The number of Chinese tourists heading overseas for holidays is booming but Australia needs to ensure it doesn’t lose its competitive edge against other destinations.

This was the note of caution delivered yesterday at the G20 First East-West Dialogue on Tourism and the Chinese Dream.

Hosted by Griffith University’s Institute for Tourism (GIFT) and the Griffith Tourism Confucius Institute, the conference is focussing on topics relating to China tourism, both broadly and for the Gold Coast.

“Chinese tourism is set to increase and will probably double over the next decade,” said Professor Chris Ryan from the University of Waikato, New Zealand,speaking at the event held 13-15 November at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Surfers Paradise.

Latest data from Tourism Research Australia shows more Chinese tourists are arriving on the Gold Coast than from anywhere else. China is confirmed as the market leader with 187,000 tourists coming to Queensland’s Glitter Strip between July 2013 and June 2014, compared with 185,000 from second-placed New Zealand.

“More and more Chinese visitors are coming to the Gold Coast, which makes our upcoming East-West Dialogue both timely and relevant,” said GIFT’s Professor David Weaver.

A cautious note

On the other hand, Professor Weaver remains cautious about the long-term viability of tourism to Australia.

“We believe in another 10 years, there could well be around 30-40 million outbound tourists per year from China, but that would be to all countries (excluding HK and Macau), not just ours. Australia is going to see increasing competition in attracting tourists and we are going to have to become a lot smarter at marketing ourselves.

“We have to ask ‘why should tourists come here?’ We have certain issues around our service culture and the long distances between major cities and we cannot be complacent about these things. We can’t live forever on just hugging koalas; therefore some of our strategies need to be reconsidered.”