China has overtaken New Zealand to become Australia’s largest inbound visitor market for the first time. The newly released Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that 1.39 million Chinese visitors entered Australia in the year ending February 2018. That’s an increase of 13.2 per cent.

Snorkelers, Great Barrier Reef., Australia

Australia’s popularity with Chinese travellers only looks to grow in coming years. Ctrip, the second largest online travel agent in the world, is heading to Sydney 8-10 May for the 2018 WYSE Exchange Australia Conference. Ctrip sends approximately 3000 travellers to Australia each year and is one of the leading international buyers of Australia’s youth travel products that will meet with up to 60 Australian tourism businesses during two days of trading.

YHA Australia is a sponsor of WYSE Exchange Australia. CEO Julian Ledger said YHAs across the country have benefited for years from Chinese bookings and have also noticed the more recent growth in the number of guests from across Asia.

“YHA has been actively gearing up for the past few years to cater to increased demand from Asian backpackers,” explained Ledger. “There is a growing trend for young Chinese travellers under 35 years of age to visit Australia for independent travel.”

Chinese Millennials driving a new travel trend

Recently, Ctrip has expanded the platform’s offerings of ‘slower-paced, customised’ travel experiences for Chinese travellers. According to Ctrip’s “2017 Customized Travel Report”, 2017 marked the beginning of popularisation of customised travel in China. More than one million requests were made last year.

The company said Millennial travellers are the main force behind this trend. Intrepid Millennial travellers are also taking their trips outside of the typical destination cities and into more regional areas.

“In recent years we have seen Chinese travellers venturing to regional areas such as Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road, as there are incredible photo opportunities of the coastline there. Up to half the guests in Apollo Bay YHA can be Chinese on any one night,” Ledger said.

Ctrip told WYSE Travel Confederation that the main objective for their WYSE Exchange Australia 2018 attendance is, “to learn what are the new travel products for young people and which are suitable for the Chinese young travel market.” The company also said representatives would like to meet with travel and activity providers, hotels, and ITO.

Australia rolling out the welcome mat for Chinese visitors

 In recent years, Australia has been finding new ways to attract travellers from China. “We consider Asia not the ‘Far East’ but the ‘Near North’,” said Ledger. It is this idea of close ties between the two countries that the government credits with the momentum in the market.

China has been Australia’s most valuable inbound tourism market since 2011. However, last year the government launched the 2017 China-Australia Year of Tourism, a landmark aviation agreement with China and visa reform.

asian woman travel with smile and happy

The Year of Tourism marked promoted opportunities to increase two-way travel and celebrated the importance of the China market for Australia’s tourism industry.

The initiatives are still being implemented. Just last month Visit Victoria kicked off a campaign targeting Chinese Millennials. China is currently Victoria’s largest international tourism market, with almost 600,000 visitors spending AUS $2.7 billion in the 12 months to September 2017.

For YHA Australia, small but significant changes in its business operations have gone a long way to welcome their ‘Near North’ guests. According to Ledger, this includes putting an emphasis on communal areas and cooking as a way to bring guests together.

“Small things can make a big difference. For example, providing rice cookers in our hostels. We also deliberately employ more staff now with Asian language skills.” YHA Australia has taken their language initiative even one step further by providing a translation of their website in Chinese.

Australian youth travel businesses with an interest in meeting with Ctrip and other international buyers should register today to attend the 2018 WYSE Exchange Australia Conference in Sydney on 8-10 May.