China restarts overseas group tours but leaves Australia off the destination list

China is resuming group tours to 20 countries from February 6, but Australia is not on the destination list.

Zhang Cheng, owner of Great Wall Travel Services in Melbourne, believes it is retaliation for Australia imposing additional COVID testing requirements on visitors from China. ์นด์ง€๋…ธ์‚ฌ์ดํŠธ

Ms Zhang’s agency is one of the operators authorised to run guided group tours under the China Approved Destination Status (ADS) scheme.

“There haven’t been any ADS Tours for the past three years, and it’s not likely to return any time soon,” she said.

Independent Chinese tourists are not part of the scheme and have been allowed to come to Australia since Beijing relaxed international travel restrictions on January 8.

Health Minister Mark Butler said at the time the requirement that all travellers from China provide a negative COVID-19 test result was a temporary measure due to the lack of detailed information about China’s epidemiological situation.

A range of other countries also imposed testing requirements on Chinese visitors, including the United Kingdom, the United States and France.

None of them were on the approved list for group tours either.

Russia, Thailand and New Zealand were among the countries that will be able to receive group tours organised by tour agencies and online travel companies, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced on Friday.

Ms Zhang said the COVID testing measures Australia was imposing on visitors from China were “grossly discriminatory practices”.

“Why should only people from China [be tested] but not everyone from overseas?” she said. ์•ˆ์ „ํ•œ์นด์ง€๋…ธ์‚ฌ์ดํŠธ

“Chinese tourists understand which country is more friendly.

“To recover the tourism industry, Australia and China need to build a mutual trust.”

The ABC has contacted China’s embassy in Canberra to find out when ADS tours will resume in Australia but did not receive a response.

NSW Tourism Industry Council senior executive Paula Martin said China was Australia’s largest inbound tourism market and their absence during the pandemic had hurt the industry.

In 2019 โ€” before the pandemic โ€” more than 1.4 million visitors came to Australia from China, spending an estimated $10.3 billion.

Ms Martin called for more support for tourism operators and diversification of the international market.

“We need to be able to ensure that our tourism operators, which are mostly small businesses, have got the finance, they’ve got the skills, they’ve got the digital enablement to be able to update their products to welcome visitors,” she said.

“India could potentially rival the size of a Chinese visitation,” she added. “We need to consider South-East Asia as a whole, which is actually larger than China.”

No ‘immediate threat’
A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson told the ABC there was optimism about Chinese visitors’ significant interest in travel to Australia.

“We are confident Australia’s reputation as a premium tourism destination will see Chinese visitors returning now that China’s COVID border restrictions have eased, whether or not Australia is included in the pilot resumption of China’s outbound group tours under the Approved Destination Status scheme.”

Australia was one of the first Western countries to be granted approved destination status by the Chinese government in 1999, and remains an approved destination.

Mingming Cheng, a tourism industry expert at Curtin University, said those countries that made welcoming gestures were benefiting from the surge of Chinese outbound tourists.

“It is actually very significant,” he said.

“Lots of tour operators only designed their products to cater to the Chinese market. ์นด์ง€๋…ธ์‚ฌ์ดํŠธ ์ถ”์ฒœ

“If the Chinese tourists are not coming, basically, they will cut their products.”

Wang Cheng runs a travel agency in Sydney that caters mainly to tourists from China and the local Chinese community.

He said the exclusion of Australia from the ADS list would not pose an immediate threat to Australian tourism operators.

“This policy only affects ADS tourists. It will not greatly impact the majority of local tour operators as very few of us have the qualification for ADS,” Mr Wang said.

While group tours under the ADS scheme remain important for first-time travellers and families, more than 70 per cent of Chinese tourists come to Australia as independent travellers.

Nevertheless, Mr Wang warned that the total number of Chinese tourists would remain significantly reduced this year.

“Australia’s tourism has been hit hard by the pandemic,” he said.

“It is definitely not good news for the long run.”

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