Australia attracts record tourist traffic in Aug

SYDNEY Tue Oct 9, 2012 12:10am EDT

SYDNEY Oct 9 (Reuters) - Australia attracted a record number of tourists in August as a flood of visitors from China defied the high local dollar, helping support spending and employment in a country fretting about a cool down in its mining boom.

Government data out on Tuesday showed short-term visitor arrivals jumped 3.7 percent in August to a seasonally adjusted 514,100, passing the previous high set in June.

For the year to August arrivals topped 6 million for the first time, led by a near 16 percent increase in Chinese visitors to 607,900. The growth came despite an historically high local currency.

"While some commentators debate whether the mining boom is over, in the background China is becoming more and more important to Australia in a host of ways," said Craig James, chief economist at CommSec.

"This is still the early days of Chinese urbanisation and industrialisation so the growth opportunities in coming years are huge."

Visitor arrivals from Japan were up 7.5 percent for the year to August, while there were 17.5 percent more tourists from Singapore and 5.5 percent more from Indonesia.

Australia was also attracting more migrants, with permanent settlers up by 159,580 in the year to August to hit a 39-month peak. Net permanent and long-term arrivals were equally as strong at 290,980 for the year.

(Reporting by Wayne Cole)