AUSTRALIA is in talks with China to explore the possibility of setting up a Chinese tour agency, a week after a Chinese official warned Australia to brace for a “big surge” in tourism to China.
Photo: Jason South American leaders are expected to meet later this week in Lima to discuss the possibility China could establish a joint tourism agency with the region.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has previously suggested the establishment of such a venture, but it was not clear what type of agency it would be.
The idea has gained momentum recently, with Australia hosting a Chinese delegation to its capital city of Canberra in February.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday told the ABC the “international tourism sector is going to see a big surge in China”.
“We need to be prepared for it,” he said.
“It’s a big risk.
We need to think carefully.”
The ABC has learned Mr Wang, who has visited China twice before, told Mr Wang in Lima that the country had plans to launch a joint tour agency with Australia in the next few years.
“There is no need to panic,” Mr Wang said, when asked whether he was worried the idea of such an entity was being discussed.
Australia is also exploring how to attract foreign tourists to the country, including using Chinese money to help fund their stays.
Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is said to have encouraged China to develop a joint tourist agency.
Mr Wang told the conference on Wednesday the China-Australia relationship would be “very strong”, with both countries sharing a common culture and history.
“I have always said that we need to strengthen this relationship,” Mr Wilson said.
Mr Wilson told the Chinese ambassador that the bilateral tourism sector in Australia “is a huge risk”.
Photo: ABC The ABC understands that Mr Wilson’s advice was taken seriously, with the Foreign Minister confirming the Government had been in discussions with the Chinese for a while.
A spokesperson for Mr Wang declined to comment on whether the Chinese were discussing the possibility.
China’s Ambassador to Australia Wang Yi said on Wednesday that “the Chinese Government has always stressed that China-China relations are a key element in our strategic partnership with Australia”.
He added: “There are other opportunities for our countries to jointly explore ways to expand the bilateral relations and deepen our cooperation.”
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has said China will not consider setting up an agency of its own.
He has also urged Canberra to prepare for a big increase in foreign tourists.
A number of Chinese officials have previously suggested that Beijing could establish an international tourism agency.
However, the Government has so far declined to back the proposal.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she was “very concerned” about the potential increase in travel to Australia by Chinese tourists.
She said the Government was in contact with the Australian Embassy in Beijing and was working to promote the opportunities for tourism.
“We’re in a very strong position to provide support to our Chinese friends, and the Chinese government is very supportive of that,” she said.
The Australian Government has also been keen to explore how to leverage Chinese money, and it is understood there is a potential for China to offer financial aid to Australian businesses in return for investment.
However China has not made any overtures to Australia in that area, which has put pressure on Ms Bishop.