Number of international tourists to Australia hits record high with China remaining top market


Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsunday Islands, part of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. (Photo: Xinhua)

CANBERRA, March 30 (Xinhua) -- The number of international tourists who chose Australia as their holiday destination hit a record high last year, reaching 8.5 million, according to the latest international visitor survey results released on Saturday.

Overseas tourists pumped in a total of 44 billion Australian dollars (about $31 billion), the survey suggested.

"In the last year we have seen, what is equivalent to, an extra 1,000 jumbos arrive in our airports, full of tourists from around the globe, keen to experience an Australian holiday," said Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham.

China continues to be the top market, with 1.3 million visitors spending 11.7 billion Australian dollars, an increase of five percent and 13 percent respectively.

"Within the Chinese market... we are also seeing a noticeable shift towards Free and Independent Travelers (FIT), who are more likely to stay longer, spend more and disperse more widely across regional Australia," said Birmingham.

He said that Asia presents an enormous tourism opportunity for Australia thanks to the region's huge emerging middle class, ever improving aviation capacity and increasingly competitive airfares.

With one in 13 Australians already employed in the tourism industry, these strong results could help to further strengthen the economy and create more jobs for Australians, he said.