A new pilot program aimed at streamlining the visa process for Chinese visitors is underway, with the first round of applicants to trial the online system given the green-light to head to our shores.

Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb said the online visa application trial, which commenced on 1 December, is aimed at ensuring Australia is well placed to capture the ever-increasing Chinese tourist market. In 2013 Chinese outbound tourist numbers stood at 100 million, that number is expected to grow to 200 million by 2020.

'Tourism is a globally competitive industry and since taking office, I have been working with colleagues and stakeholders to find ways to make it easier for visitors – particularly those from our key target market in China – to travel to our shores,' Mr Robb said.

'China is already our most valuable tourism export market, not to mention our largest source of visitor visa applications; providing Chinese travellers with the ability to trial online visitor visa processing, is all part of a broader strategy to ensure Australia maintains its position as a preferred destination for Chinese tourists and investment,' he said.

The online visa pilot program is the latest in a raft of measures being implemented to better meet the needs of the Chinese visitor market, with the introduction in February of three-year multiple entry visas for Chinese business travellers. More recently, the upcoming trial of SmartGate for Chinese e-Passport holders was announced, giving visitors from China access to automated border processing systems – fast-tracking their arrival into Australia.

Negotiations have also recently been finalised under which Australia will grant visas for up to 5,000 Chinese work and holiday makers every year.

In 2013-14, nearly 760,000 Chinese travellers spent $4.8 billion in Australia. In the same period, there were over 150,000 Chinese enrolments at Australian institutions – or around 27 per cent of the market – while two-way trade between our two countries is worth $160 billion.

'China is Australia’s most important inbound-tourism market, our largest international education market, and our largest two-way trading partner,' Mr Robb said.

'The Abbott Government is committed to achieving our Tourism 2020 goal of doubling overnight visitor expenditure to between $115 billion and $140 billion; ensuring we’re best placed to attract tourists from China will go a long way to reaching this target, which will enhance growth and competitiveness in the tourism sector – creating jobs and increasing prosperity for decades to come,' he said.

The Abbott Government has allocated record funding to Tourism Australia in 2014, with $43 million for the Tourism Demand-Driver Infrastructure Programme, and $10 million for the China Approved Destination Status scheme.

Media enquiries

  • Trade Minister's Office: (02) 6277 7420
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555