City News

City of Sydney chases Chinese business and tourism

By Mariana Podesta-Diverio
Chinese business and tourism relationships remain a focus for the City of Sydney into the new year with the Lord Mayor visiting the country and speaking at a business forum.
In November finance company executives, leading academics and government officials met for the fourth annual Sydney China Business Forum. Lord Mayor Clover Moore opened the forum of 200 business and political leaders from the two countries by saying Sydney must compete with the Asia-Pacific for Chinese investment.
“Sydney is competing to be the top location for business in the Asia-Pacific and our work to bring together industry and political leaders from Australia and China is a crucial part of that,” Moore said.
“We are the gateway to Australia’s financial, education, creative and tourism sectors and we are delighted to back an event that shows off our city’s credentials. The Free Trade Agreement between our two economies means growing business connections now presents huge possibilities, and the City is determined to help businesses seize them,” a spokesperson for the Mayor’s office said.
Following visits to Chinese cities Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Xi’an and Wuhan the Lord Mayor also hosted Chinese delegations, including the Governor and Deputy-Governor of Hubei Province in Sydney.
The signing of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) between the countries, the text of which was concluded in November 2014, is due to take place later this year. This will mean the removal of tariffs on commodities exported to China including energy resources, dairy, iron ore and the delicacy that is Tasmanian rock-lobster.
An announcement at last year’s G20 summit that Sydney would be the global infrastructure hub has significant repercussions for the city’s financial relationship with China. Chris Johnson, the CEO of Urban Taskforce, said the endorsement could lead to extensive offshore opportunities for developers across Asia, particularly in digital, technological and creative industries.
“As well as the potential for increased markets for developers there is the increased work potential for consultants like project managers, planners, engineers and architects, ” Mr Johnson said.
The ongoing strength of Australia’s bilateral partnership with China has particularly strong implications for the higher education trade. International students are a significant source of revenue for the Australian economy, with course fees being significantly higher for international students than for domestic students.
A 2011 report by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship stated that the highest number of applications for a student visa came from China, with 49,852 visas granted in 2010-11.
Professor Kerry Brown, Executive Director of the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, said that a good quality lifestyle and good economy are amongst the main incentives for Chinese students coming to Sydney.
“With so many Chinese students having graduated from largely business and economic based degrees in recent years, it is not surprising that finance has been able to employ good quality students to work particularly in centres like Sydney and Melbourne,” Prof Brown said.
“Expanding trade links to China [mean] that in the future, [links to Australia] are useful for Chinese students in their careers,” Prof Brown said.
Although study costs are high, it is more financially accessible for Chinese students who can afford to study overseas to do so in Australia than in other global cities.
At the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), tuition and course fees are approximately AUD$64,000 per annum for undergraduate courses. Kings College London, offer clinically-based courses such as medicine and dentistry at a cost of approximately AUD$67,000 per annum. For international students, the expense of studying courses such as dentistry and engineering at the University of Sydney is approximately AUD$39,700 per annum. A science degree at UNSW costs approximately AUD$37,440 per annum.
Considering comparative affordability for international students, Sydney is particularly attractive. “With so many Chinese students having graduated from largely business and economic based degrees in recent years, it is not surprising that finance has been able to employ good quality students to work particularly in centres like Sydney and Melbourne,” Prof Brown said.
Rates of Chinese tourism to Australia remain strong and Sydney continues to have strong appeal for travellers, the majority of whom come from Shanghai and Beijing.
A major research project by Tourism Australia, the findings of which were published in May 2014, found that 57% of Chinese respondents ranked ‘world class beauty and natural environments,’ as two of the most important factors when selecting a travel destination. The  availability of good food and wine, safety, and ‘spectacular coastal scenery’ were also considered.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), rates of short-term tourist arrivals from China have grown at a pace faster than that of any other country to Australia, climbing from 2.4% (of the total proportion of visitors to Australia) in 2000 to 7.7% in 2010. Notably, this figure jumped to 24.7% by the end of September 2014.
Destination NSW has implemented a comprehensive tourism strategy, the China Tourism Strategy and Action Plan (2012-2020), to continue to cater to the large Chinese market. The strategy is aimed at capitalising on the existing market and ensuring ongoing growth for the industry.


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