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China expects more bang for Aussie tourism buck: experts

English.news.cn   2014-07-01 11:30:20

SYDNEY, July 1 (Xinhua) -- The might of the Australian tourism sector spent much of June wining and dining China's top travel agents at one of Australia's largest international trade events, but the success of Tourism Australia's inaugural Corroboree Greater China (CGC) has raised concerns that the industry is still struggling to meet Chinese travelers' cultural expectations.

With China travelers gifting 4.8 billion Australian dollars to the Australian economy last year, Tourism Australia (TA) has thrown everything it has at China this month, with the inaugural Corroboree Greater China officially winding up on Saturday -- but unofficially -- rolling on into July.

A moveable feast of 'Aussie specialists' gathered last week on Queensland's Gold Coast to enjoy a taste of the very best Australia has to offer.

The Corroboree Greater China played host to logistically- challenging 270 top travel agents from China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan) all specializing in selling Australian holidays -- from hunting truffles in Canberra to visiting Uluru in the Northern Territory.

But while TA's Managing Director John O'Sullivan has been keen to educate Chinese tour operators on the hidden wonders of 'Oz', one industry expert told Xinhua more need to be done to educate the industry on what the sophisticated Chinese travelers expect.

Tourism consultant, Andrea Plawutsky, director of Amplify Me, said Australian tourism operators must become truly China savvy if they are to attract the key China market to the industry.

"There are cultural nuances which we in Australia don't necessarily get but which are important to the satisfaction of Chinese customers. Often we don't find this out they fill out the satisfaction surveys when they leave," she said.

"It's crucial to know your customers. And our customers want more."

Based in China for seven years and fluent in mandarin, Plawutsky is in a good position to know what makes these tourists tick.

Her company, Amplify Me, has been a groundbreaker for the domestic sector, educating Aussie tourism operators in how to keep their Chinese customers upbeat and coming back for more of the land down under.

"Chinese born after the 1980s are more worldly now, there is an emerging middle class seeking more adventure, activities and experiences."

According to Tourism Australia, CGC has been rolled out to provide just that.

"The Corroboree Greater China was one of the largest international trade events staged in Australia during 2014 and, all up, had in excess of 400 people attending, including Australian tourism operators and media."

And, of course, it also catered for a significant number of China's top travel agents.

One of those was Xiao Wang, a Taipei-based independent travel agent with a track record of niche tourists.

The 28-year-old has spent three weeks in Australia, visiting -- at the behest of Australian operators -- sights and sounds from Abalone farming in Tasmania to truffle hunting in Canberra.

"Australia is our leading destination. What they have done well is hitting the computer refresh button. So much new to see...and this country gets bigger every time (we come back)."

"But, yes, value for money is still king," he added.

Plawutsky said the food trail is starting to gain traction beyond the big iconic landmarks, as Chinese visitors want to explore nature and its bounty.

"Health and food quality plays a big factor in decision making and Australia, with its clean air and pristine national parks and beaches, is a big attraction. So too are our health products, organic food and wine, which Chinese are prepared to pay a premium for."

It may be surprising to some, but according to Plawutsky, the number one and two favorite activities for high net worth clients are reading and drinking tea.

"We often don't take into account the busy lives of these professionals who really don't get much time off or much time away from crowded cities. When they go on holiday, peace and quiet is what they want."

Recent surveys by TA showed nature-based experiences, bargains and shopping as the top reasons for visiting Australia. The quality of food -- especially Chinese -- but also Western food, figured highly.

With a transitioning economy, also connected to China, easing away from mining toward services, the keystone tourism sector is expected to lead the way.

NSW Minister for Tourism, and Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner, only recently announced the 110-million-Australian-dollar Regional Tourism Infrastructure Fund allowing regional NSW destinations to "develop their full potential" and attract visitors beyond just Sydney and the Blue Mountains.

Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles said the territory was committed to increasing the number of visitors to the territory as part of a larger plan to develop Northern Australia.

The Australian Tourism 2020 Strategy estimated by 2020 the value of Chinese tourism in Australia will be between 7.4 billion and 9 billion Australian dollars.

But Plawutsky warned officials here not to prematurely count any chickens.

"We must raise our game. Attracting visitors with our country's unique qualities is easy. But meeting our customers expectations, understanding what our customers want, and how they might try to express it...that's something Australian Tourism could really invest in." (1 U.S. dollar equals 1.06 Australian dollars)

Editor: Lu Hui
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