by Levi J Parsons
HOBART, Australia, May 11 (Xinhua) -- While it may not be as well recognized as Australia's other iconic locations like Sydney, Uluru or the Great Barrier Reef, the island state of Tasmania, known for its immense natural beauty, is now the nation's fastest-growing tourism destination.
The latest statistics from Tourism Research Australia showed that in the year to December 2018, not only were visitor numbers up 4 percent to reach a new record of 1.32 million, but total tourism spending in the state also shot up 5 percent to hit an all-time high of 2.46 billion Australian dollars (1.74 billion U.S. dollars).
To put these figures into perspective, the entire island of Tasmania has a total population of just over 500,000.
In particular, the state has seen an upsurge in Chinese visitors. "I knew that Tasmania is a very remote place, but after I came here, I realized how beautiful the scenery really is," Ren Guang, a Chinese leisure cruise captain in the state, told Xinhua recently.
"Many people wonder why I came to this small place in Tasmania... It's because I like fishing very much, so I want to turn it into a business," said the Shanghai native, who operates fishing charters, scuba-diving tours and sight-seeing trips with his company Tasmanian Ocean Experience.
"It was very difficult at first because there's no other Chinese people here to help me and I had no previous experience," he said, adding that the fuel consumption on a ship was very large.
"It can take some time to attract tourists here, so I had to be patient," Ren said.
"It also requires a lot of support from the Tasmanian government along with local domestic travel agencies in China," he added.
First setting sail in December last year, Ren now has two boats and is able to carry 50 people per day in peak season which runs during Australia's long hot summer period from December to February.
"Around the time of Chinese New Year we will be very busy, almost every day both of the boats will go sailing," he said.
"One boat can take 10 people for deep sea adventures and the other can take 40 people for sight-seeing trips."
As word continues to spread about one of Australia's most intriguing destinations, Ren expects the all-time high Tasmanian visitor numbers to grow even further.
"I'm not so familiar with people from other countries, but I do know that Chinese travelers are looking for places with less tourists and more nature."
"So I am very confident the local tourism industry here will have a bright future," he said.