Chinese Tourist Group Travel to Australia Set to Resume Amid Thawing Relations

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Could the resumption of Chinese group tours to Australia signal a turning point in diplomatic relations and a revival for the tourism industry?

In a significant development for the travel industry, Chinese tourists are gearing up to resume group travel to Australia following the easing of pandemic-related restrictions. The move comes as a part of the ongoing efforts to improve diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Anticipated Resumption of Group Tours

Before the global pandemic, group tours constituted a substantial 30% of the Chinese leisure travel market to Australia. This form of travel had been temporarily suspended due to international travel restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

China’s culture and tourism ministry has included Australia among the destinations approved for group tours, signalling a progressive step towards normalising travel activities.

Positive Response from Airlines

Airlines, including China Southern, are now preparing to cater to an anticipated surge in Chinese tourists to Australia. These airlines had expected this development and had already taken proactive measures, such as building extra capacity, in anticipation of the announcement. 

The increased capacity is expected to accommodate the returning group tours and support the broader trend of growing travel between the two nations.

Gradual Approvals and Easing Restrictions

This marks the third list of approved destinations for group tours released by China’s government. The first two lists, published in January and March of the current year, included countries such as Thailand, Russia, Cuba, Argentina, Nepal, France, Portugal, and Brazil. This progression in approved destinations signifies a gradual easing of travel restrictions as international efforts to contain the pandemic continue.

Impact on the Australian Tourism Industry

The resumption of Chinese group tours is seen as a lifeline for the Australian tourism industry, which had experienced a significant downturn due to the absence of these tours. Group tours held a substantial stake in the Chinese leisure travel market to Australia, and their absence had a major impact on the industry’s overall performance. 

Margy Osmond, CEO of Tourism & Transport Forum Australia, expressed enthusiasm about this development, stating, “The resumption was incredibly exciting,” emphasising these tours’ pivotal role in sector recovery.

Signs of Recovery and Building Relations

The announcement holds broader implications beyond the tourism sector, serving as a marker of the improving relations between China and Australia. 

The information follows recent diplomatic gestures, including China’s removal of tariffs on Australian barley imports. This move is likely well-received by outbound travel operators in China, who have struggled with the pandemic-induced border closures over the past three years. 

Zhou Weihong, Deputy General Manager at Spring Tour, noted, “It’s a milestone for the full resumption of outbound travel,” highlighting its positive impact on international flights and relations with countries like Japan, Korea, and the US.

Positive Trends in Outbound Travel

Official figures indicate that while outbound travel constituted only 1.58% of the overall tourism market in terms of the number of travellers, there have been positive trends in Chinese outbound travel throughout the year, and the first quarter witnessed Chinese tourism agencies recording over 318,600 outbound trips, with destinations such as Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore leading the way.

The announcement of the resumption of Chinese group tours to Australia marks a pivotal moment for the tourism industry and diplomatic relations between China and Australia. As the tourism sector looks forward to recovery, the broader implications of this development underscore a positive trajectory in the relations between the two countries.

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