A deliberate focus on the growth potential of international tourism is fuelling opportunities for hotel and leisure operators across the country.
Australia as an international tourist destination has grown to unprecedented heights. According to Austrade, we welcomed 7.9 million international visitors in the 2017 financial year, a nine percent increase on the previous year. Similarly, visitor spend hit $40 billion, up seven percent on the previous year.
As a country, we are doing well to secure our share of Asia's growing middle class. China is our biggest customer with both visitor numbers and trip spend increasing 10 percent to reach $1.2 million and $9.8 billion in 2017, respectively. As urbanisation and average household incomes continue to grow in China, so too does the trend toward long haul overseas travel.
Recently China Southern Airlines, the world's fifth largest airline, announced significant capacity growth in its Australian operations, up 10 per cent annually for the next five to eight years. Increasing capacity that much would bring hundreds of thousands of additional Chinese visitors to Australia.
The opportunity for operators to cater to the growing number of Asian tourists seeking immersive and adventure travel experiences is particularly compelling. Our regions, in particular, are famous for their unmatched natural beauty, wildlife and cultural offerings and operators need to ensure they capitalise on these attributes by promoting high value, connected and distinct experiences that showcase the best of our country.
The Millennial market represents another opportunity for hotel and tourism operators. Millennials represent a rapidly growing segment in the market in terms of visitor numbers and spend and hoteliers, in particular, would be amiss to ignore this market's unique requirements in terms of hotel design and functionality.
The younger market often travel independently so there is increased demand for smaller rooms with engaging communal areas, personal device connectivity rather than in-room technology and enhanced digital offerings such as Instagram-friendly design features to a streamlined booking and enquiry process.
This speaks to the disruption in the industry more broadly. Over the next decade, digitalisation in aviation, travel and tourism is expected to create up to $300 billion in value for the global industry. Digital innovation, connected devices and artificial intelligence will provide opportunities to make tourism offerings and operations more effective, and enable collaboration and asset-sharing between enterprises.
As government and industry increasingly turn to travel and tourism as the new growth engine of our economy, a major focus area will be improved transport connectivity and a greater offering of major events, as important drivers to attract our share of travellers.
Our specialist tourism team works for Australian and international clients well versed in the tourism industry and the myriad of opportunities. We are excited about the potential for our clients and our team to be involved in many more transformative projects as tourism and travel continues to gain significant momentum as one of the cornerstones of our economy.
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