Figures released by Tourism Australia at the Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE14), being held this week in Cairns, suggest that annual spending by Chinese visitors to Australia could rise to A$13 billion by 2020.
The latest projections represent an increase of nearly 50 per cent on the previous estimate of A$9 billion, a spike which Tourism Australia is attributing to the rapid rise of a new breed of young and independent Chinese traveller placing Australia at the top of their travel wish list.
Tourism Australia Managing Director, John O'Sullivan, said that Australian tourism was reaping the benefits of a clearly focused China tourism plan, which was aggressively targeting the fast growing, affluent middle classes in the country's largest cities.
"The fact that our Chinese arrivals are at record levels is great, but our strategy is much more than a numbers game. The Chinese visitor we're going after is a more confident, independent-minded traveller, wishing to travel further and immerse themselves more deeply in the many rich and varied experiences available across our country.
"And the good news, when we look at the latest available immigration data, is that we're definitely seeing a big shift away from lower yielding group travel to more Free Independent Traveller (FIT) visas, exactly the lucrative market we are actively targeting," Mr O'Sullivan said.
Mr O'Sullivan said that the China Tourism Law, introduced in October last year and which some commentators believed would be detrimental to Chinese inbound tourism, would actually prove to be a positive factor in the long term in helping Australian tourism achieve its new, higher A$13 billion 2020 target.
"We are already seeing positive signs of a change in the visitor mix from China - a shift to a more independent, higher spending Chinese visitor, enjoying higher quality visitor experiences.
"Increases in independent travelling visitors means more Australian tourism businesses are getting to welcome our Chinese visitors, as they go farther and experience more of our country," Mr O'Sullivan said.
Last month, Tourism Australia launched a major FIT tourism campaign in China, specifically targeting independent travellers by highlighting many of the country's unique and most distinctive holiday experiences.
This year sees a record 110 delegates coming to ATE14 from China, a 23 per cent increase on 2013.
China is Australia's fastest growing and most valuable inbound tourism market, with 709,300 Chinese visitor arrivals in 2013 (up 14.5% on 2012) spending approximately $4.7 billion.