Saturday, November 8, 2014

News Ltd misleading reports on Chinese tourism

Overseas arrivals and departures statistics were released this week by the ABS. Conus: Chinese arrivals continue to grow ; Macrobusiness: Bogan exodus gives way to Chinese influx ($ or trial subscription)

Well the message there seems pretty unambiguous until you look at the News Ltd reports. The Australian: Growth in Chinese tourist arrivals halved ; Cairns Post: Australians heading overseas in record numbers.

Both these media headlines are backed by misleading or selective use of the data. This is from The Australian:
Echo Entertainment chairman John O’Neill says he will push ahead with a $345m upgrade of ­Jupiters Hotel and Casino on the Gold Coast, as well as his $1 billion bid to build a new casino and ­entertainment complex in Brisbane, despite signs of a slowing in Chinese tourism.
The pace of growth in mainland Chinese tourist arrivals almost halved over the past year, amid signs of a cooling Chinese economy.
“It is concerning the (Chinese tourist) growth is dropping,” said Mr O’Neill, commenting on the inbound data released by the ­Bureau of Statistics yesterday.
“Mainland Chinese arrivals are becoming far more important. That is why we are investing so heavily in tourism infrastructure, not so it sits there as a white elephant.”
The Bureau of Statistics figures show Chinese tourist arrivals increased 10.5 per cent in the year to September, almost half the 19.3 per cent rate in the previous year.
The Qantas, Accor and Carnival Australia-backed Tourism & Transport Forum said as Australia was missing out on Chinese visitors, the US was sustaining growth of 23 per cent while Chinese arrivals were up 30 per cent in Canada this year.
Malaysia, India, Singapore and the Philippines were also achieving higher growth in mainland Chinese arrivals than Australia.
The ABS produce raw, seasonally adjusted and trend data for arrivals. This report has compared the raw number for the year to September 2013 with the year to September 2014. You may recall that China introduced new tourism laws last year on package tours. As a consequence of this there was a surge in September 2013 and then a slump for some months after the laws were introduced.

So the comparison periods here are misleading with the September surge last year included in the previous period while the slump is included in the current period. That slump now appears to have been temporary with strong growth in recent months and the trend now back up at 24.7% compared to September last year.  The source seems to have been the Tourism and Transport Forum where there is an agenda for visa reform. That may be a worthy objective but don't think it should justify misrepresentation of the data.

The headline in the other report at the Cairns Post is also misleading as is the statement that "Australians are heading overseas at almost twice the rate foreigners are travelling down under". I presume this is again based on raw data rather than seasonally adjusted or trend. The story now is really that arrivals are growing faster than departures and there is some sign that the 'tourism deficit' may be starting to turn around. Macrobusiness have the arrivals/departures ratio now rising to above 75%.

I had already been looking at Chinese tourism to Singapore after the latest monthly numbers on gambling revenue in Macau were down 23% on the previous year. The Singapore integrated casino resort developments which opened around 2010 have been the model for Queensland. Singapore is #6 as an outbound travel destination for Chinese, while Australia is #14.

This is the raw data since 2005, which is all that is available from Singapore, on a log scale with a 12 month rolling average while the green line is the ABS trend arrivals. I don't know where The Australian reporter got the idea Chinese short term arrivals in Singapore were currently growing faster than to Australia but it obviously wasn't from the Singapore Tourism Board.

Post on last months arrivals and departure stats: Your guide on how to interpret News Ltd journalism

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely agree Mark. I made the same points in a comment on the online Cairns Post story...oddly enough they haven't posted it. The Cairns Post headline does indeed refer to the raw data. As you highlight the Trend data paints a very different story with the "deficit" having fallen more than 110,000 since December.