SYDNEY, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) -- A major one-year long event to mark tourism between China and Australia looks set to record impressive gains, with the large numbers of travelers from both sides reflecting the growing importance of the sector.
Within the first nine months of this year, more than 950,000 Chinese tourists had visited Australia and more than 540,000 Australians had traveled to China, compared with a total of close to 2 million mutual visits last year, said China National Tourism Administration Vice Chairman Li Shihong.
Li was speaking at an evening gala Tuesday in Sydney to mark the 2017 China-Australia Year of Tourism, which was put forth by both countries to help bring them closer together and provide more opportunities for engagement at multiple levels.
The "booming tourism exchange" promotes understanding, drives development in related industries and delivers real benefits for the two sides, said Li.
More than 300 luminaries and representatives from the public and private sectors attended the event, including those from the tourism bureaus of 11 Chinese provinces and municipalities.
"I'm pleased to see that more and more Chinese are coming to this country ... At the same time, I'd also like to welcome more Australians going to China," said China's Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye.
"Tourism plays an important role in promoting better bilateral relations between countries ... tourism also can act as a bridge which brings our two peoples much closer, and further promotes mutual understanding and friendship. It also creates more opportunities for both countries."
John O'Sullivan, the managing director of Tourism Australia, the Australian government agency charged with promoting the country as a business and leisure destination, said more than 100 activities, promotions and events have helped marked the tourism year between the two countries.
"China is an incredibly important market for the Australian visitor economy," said O'Sullivan, adding that one in eight visitors to Australia comes from the Chinese mainland and one in four Australian dollars spent by international visitors in Australia is spent by the Chinese visitors.
"We continue to push the message that Australia is a welcoming country, a country that has many of the experiences that Chinese visitors are looking for."