Australia bets on resorts to lure Chinese tourists

Australia is being seen as a prime destination for hotel operators, some from Greater China who are looking to expand their offerings with gambling inclusive integrated resort properties, local media reports.

As much as A$15 billion (US$11.4 billion) is being spent on new integrated resorts and to expand existing ones in Australia, with a total of 12 casinos expected to be expanded or constructed.

Last year, Australia saw more than 1 million Chinese visitors, representing a 22 percent increase from 2014’s numbers.

Dr. Deborah Edwards, an associate professor at the University of Technology Sydney and Australian tourism sector expect, said there was more room for growth.

“I don’t think we’ve hit any sort of maximum capacity, indeed, hotel stocks in Australia are somewhat low and we have a new international convention center, the ICC is coming online at the end of this year,” said Edwards to Hotel Management. “That will be hosting some very large conventions, and we’re going to need a fair bit of hotel stock to meet the growing demand for both business and leisure travel.”

Last month, the $6 billion Aquis Great Barrier Reef Resort, announced it will be moving ahead without a casino in the first stage, in order to expedite the necessary approvals by the end of the year and for construction to start next year, according to The Cairns Post.

The resort project, developed by Hong Kong tycoon Tony Fung, will feature eight hotels with a total of 7,500 rooms, as well as a golf course and attractions such as an artificial lake, an aquarium and a rainforest. Construction could start as early as 2017.

Dr Edwards said she was confident of the non-gaming attractions that Australia’s integrated resorts have to offer.

“We have a lot to support other activities,” Dr Edwards said. “Issues can arise when casinos discourage people leaving the casinos and don’t encourage them to undertake other activities that are in the area. At the moment, I don’t think we’re at that sort of risk.”

“Macau has built itself up like a Las Vegas, and that’s exactly the problem,” she added.

“It’s just one casino after another and there’s nothing else to support that — for any destination to be attractive, it needs a variety of accommodation, activities and attractions to make it sustainable.”