James Packer has ramped up his push for a second casino in Sydney, telling federal politicians Australia needs to compete with gambling hubs such as Singapore to attract lucrative Chinese visitors.
The billionaire chairman of Crown, who plans to build a $1 billion hotel and gambling complex at Barangaroo in Sydney, told a tourism forum at Parliament House, Canberra that Chinese visitors were critical to the long-term future of Australian tourism.
He also said Australia needed to do more to compete more fiercely with other nations, which were working hard to attract high-spending Chinese tourists.
As an example, he cited the massive Marina Bay Sands Casino in Singapore, which has catapulted Singapore past Las Vegas to become the world's second-biggest gambling centre when measured by revenue, after Macau.
"Our international competitors get it, and are throwing everything in a coordinated and well-funded strategy to attract more high net-worth travellers. We need to do the same," Mr Packer said.
Billion dollar pay day
Mr Packer’s attendance at the Canberra conference meant missing his billion dollar pay day in Perth where his fellow Consolidated Media Holding’s investors voted in favour of News Corp’s $2 billion bid for the company which holds a 25 per cent stake in Foxtel and related companies.
Mr Packer is deputy chairman of CMH and owns 50 per cent of the company while Kerry Stoke’s Seven Group holds another 25 per cent.
Mr Packer's controversial Sydney casino plan has received backing from NSW government cabinet, but it is unclear whether there will be a tender process. Mr Packer was not available to answer questions.
Chinese visitors have provided a lifeline to the inbound tourism industry, which has been battered by weakness in markets such as the United States and the United Kingdom.
Despite this, Mr Packer said Australia's share of outbound Chinese visitors had slipped from 1.3 per cent in 2001 to 0.8 per cent.
While he backed the federal government's Asian Century White Paper, Mr Packer also took aim at corporate leaders and government officials for their views of China, saying Australia needed to stop regarding the country "like it's the cold war".
Mr Packer said he was "amazed" by the number of business and government leaders who had never visited China, and still viewed the country "through Western eyes" as a predominantly Communist nation.
"Many bureaucrats and business people who have not been to China have no idea of how much it has changed and how much the country is doing to lift its people out of poverty," Mr Packer said.
"It should be almost compulsory for all senior executives and government officials to make a trip to China to gather an appreciation of how the country has changed," he said.
"We need to stop viewing China like it's the Cold War and start viewing them as a modern member of the industrialised world."
with Colin Kruger