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In what is traditionally a peak period for visitation, this year‘s Lunar New Year is showing the China visitor market is recovering slower than expected. Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC)’s recent member survey points to a ‘soft’ Lunar New Year, with forward bookings and revenues well down compared to 2019 levels with length of stay remaining steady.

The reduced Lunar New Year activity aligns with the slow recovery trend from the China market where holiday makers currently make up around 26 per cent of visitors compared to 2019 when they accounted more than 50 per cent of overall visitation from China.

“The Chinese holiday travel segment, which makes a significant contribution to the Australian economy, has been slow to shake off the effects of the pandemic,” ATEC Managing Director Peter Shelley says.  

“Despite the encouraging trend of independent travellers returning, the group travel market which was strong previously, remains soft overall and our inbound tour operators (ITOs) at the front line of forward bookings are reporting turnover is less than 50% of 2019 revenue. 

Mr Shelley said ATEC’s China specialists report they are seeing a marked change in the way Chinese visitors are travelling, with strong forward growth in the independent travel segment and a shift in the group traveller segment. 

“The current review of the Approved Destination Status (ADS) scheme, the legal framework under which tour operators can host Chinese tour groups, provides a valuable opportunity to rebuild a ‘quality focused’ system reflective of the modern Chinese group traveller. 

“ATEC is urging the Federal Government to invest in the ADS program by making a commitment to modernising the framework to one focused on delivering a customer experience which will help us compete in the global marketplace. 

“The industry looks forward to working with the Government to ensure the review outcomes work to attract higher yielding group travellers and are hopeful that supportive financial measures will be outlined in the Federal Budget.”