Tourism to be significantly boosted by China Free Trade Agreement?

Tourism Accommodation Australia has welcomed the announcement of the China Free Trade Agreement, saying that Australia’s hotel and tourism sector could be a major benefactor from the closer ties.

In particular, TAA welcomed the announcement by the federal government that would see Australia grant visas for up to 5000 Chinese work and holiday makers annually. In addition, chefs and Mandarin language tutors would be included in an additional allocation of 1800 Chinese skilled workers eligible to apply for 457 work visas.

However Tourism & Transport Forum CEO Margy Osmond said the agreement with China did nothing to reduce the barriers to travel between the two countries.

As TTF continues to push for visa reform to make it easier for Chinese tourists to visit Australia, Ms Osmond said the FTA was a great breakthrough but it ignored “the biggest game-changer for our largest services export”.

“The FTA frees up the movement of goods between Australia and China, but it does not free up the movement of people between the two countries. Our visa regime for Chinese visitors remains stuck in a time-warp while other countries forge ahead with reforms to make it easier for potential visitors.

“Just last week the US and China announced a scheme granting visitors from each other’s country 10-year visas. Australia is being left behind and reform is needed to help restore Australia’s competitive position.

“While TAA applauds the Government’s positive initiatives, the hospitality sector would benefit even further if the Working Holiday Visa programme was extended from 12 months to 24 months duration, with a corresponding increase in the working portion of this from six months to 12 months.

TAA’s Ms Giuseppi said that other changes announced as part of the agreement would also benefit the tourism and hospitality sector. “Australia’s hotel and tourism sector will benefit from increased investment via the new Investment Facilitation Arrangements and education-related travel to Australia will be significantly boosted as a result of new measures announced as part of the agreement.”

Chief executive of the Accommodation Association of Australia, Richard Munro said,

“It is an important step in the growth of the Chinese visitor economy that has seen significant increases in the number of Chinese tourists coming to Australia, particularly over the past three years.

“The agreement will foster further opportunities for the accommodation sector directly through increased visitation, as well as promoting opportunities for key investments in tourism infrastructure.

“With the extraordinary growth and potential in Chinese visitors to Australia and with the fierce competition for this lucrative market, it is critical to ensure that our visa systems are calibrated in such a way to ensure that Chinese visitors are able to access Australian tourism products. As part of the FTA, China has also guaranteed that Australian service suppliers will be able to construct, renovate and operate wholly Australian-owned hotels and restaurants in China,” commented Mr Munro.

While Tony Abbott has neglected the potential of revenue brought to Australia by Chinese visitors, shadow minister for tourism Anthony Albanese has stated that this market is too important to ignore. Since coming to office, the Abbott Government has systematically dismantled support for Australia’s tourism sector, cutting grants and business advice that assisted Australia’s 280,000 tourism businesses, and abolishing a long-running ABS survey relied upon by investors. Mr Albanese continued “This month, minister for trade and investment Andrew Robb confirmed that Australia Week in China would not go ahead in 2015, with no sign of new tourism infrastructure speculated prior to election.”

Reports published last week show Australia is slipping in the list of Chinese visitors’ most searched-for destinations online.

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