Australia has seen a 10% increase in short-term visitors to the country since April 2015, driven by our cheaper currency, a growing middle class in Asia and New Zealanders arriving in record numbers on our shores.

New Zealand has remained in top spot for short-term visitors arriving in Australia, ahead of China, but it likely won’t be the leader for long.

Short term visitors June 2016

Source: ABS

For the month of April 2016, just over 110,000 New Zealanders travelled to Australia, or just over 1.3 million in the past year, compared to 100,900 from China (excluding Hong Kong) and 1.1 million in the year to end of April 2016.

The news coincides with reports that our services sector is rapidly taking over from where the resources boom left off. Australia’s services exports rose 19% to $6.3 billion in April – the highest on record, and tourism exports rose by an even higher 22% from April 2015.

Commsec’s chief economist, Craig James noted that Chinese tourists have doubled in the past five years – as the chart below shows. The best part is that he also suggests that the boom has only really just started.

Short term visitors NZ vs China June 2016

Source: ABS

For many Australian companies that is fabulous news. Here’s a selection of companies that could prosper.

Sydney Airport Holdings Ltd (ASX: SYD)

As one of the key gateways into and out of the country, Sydney Airport will be doing its best to clip the ticket (excuse the pun!) of all the tourists that travel through it – never mind Australians travelling to and from Sydney.

Sealink Travel Group Ltd (ASX: SLK)

Sealink operates the one and only ferry service to Kangaroo Island in South Australia (and some of the accommodation on the island too), as well as Captain Cook Cruises in Sydney and Perth/Swan Valley. 53% of the company’s revenues come from tourism – the remainder from transport.

Crown Resorts Ltd (ASX: CWN) and Star Entertainment Group Ltd (ASX: SGR)

Casino operators in most of our major capital cities and tourism locations should do well, with Chinese reportedly keen gamblers.

Mantra Group Ltd (ASX: MTR)

The hotel operator has more than 20,000 hotel rooms under management in more than 125 properties, many of them located within Australia. The company recently highlighted that Asia’s middle class will grow from 500 million currently to 3.2 billion in 2030, with the emerging middleclass two-thirds larger within 5 years.

Foolish takeaway

Could we see tourism as one of Australia’s major exports within a few years? Certainly it’s possible, with generous and growing tailwinds behind it.

Could these 3 companies benefit from the tourism boom too?

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Motley Fool writer/analyst Mike King owns shares in Sydney Airport. You can follow Mike on Twitter @TMFKinga

The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.