A LEADING tourism expert says the Coast is well poised to benefit from the expected influx of Chinese tourists in the next few years.
Queensland Tourism Industry Council CEO Daniel Gschwind says the Chinese market has been the driving force behind Australia's international visitor numbers in recent years and forecasts say it will get stronger.
"In the next few years China expects around 100 million Chinese people to travel overseas every year, and at the moment we 'only' get half a million in Australia each year," he said.
"So we only need a fraction of that 100 million to make a significant difference.
"The China market has shown to be the most crisis resistant over recent years. It has shown extremely strong growth and made Australian international visitor numbers look good.
"The forecasts are very buoyant and we are expecting a lot out of China in the coming years."
Tourism Queensland figures show the state welcomed 203,000 Chinese visitors in 2011, which is expected to double by 2016.
Mr Gschwind said the Coast was seen as an idyllic location for Chinese visitors with its natural landscape, shopping and accommodation infrastructure, but stressed the need for a balance with other markets in the tourism portfolio.
Mayor Mark Jamieson said there was no doubt the Chinese market was a tourism target and pledged to work with Sunshine Coast Destination Ltd to ensure the region was well prepared.
"We've got a fair bit of development to do in terms of our infrastructure, particularly in that international hotel space, to make ourselves more attractive," he said.
"We need a second runway at the airport if we are to get more international flights. That is certainly something we are looking at and funding opportunities for that continue to be looked at."
SCDL's Steve Cooper agreed the airport was a critical part of the region's future tourism success, but said China was a fresh market in the region and there was still much preparation work to be done.
"Foundation work to position the Sunshine Coast region has taken place through the council and in particular, Cr McKay, through sister city relations," he said.
Mr Cooper said that earlier this year, representatives from tourism players met to ensure opportunities were maximised and leveraged and individual strategies were linked and aligned.