to get to the customers and you can do that on Tmall,” he said.

“It’s a site a lot of major retailers are already on, and businesses should be exploring that option.”

Queensland Tourism Industry Council CEO Daniel Gscwhind says the absence of Chinese visitors will have a ‘quite significant’ impact in the tourism sector. Gscwhind predicted the Sunshine State would miss out on more than USD 300 million in Chinese tourist dollars.

‘It’s going to be quite significant, especially those in areas that are highly dependent on the Chinese tourist dollar like Cairns and the Gold Coast,” Gscwhind said.

Qantas’s international fleet is grounded because of the pandemic otherwise they would normally be operating a Sydney-Shanghai service and flights from Hong Kong this February, a representative said. (Source:

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