Date
4 December 2016
Chinese and Malaysian tourists take photographs of the Sydney Opera House from a viewing deck in Sydney Harbor. Photo: Reuters
Chinese and Malaysian tourists take photographs of the Sydney Opera House from a viewing deck in Sydney Harbor. Photo: Reuters

Crocodile Dundee era fades for Australian hotels

Australia lags its regional rivals in service and accommodation and needs to ramp up its game to cash in on a Chinese tourism bonanza.

The country was 17th among worldwide destinations for Chinese tourists on package holidays in the second quarter, lagging behind Russia in 13th place, Vietnam in seventh and leader Thailand, Bloomberg reports, citing the China National Tourism Administration.

The halcyon days of the 1980s and early 1990s — a time when Australia’s economy transitioned to services and the iconic Crocodile Dundee films lured Americans Down Under — seem a distant memory.

”Five-star hotels look too old, service is not so good and prices are high for what you get,” said Kevin Xu, general manager of Grand City Tours, which says it’s the biggest Chinese travel agent in Australia.

”In other parts of Asia, hotels are new and service is excellent. There are also not enough four-star hotels in the Sydney and Melbourne CBDs and in high season they increase prices a lot.”

Xu’s assessment contrasts with the self-congratulation among government and tourism officials when Australia recorded more than one million Chinese visitors last year.

The reality is the country is stuck in a 20th-century time warp after diverting investment to the resource industry to cash in on Chinese demand for iron ore and coal.

But as commodity prices have fallen and China itself transitioned toward a more consumer-oriented economy, Australia once again needs a strong services sector with tourism as its centerpiece, according to Bloomberg.

The country’s pristine coastline, sparkling Sydney harbor and the vast Outback showcased in actor Paul Hogan’s 1986 comedy Crocodile Dundee proved a magnet for US and Japanese tourists late last century and they remain a major lure for visitors.

In TripAdvisor’s 2016 travelers’ choice awards, Sydney and its opera house still — just — ranked in a list of the top 25 global destinations and landmarks, while Whitsunday Island off the Queensland coast was named the world’s 12th best beach.

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