Lunar New Year has failed to lure high numbers of visitors from China to Australia with the Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) reporting a slower than expected recovery.

In what is traditionally a peak period for visitation, forward bookings and revenues are significantly down, compared to 2019 levels, while length of stay remains steady, according to ATEC’s recent member survey.

“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. 

ATEC’s China specialists have observed 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.

Lunar New Year celebrations in Perth in February 2020

“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,”  Shelley said.

The ATEC said it is urging government to invest in the Approved Destination Status program to help Australia compete in the global marketplace.

“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,” Shelley said.

“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.”