Tourism Australia research shows that Chinese tourists value landscape. “World class beauty and natural features” was the top response in a major recent survey of Chinese tourists when asked what they were looking for in a holiday destination. Food, wine and produce came second, while safety was a close third.
Both Australia and New Zealand have a lot to offer in those three categories. But neither can make Chinese tourists enjoy great scenery if they’re still fuming from a terrible accommodation experience.
Tourism Australia research shows the single most important category for Chinese tourists is also the one in which accommodation providers most need to improve – language.
80 per cent of tourists said international hotels needed to lift their game in terms of providing Mandarin-speaking staff and translated travel and tourism guides.
This is a big issue. As Chinese tourists shake the shackles of the tour group and do more independent travel, they are more and more likely to find themselves in situations where Mandarin is a fruit, not a lingua franca.
But if we can make progress on this front, the antipodes is extremely well-placed to profit.
Australia is ranked first on Chinese people’s wishlists for travel, ahead of France and NZ. Australia has built its early lead with great marketing, including the website Australia.cn.
But New Zealand is manoeuvring cleverly. Dad, Where are we going? is not their only media tie-in.
The Hobbit was one of just 34 western films released in China in 2013, meaning New Zealand’s Middle-earth branding now makes sense in that market.
(Meanwhile, the most popular Australian film ever released in China is Bait, a horror-comedy about a shark chasing people around a flooded supermarket. Tourism Australia’s marketing people are presumably pulling their hair out.)
NZ has needed to work that little bit harder than Australia to win Chinese visitors, since it is further away. In recent times, it looks like that hard work is paying off.
But paradoxically, if NZ attracts a flood of visitors, that could end up working in Australia’s favour. For now, most Chinese tourists who visit NZ also tack on a visit to Australia. So the answer to Dad, Where Are We Going? might be: Both.
Jason Murphy publishes the highly popular blog Thomas the Think Engine and is a former writer for The Australian FinanciaL Review.