Dr Xiang (Robert) Li, an adjunct professor of the Griffith Institute for Tourism, says what we’ve seen so far from China is just the entree - with the main course yet to come.
Dr Li, who is based at the University of South Carolina, says the challenge ahead is to capitalise on the growth emerging outside of China’s four major gateway cities - Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.
“The emerging markets have tremendous potential and some of them, such as China, deserve immediate attention,” says Dr Li.
The Chinese arrived in record numbers to Australia last year, climbing 14.5 per cent to 709,000.
Dr Li also identifies Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa as other emerging markets that need urgent attention.
But he also warns that strategies employed by tourism bodies such as Gold Coast Tourism need to adapt to these emerging markets in order to capitalise on the momentum already building.
He says China should not be seen as a single market, as Japan was viewed in the 80s.
“When you are facing a gigantic market like China you cannot only have a country strategy. It’s not enough.”
Dr Li says it’s imperative to capture the market “one by one” in China, with each city cluster or region’s outbound tourism market developing independently of others.
“Beijing and Shanghai are the most targeted cities because they have more sophisticated travellers,” he says.
“We now need to move beyond these cities and look at cities that are smaller, off the radar, but that are very active in international travel.”
Trip Adviser found that 70 per cent of visitors to its Chinese website are located outside of China’s big four cities.
“I wouldn’t recommend covering the entire country as some areas are not ready yet,” says Dr Li.
“But digital platforms and social media can give cost-effective strategies to target a large proportion of the market which is becoming very strategic and tech savvy.”
The Chinese account for about 100 million international trips a year, and Dr Li says this is being achieved while China’s GDP per capita is around $US6000.
“Less than 3 per cent of Chinese have travelled internationally,” says Dr Li.
“China has just started. What we have seen is just the appetiser. The main course has not been served.”
Dr Li says while the Australian experience is resonating with Chinese tourists, not all visitors are simply interested in relaxation and fun.
He says culturally, the Chinese are taught that to achieve a fulfilling life one must read 10,000 books and travel 10,000 miles.
“The younger generation is interested in travel and having an in-depth local experience. But they’re not simply travelling for fun. Many of them are traveling for learning and self-development opportunities.”
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