Peter Stefanovic: Tourism Australia has launched a new campaign to attract visitors from China, the Come Say G'day campaign, which was launched around the world last October, but is now only making its first appearance in Australia's largest visitor market. Tourism operators hope the campaign will entice Chinese visitors back to Australia as the industry recovers from the pandemic, and as relations continue to thaw between Canberra and Beijing. 1.4 million visitors from China visited Australia every year before the pandemic, that's delivering about $12.4 billion to the economy.
Let's bring in the assistant Trade Minister, Tim Ayres. Tim, good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning. How's it been received so far?
Tim Ayres, Assistant Trade Minister and Assistant Manufacturing Minister: Well, it's only launched overnight, Peter, so it's hard to say. It's a terrific ad, it really showcases Australia's natural beauty, the kind of places that tourists from China and all around the world should come and see. You know, we've got a job to do as the government to rebuild Australia's tourism sector. 300,000 firms are engaged in this sector, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of workers, of course, whose jobs rely upon the tourism sector and international tourism particularly. So, we're putting our shoulder behind the wheel with a high‑quality ad. It's launched in Chengdu overnight, and will be available for broadcast all over China, and it supplements our broader global advertising campaign.
Peter Stefanovic: And how's that going, by the way?
Assistant Minister: Well, we've still got a long way to go. The tourism industry was smashed during the COVID pandemic.
Peter Stefanovic: Yeah.
Assistant Minister: Australians after the COVID pandemic took up some of the slack. There was a great contribution from Australian tourists travelling domestically. There was a lot of pent-up demand there for people to travel and get out and about with their families, but we still need to see the return of those international tourism numbers.
Peter Stefanovic: Yeah.
Assistant Minister: We're putting our shoulder behind the wheel on the Brand Australia, making sure that we're out there competing with the rest of the world for those tourism dollars.
Peter Stefanovic: Sure. But ‑
Assistant Minister: But there's also progress that needs to be made amongst the airlines, as capacity slowly returns to normal around the world.
Peter Stefanovic: Yeah. I mean would you be hoping the airfares, the prices drop, and soon?
Assistant Minister: We want to see airfares fall, and we want to see capacity return to normal. Now, it's only been possible to run this campaign now. We're back up to 50 per cent capacity, returning to where Australia‑China flights were before the pandemic.
Peter Stefanovic: Okay, yeah.
Assistant Minister: There's no point advertising if tourists can't get here.
Peter Stefanovic: What's that work out to? Yeah, sorry to interrupt you there, Tim. I was going to ask you that. So where are visitor numbers at the moment from China, and where do you hope that gets to?
Assistant Minister: Well, they used to be, before the COVID pandemic, before the impact on flights, but also the impact on internal Chinese movement, the impacts in the Chinese economy, they used to be in our top five. That no longer is, this is a substantial market, 1.4 billion people, traditionally a bit under one and a half million tourism trips every year. We have got a long way to go to return that to normal ‑
Peter Stefanovic: Okay, so 1.5 million every year? Yeah. So, we want –
Assistant Minister: This advertising campaign's really about trying to rebuild interest and excitement about travelling to all of our fantastic tourism destinations.
Peter Stefanovic: So, what's the word from China? I mean obviously there's been issues, there's been trade issues between Canberra and Beijing. I mean is there a strong interest in China to get here?
Assistant Minister: Well, there's always been a strong interest from Chinese people in travelling to Australia. We've got such a fantastic offering, yes, in our CBDs, in our major capital cities, but also in our country towns, our beautiful coastline, and all of the things that there are to see and do and experience for Chinese families, and for families from around the world. So, there's a lot of interest.
Of course, we're working hard on the broader trade front, on stabilising the relationship, and returning Australia‑China trade to normal, and tourism is a really important adjunct to that. As I say, 300,000 businesses, hundreds of thousands of Australian workers, who should have good, high‑quality jobs in tourism venues around the country.
Peter Stefanovic: Okay. Any update on that from a trade perspective, Tim, you know, wine, et cetera, is there going to be a breakthrough soon?
Assistant Minister: Well, we are working very hard on these questions, Peter. As you know, we have engaged in a process of review of the impediments in relation to barley ‑
Peter Stefanovic: This time, this delay must be annoying for you though.
Assistant Minister: Well, every delay is annoying. It's more than annoying, Peter, there are jobs and opportunities that rely upon this on the Australian side, and of course, impediments to trade are no good for anybody. They've been bad, yes, for Australian exporters, but they're also bad for Chinese consumers and we've committed ‑
Peter Stefanovic: Has China committed to this?
Assistant Minister: No, we've committed to a process on barley, of a review on the Chinese side. That will take its course. If there is a successful resolution to that, and I say if, if there's not a successful resolution, of course, we have maintained the capacity to resume litigation in relation to that set of issues. But if there is a successful resolution of the issues around barley in terms of the review that the Trade Minister agreed to with the Government of China in his latest visit, then we expect that the same process will be undergone in relation to wine. There has been significant progress in terms of coal and timber products, stone fruit, a range of issues ‑
Peter Stefanovic: You don't know when though; you don't know when you're going to get a breakthrough on wine or whatever?
Assistant Minister: Well, in terms of barley, there is a timeline that is set out, there is a very clear understanding of what that is, and we'll ‑
Peter Stefanovic: Wine?
Assistant Minister: Sorry?
Peter Stefanovic: And wine?
Assistant Minister: And wine. Well, the best date to resume normal trade in wine of course was yesterday but we are working steadily and carefully directing a lot of resources in terms of official and ministerial engagement on these questions, determinedly in the national interest. It is time to return trade ties to normal.
It is true, of course, that while these impediments have been in place, the irony here is, of course, that Australia‑China trade has grown over the last year. But it is vital that we've got a rules‑based approach to these issues, that everybody follows the WTO rules, and the agreements that we've signed up to, and I look forward to a successful resolution of those issues around barley, and then the range of other products. I count success, Peter, not just in newspaper headlines, but in bulk container ships, and bulk‑handling ships, and container ships, turning up to Chinese ports and delivering product to the Chinese market.
Peter Stefanovic: Tim Ayres, thanks for your time.
Assistant Minister: Good on you, Peter.