Tourism Australia Managing Director Andrew McEvoy said that to achieve 6.1m international arrivals and annual growth of 4.6% was a very creditable performance, against the backdrop of a fiercely competitive global tourism marketplace, a persistently high dollar and economic stagnation in a number of Australia’s key traditional source markets.
“In many ways, 2012 was a year of transition for our industry, as we continue to adapt to the Asian Century and the enormous opportunities provided by the region’s fast emerging and increasingly mobile middle classes.
“This year China leapfrogged the UK as our second largest source market of international visitors, with more than 625,000 arrivals. But it’s not all about China, and that’s a message the industry needs to bear in mind as we move into 2013. China is undoubtedly a key engine room of growth - up 16% in 2012, on the back of similar double digit growth in 2011 and 2010.
“But, what’s remarkable about the 2012 arrivals figures is the fact that eight of our top ten inbound international markets now originate from within the Asian Pacific Rim. We mustn’t underestimate the importance of these other Asian markets, like India, Malaysia, Singapore and, in time, Vietnam.
“And there are strong growth opportunities beyond Asia too - South America being an obvious example.
“Nor should we forget our traditional western markets. After a few difficult years, the US market is showing signs of recovery, up 4% in 2012. We’ve now seen growth at these levels since the hey days of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. We’re also seeing a similarly positive bounce-back out of Japan, another important market for us.
“Difficult economies have dampened performance out of the UK and Western Europe, but as their economies recover I think you’ll start to see the Europeans return in better numbers. And we have two great kickers this year, with the British and Irish Lions tour starting in June and an Ashes tour on the horizon.
“Tourism Australia will retain this balanced portfolio approach to our international marketing in 2013 and beyond, an approach which I believe is the right one if we are to achieve our Tourism 2020 goal of doubling overnight tourism to up to A$140b by the end of the decade,” he said.