Australia’s regional tourism operators are suffering from ‘China blindness’ and are ill-prepared for Chinese tourists, says the head of NSW tourism.
Destination NSW CEO Sandra Chipchase told delegates at the Mumbrella Travel Marketing Summit this week that operators hoping to cash in on Chinese visitors were badly informed about the market and badly prepared to cater to it.
“In regional, everyone’s got China blindness,” she said. “They think ‘there’s a billion people’, and it’s like ‘yes, but how many of them are coming?’
“We’re saying to them, look ‘you’re not even market ready, mate, let alone export ready, let alone China ready.”
The Destination NSW CEO said that despite China’s size, the Chinese market makes up just six percent of visitors to Australia’s regional areas.“It’s the traditional western markets that go out to the regions”, she told the audience, pointing out that the 17 to 19 percent of the international market comes from the UK, followed by New Zealand, then USA, then Germany at about seven percent.
Ms Chipchase said that despite the numbers, operators were still attempting to attract the Chinese market, without understanding its needs or taking any steps to prepare.
“It’s saying to them: ‘Do you have an in-room directory in Mandarin?’ ‘No.’ ‘Have you got a fire escape information in Mandarin on the back of the door?’ ‘No.’
“This is where we’ve got to come back to basics. Who is your target market, and who should you be targeting? Ring your state tourist office, because they can tell you who is coming.”
Chinese tourism around the world is experiencing a boom, but Australia is currently only attracting 1.5% of Chinese tourists, the 15th most visited international destination.
The vast majority of visitors we do attract are spending their time in metro areas – and those areas are already struggling to cope with the Chinese influx at peak times.
John Brumby, president of the Australia China Business Council, said: “We’re not really ready.
“We’ve had issues with Chinese New Year when you get 150,000 or 200,000 tourists and the hotels struggle.
“So if they are struggling now, they’re really going to struggle with 3.3 million visitors.”
Mr Brumby has urged the industry to prepare better for Chinese tourists with more Mandarin signage, improved transport and the availability of mobile payment options like Alipay.
He argues Chinese tourism could overtake the importance of our exports of iron ore to China if Australia is properly prepared to cater for visitors.