Wine-loving Chinese soak it up
BARRELLING ALONG: Hungerford Hill Wines general manager Adrian Lockhart. Picture: Marina Neil ONCE international tourists came for the Rock and the Reef but are now increasingly likely to add a winery trip to their Australian holiday.
Demand is being driven by the Chinese.
While domestic tourist numbers to the Hunter Valley have flattened over the past decade, the number of international visitors has surged.
Cellar doors from Hungerford Hill to Hope Estate are experiencing a boom in Chinese visitors, who are now the second biggest international tourist group after the British.
Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association general manager Gus Maher said local wineries were benefiting from the strong sales of Australian wines overseas.
‘‘International visitors to the Hunter Valley have increased exponentially over the past 15 years because Australian wine has penetrated into so many more international markets,’’ he said.
‘‘Those markets nicely coincide with tourism markets, particularly China and south-east Asia. The UK and the US have started to wane a little but that decline is more than compensated for by the increase in Chinese visitors.’’
Figures from Wine Australia show China has been the fastest-growing export market for Australian wine for several years, steered by that country’s burgeoning middle class.
‘‘There are a lot of Chinese with sophisticated palates who do really understand their wines,’’ Mr Maher said.
Tourism Research Australia data shows that international winery visitors have been increasing five times faster than total international visitors since 2000, growing at an average annual rate of 5per cent. The proportion of Chinese winery visitors has increased from 7 to 10per cent over the past three years.
The Hunter Valley remains the most popular region for international winery visitors, followed by Margaret River and Swan Valley.