Nothing to sing about ... the Sydney Opera House was listed lower than Crown Casino. Photo: Reuters
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China has the Great Wall, France the Notre Dame Cathedral and Egypt the pyramids. Australia's contribution to the world's wanderlust is less lofty.
Our top three tourist attractions are casinos, apparently, drawing more luckless losers from abroad than the Sydney Opera House.
Top draw ... casinos are Australia's top tourist attractions. Photo: Rodger Cummins
A list of the world's top 100 tourist attractions marks Crown Casino as Australia's most popular destination, with 10.9 million people visiting the Melbourne ''integrated resort'' in 2010.
No wonder Crown recently relied on the flattering Euromonitor International report on visitor numbers as part of its successful tilt at a second Sydney casino.
Just behind Crown for tourists Down Under is the Gold Coast's Jupiters casino (10.6 million visitors) and the Star in Sydney (9 million). The Opera House attracts a piddling 7.4 million by comparison.
The visitor tallies have been unchallenged to date - and repeated ad nauseam by the good folk at Australia's gambling dens. But anti-gambling campaigner Tim Costello smells a rat.
''I think there's a bit of a fiddle in these figures,'' he said.
Indeed, Euromonitor, an independent market researcher, admits ''measuring visitor numbers to casinos is notoriously difficult''. Its list has a curious preponderance of casinos and children's theme parks.
The Great Wall of China was ranked first overall with 19.8 million visitors, followed by three Disney theme parks. Britain's greatest attraction was apparently not Stonehenge, the Tower of London or Buckingham Palace but a family fun park in Milton Keynes.
A spokesman for Australia's Tourism & Transport Forum, Rowan Barker, declined to dispute the visitor figures but suggested the Opera House had been short-changed.
''We know that people come to Sydney to see the Opera House,'' he said. ''There is no doubt it is an international drawcard.''
But this hand of cards appears to favour Crown.
Meanwhile, new figures show the number of Chinese visiting Australia is continuing to grow and for the first time there are more people from China coming here than from the UK, Robert Upe reports.
The latest figures from Tourism Research Australia released Wednesday show that Chinese arrivals increased by 17 per cent in the last year to 573,000, surpassing 558,000 from the UK. New Zealand continues to be the biggest source of visitors with 1,090,896 coming here in the past year.
China had already overtaken Britain as Australia's most valuable tourism market as measured by '''total inbound economic value''' worth more than $3 billion last year.
Overall, visitor numbers in the past year have gone up by 3 per cent for a total of 5,599,797.
Tourism Australia managing director Andrew McEvoy said: ''Asia, led by China, continues to be the engine room of international growth. But we're also seeing much more positive numbers coming out of one of our most important traditional markets, the United States.''
The latest figures show that there were 443,256 visitors from the US in the past year.
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