China, Japan arrivals boost Australia tourism

Chinese and Japanese tourists are increasingly flocking to Australia, boosting the overall March quarter visitor numbers Down Under, the government said Wednesday.

Despite a high Australian dollar and continued economic weakness in key regions, there was a 4.1 percent spike in arrivals compared with the first quarter of 2011.

In the three months to March 31, almost 200,000 Chinese tourists made the trip to Australia, an increase of 10.7 percent year on year.

More Japanese also got on planes, with Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson saying the results were encouraging, especially in the current climate.

"Despite the devastation of last year's Japanese tsunami, we've seen Japanese visitor arrivals rise 5.8 percent to 98,000 in the first quarter of 2012," he said

"A recovery in arrivals is now more evident from the United States, which has increased by 3.3 percent and the UK, which rose by 3.1 percent, despite relative weakness in their respective economies.

"The strong figures are a testament to the quality of Australia's tourism products and experiences."

The main falls were from Malaysia and Germany.

Ferguson pinpointed increased flight frequency and capacity as a key driver in the growth of Chinese and American visitors.

"The Australian government has been in negotiations to continue to expand our airlines' access to the world and to allow foreign carriers to increase their access to Australia," he said.

In November, China Southern Airlines commenced a thrice-weekly Beijing to Perth route, bringing their capacity to Australia to 35 flights per week, up from 10 in 2009.

And in January, Qantas increased services between Sydney and Dallas to six times per week from four.