Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, on behalf of the Australian Government, I welcome you to this 2019 Australia Tourism Education and Training Showcase Reception.
The Australia-China bilateral relationship is an important one that benefits both countries. It is a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with much depth and vitality and to which the Australian Government attaches high priority. A big part of this relationship is our education partnerships.
Australia has been a favoured destination for Chinese students. Over the past 10 years, student numbers have risen dramatically.
We now have over 200,000 Chinese students studying in Australia, making China our largest source of international students. In the other direction, China is now the number two destination for Australian students studying overseas.
Hence, education forms an important part of the people to people links that lie at the heart of our relationship, and which now cut across trade, investment and tourism.
Of course, our education relationship is much more than just student numbers. Australia and China are also working to broaden education interaction in the important areas of research collaboration, and partnerships programs between institutions and industry.
An important part of our education relationship is the skills training sector. Australia was one of the first foreign countries to engage in skills training collaboration with China with the commencement of our first joint program here in 1994.
It has now been 25 years since that first program. There are now over 150 Australian skills training collaboration programs across China which have educated over 125,000 students.
As China continues its 21st century shift to a market driven increasingly by services and consumption, there will be a continued upskilling of huge segments of the workforce with new jobs on offer, and a firm appreciation of skills training amongst employers.
To meet the human resource demands of key industry sectors into the future, including modern services industries like tourism, in February this year, the Chinese Government launched its Implementation Plan on National Vocational Education Reform.
This Plan signalled an increased focus on developing improved skills training capacity nationwide.
Australian skills programs that are delivered jointly here in China fit well with the goals of the Reform Plan to better integrate industry with skills training education providers.
This is because Australian programs are designed by industry, for industry.
Indeed, Australian skills training programs are created by Australian government-endorsed industry experts and skills councils who continuously update our courses to ensure that they prepare students for work in emerging industries and occupations, including, of course, in tourism.
In addition to this real world experience, Australian institutions like the ones here today seek to equip their students with necessary 21st century soft skills in problem solving, entrepreneurship, teamwork and communication.
These skills are so important in a world where China plays an increasingly leading role, and your capacity to work as a team, show initiative, and communicate effectively will be important in dealing with global industry networks and value chains across borders.
In tourism these skills are doubly important as your ability to develop relationships and a rapport with your customers will genuinely determine your success in the workplace.
Tourism is of course a key part of the Australian economy, as is well known to Chinese visitors, over 1.4 million of whom travelled to Australia last year. Our world-class tourism industry has proven capabilities to develop tourism destinations and deliver education and training in tourism skills.
It is entirely fitting that today’s forum was convened in Chengdu, which of course is one of China’s leading tourism centres.
Chengdu and surrounds are home to some of China’s – and the world’s – most iconic tourist attractions, such as the panda breeding and research bases, the Giant Buddha of Leshan, the holy mountain of Emeishan, and many others.
And with plans to host a number of major events in years to come – including the Universiade and World Games – this city will continue to attract even more tourists from within China and around the world.
Pleasingly, Australia’s own links with Chengdu in tourism continue to flourish, facilitated by direct flight links with Sydney and Melbourne.
In conclusion, I’d like emphasises that Chengdu and Sichuan’s ambitious tourism agenda means there is huge opportunity for even closer partnerships with Australia on tourism training.
I wish you the very best for your journey and fruitful discussions now and into the future.