Increasing numbers of visitors from China is neither inevitable nor guaranteed, Tourism Australia Managing Director Andrew McEvoy has cautioned as the agency moves into the second year of its 10-year strategy to grow demand from its fastest growing overseas market.
Mr McEvoy said China’s growing importance was at the heart of Tourism Australia’s decision to unveil the latest phase of its There’s nothing like Australia global marketing campaign in Shanghai earlier this month, and to increase marketing resourcing in China by 41 per cent in 2012/13.
“The increase in resources simply reflects the size and scale of the outbound travel opportunity presented by China. China is now our fastest growing and the most valuable overseas tourism market, delivering more than half a million-plus visitors and A$3.8 billion in spending in 2011,” Mr McEvoy said.
Tourism Australia’s China 2020 Strategic Plan is a core element in the Government’s Tourism 2020 strategy, aimed at doubling overnight visitor expenditure to up to A$140 billion by 2020. Tourism Australia believes the China market has the potential to be worth up to A$9 billion alone, by the end of the decade.
Mr McEvoy believes its China ambitions will be significantly aided through the new Asia Marketing Fund, announced by the Australian Government in the recent 2012/13 Budget. This will deliver an additional A$61 million to Tourism Australia’s budget over the next four years, helping to accelerate its development plans in China.
But Mr McEvoy explained that reaping the benefits of the ‘Asian Century’ requires more than just additional resources and good marketing campaigns.
“We know from our research that our global campaign resonates extremely well in China but, whilst this is great, it’s only part of the equation. You can build all the demand you want through compelling ads, but if the actual experience fails to deliver on the promise, you end up doing more harm than good.
“The China 2020 Strategic Plan, which we unveiled in June 2011, identified a number of critical areas where work is needed to achieve China’s tourism potential and win market share. And even though it’s still very early days, I do feel we’re making solid progress in some key areas,” Mr McEvoy said.
Mr McEvoy added that being ‘China ready’ was critical if the industry is to fully leverage Australia’s destination appeal amongst China’s new urban elite.
“The fact that 542,000 Chinese travellers visited our country last year is fantastic, but certainly no reason to feel the job is done. If we’re not fully prepared, the Asian Century will pass us by. The great news is that we’re starting to see the industry really embrace this opportunity by adapting their business to meet the needs of Chinese visitors,” he said.
He pointed to some recent examples:
Accor - operator of hotel brands Sofitel, Grand Mercure, Mercure, Novotel, Ibis, Motel 6 in Australia - is developing a strategy to better cater for Chinese guests. Steps to make Chinese visitors feel more at home include: Chinese dishes on menus, Chinese newspapers, television channels, electrical adaptors and welcome kits in Mandarin. There is also special training for Accor staff in cultural differences, enabling them to better serve Chinese people;
Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre in the Barossa Valley, South Australia – employing Mandarin speaking staff and providing Chinese cultural awareness training for all employees. Materials such as brochures, tasting notes and menus are also available in Simplified Chinese;
Burswood Entertainment Complex, Perth, Western Australia - 90 per cent of Burswood’s International Operations team speaks Mandarin and all staff is trained through ‘China Ready’ workshops. Burswood is also working with China Southern Airlines to boost awareness and China visits;
Sovereign Hill, outdoor museum, Ballarat, Victoria - employing Mandarin speaking guides and providing guide maps and exhibits in Simplified and Traditional Chinese. They have also recently introduced a new “Gold Mountain Experience” tour , in response to feedback from Chinese visitors;
Phillip Island Nature Parks, Victoria - Mandarin audio tours for all major attractions on Phillip Island - Penguin Parade, Koala Conservation Centre, Churchill Island Heritage Farm and Nobbies Centre - on a recently developed iPhone app. Its Chinese website enables Chinese visitors to share their experiences on popular Chinese social media site, Weibo;
Merlin Entertainments Group (operators of Sydney Aquarium, WILD LIFE Sydney, Sydney Tower Eye, Madame Tussauds Sydney), New South Wales - products have been adapted for Chinese visitors, including multi-lingual brochures, attraction maps, signage and express lanes for local Chinese tour guides. Chinese wax figures have also been introduced at the recently opened Madame Tussauds Sydney, including Jackie Chan;
Skyrail, Cairns, Queensland - cultural awareness training is provided for staff, with annual refreshers. Other simple measures include welcome signage and guides in Simplified Chinese.
Mr McEvoy highlighted research recently carried out by Tourism Australia across 13 of China’s largest and fastest growing cities, and now being shared with industry, which has substantially improved understanding of its target consumer - their travel preferences and behaviour and the type of tourism experiences they were most looking for.
He also pointed to recent improvements in aviation access and capacity between Australia and China, including new direct flights and also deepening links into China’s secondary cities. In many cases, Tourism Australia has actively influenced these outcomes, through aviation development funding and cooperative marketing activities.
Tourism Australia had recently restructured its Greater China operations to better focus on its Asian growth markets, bolstering the China team with more resources and appointing a new Regional Manager Greater China, Eva Huang.