I had an amazing time during the recent Victorian Super Trade Mission to China and valued the opportunity to be part of this historic delegation.
The tight-knit tourism component included the CEOs of 27 organisations and together we visited Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Dongguan over six days.
China continues to grow strongly. It reminds me of Japan’s growth in the 1980s, only on a bigger scale. People work hard and more people are moving to cities as part of the national urbanisation policy to increase economic productivity.
Of my initial impressions from the trip, the first is the need to focus on training our workforce to adapt to the varying food, language and consumption behaviours of the diverse Chinese source markets. The second is that Victoria has in-demand clean, green exports to offer to China, and tourism complements many of these other trade sectors; for example, wine.
Also, the take up of social media is mind-blowing. We enjoyed learning more about the Chinese equivalents of Facebook, LinkedIn and Google, etc. We visited the office of Sina Weibo, best described as an amalgam of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. As a company that began in 1998 as purely a Chinese language website, it now has 400 million registered users of the open platform website. This is a market that already has one billion mobile phone users. There, saying Sina Weibo is influential would be a big understatement. It’s vital for those interested in China to link into it to raise awareness of our unique tourism experiences.
We need to be aware of the huge development in China’s tourism product generally and transport infrastructure in particular, to support growing and sustainable urban areas. We were fortunate to travel on the high speed train from Nanjing to Shanghai and it was impressive to be clocking more than 300 kilometres an hour!
Victoria is committed to capitalising on China’s growth from a tourism perspective; it is expected that overnight expenditure in Victoria by Chinese visitors will grow 11 per cent annually until 2020. There are many benefits of Australia being in roughly the same time zone and this will help us to be more competitive in this crowded market, particularly now that Canada has ‘Approved Destination Status’ – everyone wants a piece of China!
Following presentations in Beijing by Tourism Australia and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, it became clear that two key opportunities Australia has are to extend Working Holiday Maker visas to China, and for Victoria to make student travel concessions available to international students.
There are many Australian government programs and campaigns with which operators should be familiar to capitalise on opportunities, and VTIC will continue to keep members in the loop with these.
The Chinese seemed captivated by our major events calendar and there were several pleasing developments on the mission, like the announcement of a new tennis tournament in Nanjing, where the winner earns a wildcard entry to the 2013 Australian Open.
In addition, the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival showcased Victorian designers at an event in Beijing, encouraging new business connections and inviting more international interest in the annual festival.
We were also delighted to attend the launch of Sovereign Hill’s China Strategic Plan and visit the Sovereign Hill team at their Shanghai office.
With a rapidly expanding middle class and increased wealth, there’s great potential for travel and tourism. Culturally, the Chinese value wealth creation and family highly, and like to spend their money travelling together. However, independent travel is growing at a faster rate than group travel.
Tourism Victoria and Tourism Australia have developed sound strategies to capture the potential of the Chinese market and drive tourism demand. We were pleased to be at the launch of Tourism Victoria’s comprehensive new China campaign, which includes a Mandarin language website at http://cn.visitmelbourne.com/
A workshop with key executives from China Southern Airlines was a highlight, and we’re thrilled with the news that Sichuan Airlines have announced three direct flights per week between Melbourne and the western Chinese city of Chengdu (population 14.7 million).
The trip focused strongly on building high level friendships and learning more about and engaging with the market. It gave me a wonderful opportunity to engage with Chinese people from the travel trade, media organisations, and business and education experts. Also, there’s no better way to learn than by experiencing first-hand the sophistication of the market and the high levels of visitor services they offer.
I also very much enjoyed collaborating with my Victorian colleagues and look forward to sharing information and opportunities with members in the exciting times to come.
- VTIC members have achieved some fantastic feats in recent months. Our congratulations to AHS Hospitality CEO Michelle Loader, recipient of the Hudson Private and Corporate Sector Award at the 2012 Telstra Business Women’s Awards. Congratulations also to Habitat HQ in St Kilda for recently receiving the CitiPower Port Phillip Business Excellence Award in the tourism category.