1. Tourism is super important, accounting for 10 per cent of Australia’s export earnings.
2. Tourism’s moment has come.
3. International tourism is understood to have public good aspects (e.g. brand Australia) that warrant some public spending on attracting visitors. Tourism is also a public policy issue because regulations around immigration and customs, aviation and airports can determine the cost effectiveness of a trip to Australia.
But at this crucial moment for the industry, government funding for Tourism Australia has gone from $132 million in 2012 to $129 million in 2014. That’s a fall from $21.29 per visitor to $19.64.
I think this must be the most-seen three-word phrase in the history of humanity:
Made in China
Unlike liberte, egalite fraternite, or love thy neighbour, Made in China crosses national boundaries with ease, creating only a minimum of tension.
Australia, however, is in the unusual position of running a merchandise trade surplus with China.
This graph shows merchandise imports and exports from Australia’s perspective. Somewhere around 2009, our exports to China started growing much much faster than our imports from China.
So far, so nice. But the imbalance in our relationship has another aspect.
Far more Chinese visit Australia than Australians visit China. This is intriguing.
Should we be worried about this? What does it imply about our level of interest in our #1 customer?
Do Australians not even care about the culture and the people of China?
Or is this just the result of there being 60 times more Chinese people than Australian people in the world? Certainly it is the case that the 23 million richest Chinese are richer on average than the 23 million richest Australians. (That’s all of us).
What will be interesting to see is if there is any correlation between the exports of merchandise and the exports of tourism services. When the taste for our iron ore drops off, will our hotels suddenly lie empty?
IN the meantime, I strongly recommend Beijing, especially if you can get there on a day when it’s not too smoggy.
Americans, the hypocrites, will not stop complaining about the flight to Australia.
“I want to go to Australia, but I can’t stomach the thought of the year long flight….ugggh.” (source)
“I really want to go to australia but at the same time the flight is just soooo long, and everything there is poisonous” (source)
“Flying to Australia is a long arduous experience” (source)
And yet they consider driving across their vast, lumpy and obese country a simple jaunt! A petit amusement! A mere caper!
This graph shows that lots of people who can easily afford to fly will still happily ride the Interstate for hour after arduous hour. Among people earning over 100 grand, twenty per cent of trips of 2000 miles are done by car! 20 per cent!!
Just for reference for our Australian readers, an example of a round trip of 2000 miles would be from Melbourne to Byron Bay, AND BACK.
There should be millions of Americans trampling all over our fine brown land all the time.
And yet growth in American tourism to Australia has been stunted, showing no growth at all in a decade, until a welcome recent blip. The cheap airfares that have had Aussies hitting up the States in record numbers apparently leave our American confreres ice cold.
Perceptions of safety can scarcely be the issue. It turns out the favourite destination of Americans in selecting their overseas travel is Mexico, with a 33 per cent share.
Oceania (presumably including those hobbit-botherers across the ditch, plus Tahiti, Fiji, etc) gets just 0.9 per cent. [source]
Canada gets 20 per cent and Europe is next with 19 per cent. Europe! What have they got that we don’t? Europe is at least 7 hours flight, NY-London, and as much as 14 hours if you try to go from LA to Helsinki.
The American excuse that it is *just too far* is clearly made up. Which leaves us in an unhappy place. A place where we need to face a discomforting possibility.