Queensland: Impact of RMB decline on tourism sector is temporary

September 07, 2015 15:45
Queensland Governor Paul de Jersey said the weakening of the Australian dollar has made the country more attractive to Hong Kong and mainland Chinese tourists. Photo: EJ Insight

The negative impact caused by the recent renminbi devaluation on the tourism sector of Queensland is expected to be temporary, according to the governor of the Australian northeastern state.

"This effect is expected to be temporary. These things are not even cyclical but tend to recover as quickly as the share market," Queensland Governor Paul de Jersey, AC, told EJ Insight in an exclusive interview during a visit to Hong Kong.  

"I tend to look optimistically at these trends... Remember the day when the Australian dollar was more than the US dollar, these things change quickly," de Jersey said.

In fact, the Australian dollar has weakened against the US dollar over the past few months, making the country more attractive to tourists from Hong Kong and mainland China, he said. 

Over the past three months, the Chinese currency eased 2.5 percent to close at 6.3559 against one US dollar last Friday. For the same period, the Australian dollar depreciated by 10.1 percent to close at 0.6908. In 2011, one Australian dollar was worth US$1.1.

Mainland tourists

About 330,000 mainland Chinese visited Queensland last year, up 11 percent from 2013, according to the Queensland government. For the same period, the number of Hong Kong tourists to the Australian state grew 15 percent to 51,000.

The weakening Aussie dollar has also attracted a lot of foreigners to study in Australia. Around 97,000 international students went to Queensland last year, including 17,800 from mainland China and 2,500 from Hong Kong.

In February, the Australian government unveiled a new policy banning non-resident foreign investors from buying an existing home in the country.

In July, some supermarkets set a limit on the amount of milk powder that buyers can purchase. Local media said many Chinese students are involved in reselling milk powder to mainland Chinese tourists.

He declined to comment on the country's nationwide property curbs but said there is no downside to having more tourists visiting Queensland.

"I don't see any downside. Tourists, especially Chinese tourists, are welcome to Queensland, whose people are by nature enjoying meeting new people and sharing their environment with them," de Jersey said.

Many Chinese tourists are interested in visiting natural attractions in Queensland, such as the Great Barrier Reef, which remains in good condition under the protection of the state authority, he said.

The Queen’s Wharf Brisbane project, a resort comprising hotels, casinos, retail spaces and other commercial facilities, is expected to become a key tourist attraction, he said.

In July, the Destination Brisbane Consortium, formed by Echo Entertainment Group, Far East Consortium (Australia), a unit of Far East Consortium International (00035.HK), and Chow Tai Fook Enterprises, parent of New World Development Co. Ltd. (00017.HK), was selected by the local government as the developer of the project. Site work is expected to begin in 2017.

The 2018 Commonwealth Games, which will be held in the Gold Coast, will help Queensland create new forms of international collaboration, de Jersey said. 

Produce, seafood and wine

Appointed the 26th governor of Queensland in July last year, de Jersey also has a mission to help boost the state's exports. 

"Queensland has a lot to offer to China in terms of seafood, which is very appealing to residents of Hong Kong and China," he said. "This is increasingly the focus of our export market in Hong Kong."

"We also have some wonderful produce and wine to offer," he said, given that Hong Kong has limited agricultural capacity. 

He said Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport will continue to play an important role in delivering Queensland goods into Hong Kong and China. He said Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. (00293.HK) is doing a good job there. 

Medical collaboration

Apart from trade, Queensland and Hong Kong also have a lot more to push forward in terms of medical collaboration.

The QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute and the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine of The University of Hong Kong (HKU) have entered into an agreement recently to give patients in Hong Kong and Australia access to a new cancer treatment.

The two sides signed a memorandum of understanding at a ceremony in Hong Kong attended by de Jersey on Aug. 28.

Scientists from the two institutions are joining forces for the second phase of a clinical trial using immunotherapy for the management of nasopharyngeal carcinoma, which is an aggressive upper respiratory tract cancer common in East Asian countries including China, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam and Singapore.

"I’m sure with the broad range of projects which QIMR fosters these days, there will be a broadening of the scope of collaboration between QIMR and HKU," he said. 

Hong Kong's vibrancy

This is the first time that de Jersey visits Hong Kong as governor of Queensland. But he is not unfamiliar with the city. 

“My wife and I have been in Hong Kong many times over a number of decades, including with our children. In the early 1980s, we landed at Kai Tak Airport, which was operating in the city at that time. It was a very interesting experience," he said.

In 2007, he visited Hong Kong as Chief Justice of Queensland and chaired the 12th Conference of Chief Justices of Asia and the Pacific, which was held in Hong Kong for the first time.

Although there were some reclamation projects in the Victoria Harbour during the last few decades, Hong Kong's landscape remains beautiful, he said. "What remains unchanged is the wonderful vibrancy of the city."

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Chief reporter at EJ Insight