Lunar New Year to extend peak tourism period

Tourism operators are hoping for an extended high period of trade to kick off 2019, thanks to the Lunar New Year beginning just as school holidays end, with China Southern Airlines adding an extra daily flight into Australia to keep up with demand.

Merlin Entertainments Group divisional director Rob Smith said he expected strong trading to continue through February thanks to an influx of Chinese visitors in Australia to celebrate the start of the Year of the Pig.

"Overall, we expect we will see a very high level of tourism numbers from China over the Lunar New Year period," Smith said. The group operates a number of tourist attractions around Australia, including aquariums in Melbourne and Sydney.

China Southern Airlines has added an extra flight to their schedule over the Lunar New Year period to deal with increasing demand from Chinese travellers wanting to visit Australia. An extra Airbus A380 will ferry passengers to Sydney from Guangzhou, taking the number of daily flights out of the southern Chinese city from two to three per day.

In an attempt to capitalise on Chinese tourists, Tourism Australia has teamed up with mobile payment system Alipay and will launch an interactive map of Sydney embedded in the Alipay app at the start of Lunar New Year, as part of a 12-month pilot program.

A survey from Nielson in 2018 showed 93% of Chinese travellers would likely increase the amount of money they spent overseas if mobile payment systems like Alipay were accepted. Alipay payment works with the CBA, NAB and Tyro.

For the first time ever, the Neilson survey found mobile payment had risen above cash as a preferred transaction method for Chinese travellers, with 32% of all transactions abroad being made with mobile devices.

Traditionally, the Lunar New Year period of January to February is one of the busiest times of the year for Chinese tourists. According to Tourism Australia, 24% of all visitors from China ventured to Australia during this period over the last five years, on average.

The number of Chinese visitors who have visited during January and February has grown 103% over the last five years, with 170,400 arrivals in 2013 compared to 345,700 arrivals in 2018.