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New initiatives bring more tourists from Hong Kong to Australia

The Hon Joe Hocke MP, Australia`s Minister for Small Business and Tourism, praised the Hong Kong travel industry today for its contribution toward a successful post-SARS tourism recovery strategy …

The Hon Joe Hocke MP, Australia`s Minister for Small Business and Tourism, praised the Hong Kong travel industry today for its contribution toward a successful post-SARS tourism recovery strategy that has resulted in a rapid increase in the number of Hong Kong visitors to Australia. Mr Hockey was in Hong Kong following a highly significant visit to China, where he welcomed an expansion of the Approved Destination Status (ADS) arrangements that will allow more mainland tourists to visit Australia.

Speaking at an industry trade forum with Hong Kong tourism partners, including representatives from the Airport Authority, Travel Industry Council and local Aussie specialist travel agents, Mr Hockey acknowledged the difficult challenges that Hong Kong`s tourist industry has faced in recent times. We are here today to thank our Hong Kong partners for continuing to support Australia, and to reaffirm that we remain committed to developing closer business ties with our industry contacts here, he said.

In April this year, the Australian Tourist Commission joined forces with the Hong Kong travel industry to develop strategies to overcome the impact of SARS. New travel packages to Australia were introduced and the Australian government reinforced that despite SARS, Australia continued to welcome visitors from Hong Kong. The tourism recovery plan was a great success and in June 2003, Australia showed a 64% growth in tourist arrivals from Hong Kong, compared with the same period last year.

Mr Hockey was speaking in Hong Kong after a fruitful visit to Beijing and Shanghai where he outlined new tourism initiatives such as the expanded ADS and the Aussie Specialists Program. Australia was the first western destination to establish ADS arrangements with China that allowed Chinese nationals from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong to travel on group tours to Australia. The arrangements will now be progressively expaned to include all of China. The first stage of the expansion, announced last week, will cover residents of six regions — Chongqing, Hebei, Jiangsu, Shandong, Tianjin and Zhejiang.

In Hong Kong, Mr Hockey said that Australia recognises that tourists like to have new experiences each time they visit and the Australian Tourist Commission is working with industry partners to enhance awareness of Australia`s key tourist attractions. The `Aussie Specialists Program` is one of its key trade initiatives in Hong Kong that provides on-line training for travel agents, so they can build up their understanding of Australia`s broad tourist appeal and pass their specialised knowledge on to their clients, Mr Hockey said.

Mr Hockey said that Australia is also looking to expand its business tourism market including meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions and that Hong Kong is an ideal source of business travellers. Australia is an attractive incentive travel destination for corporate clients, with broad appeal and unique tourist experiences that can help motivate and reward employees from across the globe. In 2002/3 Australia attracted more than half a million business visitors and business-related travel by international visitors currently generates A$2.2 billion per annum for Australia.

Business Club Australia, a business-matching program that was highly successful during the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, is also available during the Rugby World Cup that takes place this month. The Club helps generate business opportunities for executives wishing to mix business with sport, Mr Hockey said. We are also planning to establish a new business tourism unit in Hong Kong later this year, a further indication of the strategic importance of the Australia-Hong Kong relationship, he added.

Australia`s efforts dedicated to promoting tourism to the Hong Kong market are on-going. The Australian Tourist Commission recently invested over a million dollars on a brand advertising campaign in the Mass Transit Railway, with strong support from the trade and key media, resulting in further travel bookings to Australia.

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