LORETTA RYAN: Tourism Research Australia's annual State Of The Industry shows the Chinese tourism market is strongest of all, going up 23 per cent in the 2015-16, and they are big spenders too, splurging $8.9 billion. Now, in Queensland, the figures are also good, we had more than 20 million visitors, spending over $14 billion. Steve Ciobo is the Federal Tourism Minister and joins me now. Good afternoon, Mr Ciobo.

STEVEN CIOBO: Good afternoon Loretta.

LORETTA RYAN: So China continues to grow as a tourism market, but also a significant increase in South Korean tourists?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, what we're seeing across the board with respect to tourism is that we are having more tourists staying longer, and spending more money. As a Coalition Government we've put record resources into funding Tourism Australia, which of course is Australia's key promotions agency, to attract international tourists here, and of course it's really strong growth in a number of key markets including as you said Korea. China, of course, continues to be a real powerhouse of growth for Queensland's tourism market.

LORETTA RYAN: And are more traditional markets of New Zealand and the United States still strong?

STEVEN CIOBO: Look, they are. New Zealand, of course, is the single biggest source market for travelers to Australia. We want to make sure that we continue to diversify those tourists that are coming to Australia, obviously that gives us protection, but really, the main story in town, is how we continue to grow the Chinese inbound market, because, you know, we only get such a small fraction of those outbound Chinese, and they are big spending tourists.

LORETTA RYAN: Now, Airbnb is getting more popular, has that had an impact on accommodation figures that you gather?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well you know, the fact is that, especially in Queensland, and particularly in markets like the Gold Coast, my own home town, there is already a very large serviced apartment component. I mean, there is also in Brisbane, and, you know, the Meriton Group for example offer serviced apartments. So, Airbnb is part of the mix, but it's only one part of the mix, and the fact is we actually have a whole range of different accommodation options that people choose, whether it's a traditional hotel, or a serviced apartment with new providers like Mantra Group and Meriton, or whether they choose to use something like Airbnb for example.

LORETTA RYAN: Because I guess people, you know, tourists, they look for a cheaper option, don't they? They look for the best option for them, so more of these things coming on the market I suppose we'll see an increase in people going that way.

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, yeah, that's all part of the sharing economy. I mean, increasingly we see Loretta, of course, people will often choose Uber and Airbnb, but my point is that these are just new ways of providing different options to tourists, whether they're domestic or international tourists, in terms of the travel choices they make.

LORETTA RYAN: What about here in Queensland, what can you tell us about our tourist profile?

STEVEN CIOBO: In terms of what respect, do you mean?

LORETTA RYAN: Well, in terms of, I guess, our profile when other people are looking at us. Are we selling ourselves correctly? What do we look like to others?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, you know ... look, and you're going to think I'm avoiding your question, but I'm not, I'll answer your question very honestly by saying I'm a politician not a marketer, so what I do is I leave it to the experts in Tourism Australia, who, of course, undertake focus group research, or engage with buyers, or engage with the distribution channels, which are of course the travel agents, both the physical and the online travel agents. They're the ones that are best placed to make the decisions about the best way that we market, not only Queensland, but Australia. They're the ones that are best placed to get the buyer feedback to look at what actually it is that drives people to go from aspiration to conversion, and when I say that, what I mean is that Australia, again, if I talk about, for example, the Chinese market, Australia sits very highly as aspiration. That is, a lot of Chinese want to travel to Australia, yet the actual conversion rate, those that actually take the decision to travel to Australia, is much lower. So what we want to be able to do is make sure over time we can lift the number of converts, so that we actually get more tourists coming here, and we've had good success at that so far, but I want to see that continue.

LORETTA RYAN: And how could that continue then? What else do we need to do?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well I think we're doing a number of things quite successfully. As I said, providing the funding, and in this case, record funding, to Tourism Australia is obviously a key part of that, because it means that we're getting in front of people, being at the front of their minds when it comes to holidays, so that's good. The other thing that we know is repeat visitation is a big driver of increase in number of tourists, because if people come and have a good experience, then two things flow from that. One, they're more likely to come back again, but the second thing is they'll also speak to friends, and family, and others, workmates and say, "Look, you know, I went to Australia, I had a great time", and that's part of driving industry as well. Overall, Queensland is doing very well. I mean, Australia is doing very well, because, as I said, we are getting record numbers of tourists coming into the country, they're staying longer than before, they're spending more money than before, and of course this is a major economic driver in the Australian economy, and an industry that is responsible for huge numbers of employees.

LORETTA RYAN: Now, of course, terrorist problems continue in some countries, they continue to be a concern, but are people putting off holidaying because of them?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, as I said, our numbers are increasing, so that's a big positive. What we do know is that Australia in terms of reputation is regarded as a very safe destination, and I've got to tell you, as Tourism Minister, I'm absolutely committed, as indeed is, for example, the Immigration Minister, and the Minister assisting the Prime Minister on Counter-Terrorism, we are very focused on making sure that we retain that mantle of being a safe destination. Part of the challenge of course, Loretta, is - it's a bit of a saying that people have heard before, you know- we've got to be lucky every single day, those that want to do harm, the potential terrorists out there, only need to be lucky once, you know. So it requires ongoing vigilance, and that's what the Government's very focused on, because if we were to see something happen, then obviously there would be a big knock on effect on tourism, and that in turn would have a big knock-on effect on the job security of a lot of Australians, and I don't want that to happen.

LORETTA RYAN: Steve Ciobo, what's your favourite holiday destination?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I live on the Gold Coast, and I represent the Gold Coast, so of course I'm going to say the Gold Coast. But you know, look, I grew up in Far North Queensland, I grew up in Mareeba, a little country town west of Cairns. I've got a great passion for the tropical Far North. I mean, you know, but the real privilege of being Australia's Tourism Minister, and also being a Member of the Federal Parliament, you get to meet so many incredible Aussies, all over this magnificent country that we call home, and I genuinely would say to any Aussie, "You could basically spend every holiday just exploring unique parts of Australia."

LORETTA RYAN: Thanks so much for joining me.


LORETTA RYAN: Steve Ciobo there, the Federal Tourism Minister, talking about our great State, and of course, also, our great Country.

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