One of the world’s biggest tennis competitions, the Australian Open, is currently underway in Melbourne. While it’s a big event for tennis fans, Reuters reports that Australia and the competition itself is stepping up efforts to market to Chinese viewers and potential Chinese tourists. Last year, 59 million Chinese viewers watched the competition, an increase of 84 percent over 2016.

59 million Chinese viewers watched the 2017 Australian Open

Sport is an increasingly important marketing tool for destinations interested in attracting Chinese tourists, with Chinese consumers expanding their interest in various sports not traditionally popular in China. Winter sports tourism is proving to be one of the fastest growing sectors in this regard.

The Australian Open’s newest partnerships with Chinese firms include a five-year deal with mineral water supplier Ganten and an expanded deal with Chinese digital broadcaster iQIYI set to last until 2021. Reuters also noted that the tournament has agreements with four Chinese broadcasters and a year-round marketing effort on Weibo and WeChat.

The tournament also partnered with Ctrip to boost the number of Chinese attendees. A key part of the partnership is helping potential Chinese attendees book in Chinese to facilitate their participation.

The tournament has also partnered with Ctrip to attract more Chinese attendees

For Australian tourism, the wider opportunity is the promotion of destination Australia during the event via broadcast ads.

Part of the growing popularity of watching the competition in China is no doubt due in part to the growing Chinese participation in the event. The men’s singles tournament does not feature any qualifying Chinese players this year. However, the women’s singles tournament had six qualifying Chinese participants.

China’s Li Na also won the women’s singles tournament in 2014 and the Yan Zi and Zheng Jie won the women’s doubles tournament in 2006.

However, the growing popularity of tennis is also a reflection of a wider appreciation for sport among Chinese consumers. Basketball, soccer, and table tennis are by and large the most popular spectator sports in China. For example, the NBA is arguably the most popular sports league in China, with millions of Chinese fans tuning in and buying merchandise. The fame of Chinese basketball star Yao Ming is undoubtedly a part of this phenomenon. Yao Ming began playing in the NBA in 2002 with the Houston Rockets.

Sports in general are becoming more popular in China, thanks in part to a growing number of famous Chinese athletes

It is unclear to what extent, if any, the popularity of the NBA in China has contributed to encouraging Chinese tourism to the United States. However, some Chinese NBA fans paid as much as $10,000 for tour packages that included access to then-current and former Lakers players and the opportunity watch Kobe Bryant’s last game in 2016.

Soccer is also quite popular, and the Chinese Super League is relatively popular. Although, its revenue pales in comparison to the likes of the English Premier League or Germany’s Bundesliga. Part of this may be the lack of success for China’s men’s national soccer team. However, China’s women’s team has done quite well globally in the past, with the team reaching the quarterfinals of the World Cup in 1991 and 2007.

The Australian Open’s tie-in with tourism is more general than tourism efforts associated with NBA. The viewership numbers alone illustrate the enormous marketing opportunity the event represents for Australian tourism. Fortunately for the tournament itself, it seems more feasible to make a trip out of traveling abroad for the multi-day tournament than a single basketball game. It’s certainly not unreasonable to expect that more Chinese fans will make the trip to Australia to attend the tournament in the future.