Australia’s tourism industry has to lift its game if it is to capture the prize of China’s new class of globe-trotting travellers, says Crown chief executive Rowen Craigie.
The number of annual Chinese overseas travellers had grown 10-fold to 100 million since 2000 and was expected to double again by the end of the current decade, said the head of the gaming company, which also has interests in Macau casinos.
However, federal and state governments and the private sectors had to do better to fully capitalise on and increase the current 700,000 annual visitors and $5 billion in economic value of that market.
“If Australia doesn’t get its act together it won’t capture a market share it otherwise would,” Mr Craigie said.
Mr Craigie was speaking at the Australia in China’s Century Conference at Crown’s Melbourne casino complex.
Foreign minister Julie Bishop told the same conference that China’s middle class had become the world’s most influential tourists and would drive the global industry for years .
Despite the common message that Australia is a nearby regional destination for the Chinese, Mr Craigie argued the tyranny of distance was keeping them away, with nearby Hong Kong and Singapore favoured.
Crown, which is chaired by billionaire and major shareholder James Packer, is desperate to boost its share of China’s high-end tourist, high roller gaming market partly through a planned new VIP casino and luxury hotel in Sydney.
Mr Craigie said Australia’s travel visa system had to be made simpler for Chinese travellers including printing it in Mandarin and providing it online.
Australian airport arrivals areas were not world-class and neither was training for the tourism industry while state government gaming regulatory and tax settings should be made more “competitive”, he said.
“I think the federal government does have an appreciation that we are in an intensely competitive environment in which hundreds of countries are looking at the same tourism prize,” he said.
Crown boss says tourism must lift