The Sydney Opera House, the Great Barrier Reef, kangaroos and koalas all remain big draw cards for luring Chinese travellers to Australia according to research commissioned by Tourism Australia as it ramps up its marketing strategy for China.
A record 558,600 Chinese visited Australia during the 12 months ending January 2012, up 17.1 percent – and if all goes to plan, China will continue to remain Australia’s biggest tourism market by value well into the next decade.
Research conducted by consultancy GfK Blue Moon represents the first time Tourism Australia has undertaken comprehensive research into the travel behaviour and preferences of consumers living in China’s rapidly growing second tier cities, including Chongqing, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Qingdao, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Wuhan and Xiamen.
Tourism Australia will use the results to enhance its 10-year China marketing plan aimed at continuing to lure the country’s middle and upper classes to visit Australia after conducting research across 13 of China’s largest and fastest growing cities.
The research provides key insights into the Chinese consumer, their purchasing intentions and desire for experiencing travel.
Key findings from the report found Chinese travellers’ strongest preference was Australia as their most desired long haul destination and also identified high consistency in consumer behaviour and trends across both China’s largest primary cities (Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou) and its emerging secondary cities.
While iconic landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House and the Great Barrier Reef remained top of the list for Chinese visitors to Australia, the research found awareness and regional knowledge beyond these typical icons was more limited – more so amongst customers in secondary cities.
Other findings showed no obvious barriers for Chinese travellers to Australia, beyond time, distance and cost. Specifically, respondents perceived the Australian visa application process being easier or comparable to other long haul destinations.
Traditional travel advertising, travel media and word-of-mouth were the main channels of influence for Chinese travellers – although social media is becoming more influential.
The majority of respondents retained a strong preference for group travel, however Chinese travellers also showed a desire for more flexible travel options.
Group travel is preferred for first time visits.
The Internet continues to play a role in travel planning but the majority of respondents are still likely to rely on travel agents to organise and book their travel, in particular flights, transport, organising visas and accommodation.
The release of the findings confirms China’s ongoing status as Australia’s fastest growing and most valuable international tourism market, worth more than A$3.8 billion in 2011, up 15 percent on 2010 figures, according to International Visitor Survey figures.
Andrew McEvoy, Managing Director, Tourism Australia said the findings would help prioritise marketing activities in China as well as educating the Australian tourism industry to capitalise on the anticipated strong growth in the middle and upper classes wanting to travel long-haul outside of China.
Mr McEvoy said Tourism Australia would make a further record investment in marketing resources in China in 2012.
“The market is unprecedented in terms of its high growth and high value. The Chinese consumer also has great enthusiasm for our country – in their view there is nothing like Australia,” he said.
“But to achieve long-term success in a now highly competitive China market we must seek greater understanding of the many millions of customers who live outside of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou and what drives their travel decisions in the immediate future. That’s where the real China growth opportunities lie.”
The research was conducted in late 2011 based on a targeted sample of almost 2,800 Chinese leisure travellers aged between 30 and 49 years of age and with an above average annual household income of more than 120,000 RMB (A$25,000).
“The response in China to Tourism Australia’s current ‘There’s nothing like Australia’ campaign has been better than anywhere else overseas, with over 90 percent of those who see the campaign confirming they had started researching a future trip to Australia,” Mr McEvoy said.
“In the absence of significant differences between our target customers in both its super cities and emerging metropolises we have a fantastic opportunity to build upon the very successful platform already created through our existing tourism campaign work in China. This will allow us to achieve some significant economies of scale as we seek to expand our marketing across what is a vast and still largely untapped market.”
Victoria Parr, Director of Social Research at GfK Blue Moon, said the findings present significant opportunities for Australian tourism to showcase itself well beyond the country’s most famous attractions and experiences.
“Whilst well known icons such as the Sydney Opera House, Great Barrier Reef, kangaroos and koalas continue to be key drawcards driving Australia’s popularity, this research also highlights opportunities to showcase Australia’s other, lesser known attractions to potentially draw in repeat visitors and further enhance the overall destination offer,” Ms Parr said.
The findings will help Tourism Australia’s marketing and support of its China 2020 Strategic Plan, announced in June 2011. Under the plan, Tourism Australia will target up to 30 Chinese cities, in a phased approach between now and decade’s end.
Tourism Australia believes the Chinese tourism sector has the potential to grow annual overnight visitor expenditure between A$7 billion and up to A$9 billion by 2020. ■
Key findings of the research:
• Australia is seen as an aspirational, highly regarded and ‘must visit’ destination.
• The experience of those who have visited Australia exceeds their expectations.
• Australia meets the majority of Chinese long haul travellers’ expectations.
• Combining natural and laid back experiences with the comforts of a developed country, offering modern infrastructure and unique and famous iconic attractions.
*All pictures reproduced courtesy Anson Smart / Tourism Australia.