Harnessing the power of alumni for tourism

A recent survey conducted by the Australia China Alumni Association, Victoria University, and the Central University of Finance and Economics, demonstrates the role Chinese students play in facilitating Australia’s international tourism market, writes Joanne Pyke.

“Don’t underestimate the power of alumni!”
was one of the messages from Trade Minister Craig Emerson at a recent public forum in Melbourne.

 
He was referring to the increasing numbers of international students that have been graduating from higher education studies at Australian institutions every year for more than two decades.
 
Chinese students are by far the largest group of international students and by the time many students graduate, Australia is their ‘second home’. Being comfortable in both countries means that alumni are a major resource for building people-to-people links, investment partnerships, trade and knowledge exchange. Governments world-wide are slowly recognising this power but, until now, there has been relatively little attention given to just how powerful a large alumni base can be, and how this potential can be nurtured via policy and focused industry engagement strategies.
With much better university alumni data now available for the first time, ground-breaking new research has explored the role and influence of China-based Australian alumni on travel and tourism. A large scale survey of 1200+ alumni living in China combined with in-depth interviews focused on the alumni cohort’s connections and travel to and from Australia. The project was undertaken in partnership between the Australia China Alumni Association, Victoria University, Melbourne and the Central University of Finance and Economics. The aim of the survey was to assess alumni travel behaviour, intentions, motivations and barriers to travel.
The results were extremely positive and show clearly that alumni are frequent travellers with intentions to continue to visit Australia in the future.
 
Findings showed 64 percent of alumni surveyed had returned to Australia in the past five years at least once and almost all respondents – 93 percent – intend to travel to Australia in the next five years. Indeed, the majority – 54 percent – said they intend to travel two or more times.acaa_toiurism_survey_web
 
The major reason for travelling to Australia was for education – 40 percent, a holiday – 30 percent, and for family reasons – 25 percent.  This is often combined with business – 14 percent, visiting friends – 19 percent, and professional reasons – 13 percent.
 
When in Australia, the majority stay for at least two weeks, engage in a wide range of activities and use independent means of transport including public transport – 78 percent, while 32 percent hire a car. The findings also show that alumni recommend Australia as a place to have a holiday, do business and to study. For example, some 71 percent of alumni said they had recommended Australia as a place to study. On return to China, they also frequently play host to Australian visitors. These and other findings show that alumni are an important cohort with considerable influence in promoting two-way travel between China and Australia.

*Pictured above: Chinese alumni of Australian universities play a huge role facilitating increased tourism from China to Australia, according to a recent ACAA / Victoria University survey. (Picture reproduced courtesy Tourism Australia)

The research also identifies a number of issues that prevent alumni from travelling as much as they would like.

The key barriers to more frequent travel include lack of time, the cost and inconvenience of flights and difficulties in obtaining a visa.  Other barriers include a lack of relevant information about the range of experiences possible in Australia.  Overall, the findings highlight a range of opportunities to maximise the potential of alumni in promoting tourism and travel for the mutual benefit of the Chinese and Australian tourism industries.  For example, one suggestion is to consider how alumni can be given greater status in recognition of their important role of supporting Australia/China connections and longer-term, easier to obtain visitor visas. 

 
 

*Lead researcher, Dr Joanne Pyke and Edward Smith, Founder of the ACAA will present the full research findings for discussion at a forum of industry leaders, government policy makers and academics in Melbourne on Friday, April 5, 2013 at Victoria University.  For further enquiries about the event or the research, contact joanne.pyke@vu.edu.au

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