Happy new year
If you took any internal flights in early-to-mid February, you'll be well aware that there has never been a month quite like it for Chinese visitors to Australia!
On quite a few flights to and from Sydney I noted just a tad of confusion over how the concept of seat allocation works :-)
Or if, like me, you were staying in a Meriton Serviced Apartment, you'd have seen the prices blazing through the roof for a few weeks.
The main driver, of course, was Lunar New Year, which this year fell on February 8.
The raw original data showed an unprecedented 173,600 visitors from China in the month.
There were also 29,500 short term arrivals from Hong Kong and a further 16,200 from Taiwan, for an all-time record total of 219,300.
Chinese citizen arrivals now account for a sixth of all holiday makers to Australia, and that share of the pie is rising hard and past.
Of course, the ABS applies seasonal adjustments to account for Lunar New Year which are designed to smooth the data and strip out such seasonalities.
The timing of Lunar New Year travel moves a bit each year, and there was an extra day in February this year, thereby allowing for an extra day of arrivals.
As a result, the figures were generally reported as being a decline or fall in Chinese visitors.
I guess looking at the original data you could just about argue that there has been a slowing in the pace of the increase, but since everything has its limit and trees cannot grow to the sky, this is largely semantics.
In any case, it takes more than a month or two of figures to confirm a trend.
Forgetting the ABS figures for a moment, just looking around town you can see the direct impacts of this in every single one of Australia's capitals cities, and particularly in the hotels of the Queensland Coast.
To put this in context, 25 years ago, we saw 1,200 Chinese visitors in February and this year we got 173,600, for a monumental 133-fold increase.
Probably too soon to call time on the Chinese tourism phenomenon, I reckon.
ANZ found that the total value of Australia's tourism and education exports at $42 billion is nearly the same as that of iron ore.
It's important stuff for Australia.
Following on from my post yesterday on the looming Whyalla wipeout, Arrium has taken voluntary administration with Grant Thornton appointed as the administrator.
Business Day ponders whether Whyalla could become Australia's largest ghost town.