Australia is fast becoming an Asian destination

The predominant number of international visitors that will come to our country between now and the year 2020 will come from the north of us, Tourism Australia Managing Director, John O’Sullivan said at a CEDA event on tourism in Brisbane.

“Those short-haul markets out of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, India and of course that market in China,” he said.
“By 2020, 42 per cent of our visitors will come from that Chinese market.

“Australia is fast becoming, and will be in the next two to three years, an Asian destination.”

Mr O’Sullivan said Australia’s international visitation is not only in an immense period of growth, but also of change. 

“China is really now starting to discover its wings and this insatiable thirst for travel, and long-haul travel into markets like Australia and the US, and that’s a massive opportunity for us,” he said. 

“What we’re seeing within that Asian market is a change of consumer.

“We’re starting now to morph – particularly in China – from group-based travel to that independent traveler.

“That traveler that is looking for experiences, they have good language skills, they are very inquisitive and adventurous and will disperse widely throughout the country.”

Mr O’Sullivan said this dispersal of visitors within Australia is also increasing.  

“They’re starting to come into the cities, staying in these capital cities and then moving out towards the regional parts of the country but then always coming back into the capital cities,” he said. 

“These gateway cities are what attract our first-time visitors to our country and the dispersal is what helps to keep them coming back.” 

Mr O’Sullivan said large-scale infrastructure projects are the key to a gateway city rejuvenating itself and used the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore as an example.

“Marina Bay Sands gave the city a new identity but on the back of that they were able to add new experiences,” he said.

“So yes there’s 6200 hotel rooms, 80 different restaurants, two different theatres but what sits alongside that is Gardens by the Bay that attracts three million visitors in its own right.

“You’ve also got the Singapore Flyer which is also an attraction in itself.

“The convention facilities and other infrastructure that has gone in and around this development has seen Singapore triple its international expenditure since Marina Bay Sands was opened back in 2010-11.

“Singapore are now one of our fiercest competitors, 17 million international visitors go there and it’s a very popular destination for the Chinese and broader parts of Asia.”

The Star Entertainment Group Managing Director and CEO, Matt Bekier said the growth in Asian visitors to Australia will bypass us if we don’t build the necessary capacity. 

“Our Asian visitors are looking for high-end facilities with an integrated food offering and that is what needs to be delivered and hasn’t been delivered for a long time,” he said. 

“Right now, we’ve got about 1.2 million visitors out of Asia that are coming to Queensland, about half a million of them are Chinese.

“If we are going to see a 300 per cent growth over the next 10 years that means we will need 14,600 additional hotel rooms, just for the Chinese. 

“A typical hotel is about 200 rooms so that means we need to build 70 hotels, just for the Chinese.”

Mr Bekier said boutique regional offerings are not going to be enough to meet the massive demand. 

“We need to bring the capacity close to the big cities and airports because the dispersion can only happen if there is a first stop for these customers,” he said. 

“What we think we need is large-scale integrated resorts to meet the forecast demand.

“And I say integrated resorts and I don’t necessarily mean casinos, I mean big integrated resorts that have one or more hotels, lots of restaurants, fantastic facilities for conferences, that bring the spirit of what Queensland is to life.” 

Mr Bekier said these types of large-scale resorts can’t be too far away from a big city because you can’t get the staff. 

“The idea that you’re going to run a number of very large resorts at the right level, with the right chefs and the customer service in a remote location – it just doesn’t work,” he said.

“We need to upgrade our training, we need to collaborate with the various training institutions, we need to build the hotels to the right quality and we need to make sure the experiences remain authentic – which means that whatever gets built must also appeal to the locals. 

“Because if you’re just building compounds for foreigners that’s going to become stale very quickly.”

Mr Bekier said The Star Entertainment Group’s large-scale project Queen’s Wharf Brisbane in the CBD is aiming to meet all these requirements and fill the capacity gap. 

“In the 1980s we saw a big run up of large resorts being developed in Queensland, since then nothing really has happened and that’s why I think there’s a real shortage,” he said.

“We’ve taken that concept of the resort of the 1980s and we’re translating what that could look like in a city, and that’s Queen’s Wharf Brisbane.”