Article by Kirsty Needham
Beijing: Australia will spend $5 million advertising to young Chinese urbanites to persuade them regional Australia isn’t dangerous and they should come despite the lack of free WiFi.
China is Australia’s biggest source of tourists and international students but there were fears last year these two important export industries could be damaged amid tension in diplomatic relations.
Chinese tourists are worth $11.5 billion a year to the economy.
A major tourism advertising campaign on billboards and metro stations in Chinese cities begins this week with colourful imagery of Australia’s natural scenery – plus a crocodile – and the slogan “Too Australian for words”.
Tourism Australia will pay $3.28 million, and tourism operators including Qantas will pay $1.78 million, for the advertising.
“Australia already has a strong affinity amongst Chinese travellers; however, we must continue to find new ways to appeal to the Chinese market,” said Trade Minister Simon Birmingham.
He said the fastest growing group of Chinese tourists were the “free and independent travellers” who are younger, more adventurous and stay three times longer than Chinese tourists on a group or package tour.
Whereas Chinese students tend to spend most of their time in the major Australian cities (88 per cent) and half of their spending goes towards education fees, the “free and independent travellers” or “FITS” are more likely to travel to regional Australia as well.
Australia was targeting this group to encourage them to make repeated visits to Australia, outside of peak Chinese holiday periods such as Chinese New Year.
But a report from Tourism Research Australia has highlighted some of the problems in getting this sector of Chinese tourists to regional Australia. Time (71 per cent) was the major constraint, followed by cost (32 per cent).
The research also found “a view entrenched by the experiences and attitudes of Chinese society that personal safety would be compromised in regional Australia”.
But the biggest complaint about regional Australia was the lack of free WiFi.
This had become a tourism marketing problem for Australia because half of this segment of Chinese Millennial travellers used social media, and more than a third used travel review sites, to plan their holidays.
“Lack of free WiFi in regional Australia is a significant barrier and limits opportunities to post real-time experiences,” the report concluded.
This group of Chinese travellers to Australia grew 18.8 per cent last year, as the overall number of Chinese visitors grew 5.5 per cent to reach a record 1.42 million. Ten airlines fly between Australia and China, with a potential 2.2 million inbound seats.
Mr Birmingham said Australia had been successful in attracting tour groups from China over the past decade but a new type of traveller was emerging as incomes rose.
“Chinese FITS are also more likely to stay three times longer than those on an organised group tour, which presents a great opportunity for Australia’s regional tourism offerings given the strong correlation between length of stay and likelihood to travel beyond Australia’s gateways and iconic attractions,” he said.
The long distances in regional Australia and lack of transport options were also identified as problems by the research report. Chinese state media agency Xinhua on Wednesday wrote about Australia’s lack of high-speed rail lines.