New research to shape Tourism Australia’s China growth strategy

New research to shape Tourism Australia’s China growth strategy

New consumer research carried out across 13 of China’s largest and fastest growing cities is being used by Tourism Australia to further enhance its ten year marketing plan aimed at continuing to lure China’s affluent and travel hungry middle and upper classes to visit Australia.

The release of the findings aligns to latest international visitor arrival and spending figures confirming China’s ongoing status as Australia’s fastest growing and most valuable international tourism market, worth more than A$3.8 billion in 2011, up 15 per cent on the previous calendar year (Source: International Visitor Survey).

Reinforcing the criticality of this market for Australian tourism, a record 558,600 Chinese visited Australia during the twelve months ending January 2012, up 17.1 per cent (Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics).

Tourism Australia’s commissioned study - carried out by research consultancy GfK Blue Moon - represents the first time Tourism Australia has undertaken comprehensive research into the travel behaviour and preferences of consumers living in China’s rapidly growing secondary cities, including Chongqing, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Qingdao, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Wuhan and Xiamen – all rising global cities.

The research provides key insights into the Chinese consumer, their purchasing intentions and desire for experiencing travel.

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The findings found Chinese travellers’ strongest preference was Australia as their most desired long haul destination and also identified high consistency in consumer behaviour and trends across both China’s largest primary cities (Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou) and its emerging secondary cities.

Tourism Australia Managing Director Andrew McEvoy believes extending research for the first time into China’s secondary cities was essential to build upon its successful campaign platform and to now seek to maximise the geographic reach and impact of its future marketing activity.

The research will inform Tourism Australia’s marketing and support its China 2020 Strategic Plan, announced in June 2011. Under the plan, Tourism Australia will target up to 30 Chinese cities, in a phased approach between now and decade’s end.

Key findings of the research were:

Australia is seen as an aspirational, highly regarded and ‘must visit’ destination. The experience of those who have visited Australia exceeds their expectations;
Australia meets the majority of Chinese long haul travellers’ expectations. Combining natural and laid back experiences with the comforts of a developed country, offering modern infrastructure and unique and famous iconic attractions;
Respondents indicated a strong desire to visit Australia’s most famous attractions, with the Sydney Opera House, the Great Barrier Reef, kangaroos and koalas all big draw cards. However, awareness and regional knowledge beyond these typical icons was more limited, more so amongst customers in secondary cities;
There appears to be no obvious barriers for travel to Australia amongst the Chinese, beyond time, distance and cost. Specifically, respondents perceive the Australian visa application process being easier or comparable to other long haul destinations;
Although the majority of respondents still retain a strong preference for group travel, they do exhibit a desire for more flexible travel options. Group travel is preferred for first time visits, with a preference for more flexible travel options on return trips;
While the internet plays an important role in holiday research/planning, the majority of the respondents are still likely to rely on travel agents to organise and book their travel, in particular flights, transport, organising visas and accommodation;
Respondents were most inspired and influenced by traditional travel advertising, travel media and by word of mouth, although social media is becoming more influential.

“We plan to use these findings to help prioritise our marketing activities in China and best educate the Australian tourism industry to capitalise on the anticipated strong growth in the middle and upper classes that can afford and want to travel long-haul outside of China,” Mr McEvoy said.

“Tourism Australia will make a further record investment in marketing resources in China in 2012 for the market is unprecedented in terms of its high growth and high value. The Chinese consumer also has great enthusiasm for our country - in their view there is nothing like Australia.

“But to achieve long-term success in a now highly competitive China market we must seek greater understanding of the many millions of customers who live outside of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou and what drives their travel decisions in the immediate future. That’s where the real China growth opportunities lie,” he said.

The research was conducted in late 2011 in two stages (qualitative focus groups and quantitative online surveys) and was based upon a targeted sample of almost 2,800 Chinese leisure travellers aged between 30 and 49 years of age and with an above average annual household income of more than 120,000 RMB (approximately A$25,000).

“The response in China to Tourism Australia’s current ‘There’s nothing like Australia’ campaign has been better than anywhere else overseas, with over 90 per cent of those who see the campaign confirming they had started researching a future trip to Australia,” Mr McEvoy said.

“In the absence of significant differences between our target customers in both its super cities and emerging metropolises we have a fantastic opportunity to build upon the very successful platform already created through our existing tourism campaign work in China. This will allow us to achieve some significant economies of scale as we seek to expand our marketing across what is a vast and still largely untapped market.”

Victoria Parr, Director of Social Research at GfK Blue Moon believes the findings present significant opportunities for Australian tourism to showcase itself well beyond the country’s most famous attractions and experiences.

“Whilst well known icons such as the Sydney Opera House, Great Barrier Reef, kangaroos and koalas continue to be key drawcards driving Australia’s popularity, this research also highlights opportunities to showcase Australia’s other, lesser known attractions to potentially draw in repeat visitors and further enhance the overall destination offer,” Ms Parr said.

Tourism Australia believes China has the potential to grow annual overnight visitor expenditure between A$7 billion and up to A$9 billion by 2020.