Australia is no stranger to tourism. Her iconic wildlife and culture, enviable weather and outdoorsy pursuits provide a constant lure to global travelers.
But according to the Australian Trade and Investment Commission, the tourism industry is set for “supercharged growth” in the next few years, with Asia – and China in particular – set to dominate the inbound market.
As the official Tourism Research Australia forecast shows, Asia-Pacific already accounts for 64 percent of all visitor growth, with China alone making a 29 percent contribution.
Statistics also reveal an upturn of foreign business investments by major advanced economies, including the US, Japan, UK and Canada, with an expectation that this will greatly increase the numbers of corporate travelers and MICE activities over the next few years.
Stimulating this growth is a massive increase in air traffic, driven in part by the rise of low-cost carriers, but also by increased services and frequencies from major airlines targeting the rapid development in Australia’s various cities. New runways and terminal facilities are being built across the country to accommodate the burgeoning airline and customer needs.
Huge developments in Australia’s major cities are also underway to increase hotel openings and update facilities such as convention centers and entertainment districts to satisfy the demand from rising traveler numbers.
Here’s a rundown of the key developments in five of Australia’s main urban centers.
In 2015, the South Australian government reached out to international airlines amid concerns Adelaide Airport was experiencing a slump in passenger traffic. In response, in December 2016 China Southern Airlines launched a three-times weekly direct service from Guangzhou – the city’s first regular air link to mainland China.
Cathay Pacific also increased its five-times-weekly service to six times a week beginning this month. Malaysia Airlines will also increase frequency to five flights per week in July, while Emirates is looking to deploy its superjumbo A380 on the increasingly popular route in the near future.
Arguably, Adelaide is most famous for its beautiful vineyards. South Australia produces 80 percent of the country’s premium wines from its 18 iconic wine growing regions such as the Adelaide Hills, the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. “We have 200 cellars within an hour from the city,” says Nic Mercer, director of sales and marketing at the Adelaide Convention Bureau. “We are the national wine center.”
However, Mercer is confident that major investments in the city’s commercial offering will give the city new appeal. “There’s been A$5.6 billion ($4 billion) worth of investment into the Riverbank precinct, a huge commercial project in the middle of the city. Once people see this, they’re going to be surprised.”
Part of this investment included A$397 million ($305 million) redevelopment of the city’s convention center, including a new multipurpose facility of up to 3,500 seats. A number of entertainment and cultural projects are also in the works, including a A$610 million ($469 million) redevelopment of Festival Plaza, and revitalized arts, culture and leisure spaces, scheduled for completion in 2020.
In the hotel sector, following the launch of a new Pullman, Adelaide now boasts more than 6,000 rooms in the central business district. Skycity Casino has received the green light for a A$330 million ($254 million) expansion, including the construction of the city’s first six-star hotel in 2020. A 250-room Sofitel will also be opening next year.
Queensland’s major city is also looking forward to plenty of new developments. A new world-class integrated resort is currently under construction that is being likened to Marina Bay Sands in Singapore – with a Brizzy twist. Expected to open in 2022, Queen’s Wharf Brisbane will include a huge public space with green parkland, an outdoor cinema, a Sky Deck for sunset cocktails, with bars and dining experiences in heritage buildings.
“The next five years is going to be very exciting for Brisbane,” says Brett Fraser, CEO of Brisbane Marketing. “We’re expecting this project to generate some A$1.5 billion per year once its completed and we’re also expecting it to lead to an increase of 1.3 million tourists annually.”
In anticipation, the development will include five new international hotel brands offering more than 1,000 premium hotel rooms, including Ritz-Carlton, Rosewood, Dorsett and two hotels from The Star Entertainment Group. Australia’s first W hotel opened in June on the banks of the Brisbane River offering 312 guestrooms. A 286-room Westin will follow in November, a few steps from the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre and Queen Street Mall.
Another major project set to draw up to 766,000 visitors annually is the new A$100 million ($77 million) cruise terminal. It will offer the only facility in Brisbane capable of hosting “mega ships” of over 800 feet in length.
Increasing air links from Asia also bode well for the city. Air China started a four-times-weekly route from Beijing last December, while China Eastern bumped their services to a daily in November. Malaysia Airlines has also resumed a non-stop service four times a week.
In fact, Brisbane Airport predicts that by 2035, 50 million visitors will arrive by air – more than double the current figure of 22.7 million last year.
To accommodate this increasing traffic, a new 10,800-foot-long runway is under construction. The project – expected to be complete by 2020 – will include more than 7 miles of taxiways, navigational aids, airfield infrastructure and hundreds of acres of airfield landscape, at a total cost of A$1.3 billion ($999 million).
According to Rob Nelson, COO of the Brisbane Convention Bureau: “Queensland has a lot to offer from the Great Barrier Reef to the beautiful weather. Brisbane is a natural gateway to Australia, and is a growing tourism and business destination.”
Australia’s west-coast city made headlines recently with the launch of Qantas’s non-stop Perth-London service in March. At 9009 miles, this is the world’s second longest flight, connecting Europe with Australia in 17 hours, 20 minutes.
Many other airlines are also upgrading their services accordingly. Singapore Airlines chose Perth as one of the first destinations to deploy its brand-new 787-10, and Qatar Airways also upgraded its Doha-Perth route in May, replacing its 777-300ER with an Airbus superjumbo.
Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific has enhanced its daily Perth-Hong Kong service with an A350. And at the end of 2017, China Southern Airlines also added an extra daily service on a brand-new A330.
A new runway and major expansion to the international terminal of Perth Airport are expected to be completed by 2020.
With the rise in visitors to the city, demand for accommodation is strong. There are currently 2,500 rooms being built, including a 350-room Westin, three Doubletrees by Hilton offering a total of 596 rooms, and a Ritz-Carlton housing 204 rooms opening in Elizabeth Quay. This city renewal project was completed in 2016, and has added five F&B outlets, an island playground, a BHP Billiton Water Park, installations of public art and interpretive heritage pieces.
While Darling Harbour is redeveloping, finished projects include the International Convention Centre Sydney – Australia’s largest entertainment, events and conference facility, which opened early last year.
After a period of stagnation, Sydney’s hotel development has also ramped up. The new Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour hotel opened at the end of 2017, with 600 rooms and direct access to ICC Sydney. Meanwhile, the old Four Points by Sheraton has been rebranded as the Hyatt Regency Sydney at Darling Harbour, offering a whopping 900 rooms.
Looking to the future – 2020 to be exact – “The Ribbon” is a 25-story multipurpose development that will boast new hotel rooms and serviced apartments, an IMAX Theatre plus retail and entertainment spaces.
Another iconic spot, Sydney Fish Market, will be relocated to a new Danish-designed building next to its current spot. The A$250 million-plus ($192 million) redevelopment – due to start later this year – will include the restoration of public access from Wentworth Park through to the waterfront, and the addition of world-class food and dining outlets.
Sydney is a favorite destination for Chinese visitors, and mainland airlines are launching more and more flights to the New South Wales metropolis. China Eastern launched a Wuhan service in February last year, followed by Capital Airlines’ Qingdao route in October and Tianjin Airlines’ Zhengzhou service this January. Virgin Australia has also begun a direct Hong Kong service, while China Airlines has increased its Taipei services to 11 per week flying new A350 aircraft.
Melbourne Airport has seen its international passenger numbers grow by 46 percent over the past six years, and is expected to welcome more than 60 million visitors annually by 2033.
This has been driven by a raft of new flights operated by mainland carriers. China Southern has launched three-times-weekly services to Melbourne from Shenzhen, while Tianjin Airlines operates three flights per week from Chongqing and Xiamen Airlines offers twice-weekly flights from Hangzhou served by its 787-8 Dreamliner. Australia’s Jetstar has also added air links to the mainland.
New services from other Asian carriers includes Japan Airlines’ non-stop Dreamliner service from Tokyo, Sri Lankan Airlines flights to Colombo and three-times weekly service to Manila on Cebu Pacific.
To accommodate the serious uplift in passenger traffic, Melbourne Airport has been expanding. In December it unveiled refurbished retail and dining outlets at Terminal 2, including brands from Tiffany & Co to Tumi.
In addition to upgrading the airport, the city is expanding the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) and broader South Wharf precinct. The project will add nearly 215,000 square feet of multipurpose event space, including new exhibition halls, and additional meeting and banquet rooms, connected to the existing MCEC buildings. It is expected to generate a A$167 million ($128 million) boost to the economy annually. The A$300 million ($230 million) expansion project includes a new 347-room Novotel hotel (opening soon) connecting directly to the MCEC.
“The government has invested a lot in the business industry, which is great,” says Jason Balkin, associate director of business development and bids at the Melbourne Convention Bureau. “We are very excited about the convention center expansion. It will be the biggest exhibition and convention center in the south hemisphere.”