Australia offers new incentives to woo Chinese tourists

Australia offers new incentives to woo Chinese tourists
Australia has been gaining popularity among Chinese visitors, who have surpassed New Zealanders to become the top spenders.
PHOTO: China Daily

The Land Down Under is set to significantly up the number of Chinese visitors since the China-Australia Year of Tourism began on Feb 5.

That's following recently introduced enticements for Chinese to visit Oz, such as increased flights, 10-year visas and a Chinese-language online visa-application system.

"The China-Australia Year of Tourism will go a long way in promoting bilateral exchanges in tourism and other fields," China National Tourism Administration chair Li Jinzao says.

China is Australia's most valuable inbound-tourism market.

Australia's tourism authority estimates its value may exceed AU$13 billion (S$14 billion) by 2020.

Australia has been gaining popularity among Chinese visitors-just over a year ago, they surpassed New Zealand to become the top spenders Down Under, to the tune of $21 million a day.

Last year, 1.2 million Chinese visited the Land Down Under. They spent over $9 billion, up 18 per cent compared with the previous year.

"We anticipate this will grow during the China-Australia Year of Tourism and will continue to grow afterward," says Australia's minister for trade, tourism and investment, Steven Ciobo.

Australia has also launched initiatives to expand two-way tourism arrivals.

It began offering 10-year multi-entry visas to Chinese on a trial basis, allowing for up to three-months per stay.

Chinese visitors no longer need to visit visa centres, thanks to the new Chinese application website.

A recent agreement removes all capacity restrictions for both sides' airlines.

Photo: China Daily

Qantas Airways opened a new direct flight from Beijing on Jan 26.

Flights to Australia on the new route are timed to connect with Qantas' network to popular onward destinations, such as Melbourne, Brisbane and Hobart, as well as the airline's Tasman routes to Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown, the company says.

Australia is also investing in cultural promotion.

Chinese actor Wu Xiubo was appointed Tourism Australia's ambassador for the bilateral tourism year.

The Australian authority hopes the appointment will provide an authentic Chinese voice to show what Australia offers.

"I've been deeply influenced and moved by my travel experiences and interactions in Australia," Wu says.

"These memories have influenced my work in myriad ways."

Australia's location in the Southern Hemisphere makes it appealing to Chinese snowbirds, who wish to enjoy summer in winter.

But high travel costs and a strict visa policy earlier meant Chinese long-haul travellers preferred the Unit­ed States and Europe.

Australian operators have adapted products for Chinese visitors, including multilingual brochures, attraction maps, signage and express lanes for local Chinese guides.

Chinese wax figures have also been introduced at Madame Tussauds Sydney, including Jackie Chan.

Cairns' Skyrail Rainforest Cableway in Queensland is providing cultural-awareness training for its staff, with annual refreshers. Other measures include welcome signage and guides in simplified Chinese.

Bookings to Australia during the recent Spring Festival holiday roughly doubled over the previous year on China's biggest online travel agency, Ctrip, and many popular travel service providers, such as Lvmama.

The number of individual travellers who prefer in-depth experiences in Australia has significantly increased over the recent years, reports Tongcheng Network Technology, a major online travel agency in Jiangsu province.

Many Chinese agencies have launched more intercity routes for individual travellers to the country.

"Chinese travel attitudes are changing from heavily scripted sightseeing to more unique, personal experiences," Ciobo says.

"And this is very much what our campaigns and marketing activities in China now focus upon."

Australia is known for its diverse natural landscapes. The Great Barrier Reef and wild animals are two must-dos most visitors seek.

But some Chinese agencies have begun to promote less-known destinations.

Read also: Asia targets tourism, education boost from Trump travel ban

Beijing-based outbound-travel operator Utour International Travel Service Co signed a deal with Tasmania's tourism authority and sent 100 Chinese visitors to the state during the recent Spring Festival.

The heart-shaped island is virtually unknown among Chinese-so far. It offers national parks, nature reserves and gourmet seafood.

Only a few dozen travellers from the Chinese mainland have visited in recent years, says Utour's publicity officer, Li Mengran.

"We plan to continue to promote Tasmania's uniqueness," Li says.

Tourism Australia Managing Director John O'Sullivan says recent developments will make Australia more accessible and compelling.

"Tourism Australia will continue to market Australia to flexible and independent high-value Chinese travellers, and position Australia as the most desirable and memorable destination on Earth."

Indeed, it seems the coming year will present an opportunity.

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