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"New strategy for a New China": Australian tourism changes tack

07/10/2014| 12:26:00 PM|

New distribution strategy will be supported by increased advertising spending. New and innovative itineraries and programs, designed to meet the needs of Australia's target market in China, will also be developed and promoted by Tourism Australia.

The fruits of Australia's largest ever tourism drive, the Greater China Corroboree held last month, have begun to yield dividends with a new strategic direction that Tourism Australia's (TA) ambitious new Tsar, John O'Sullivan, hopes will boost Australia's chances in the global race for tourism's highest prize: the outbound Chinese tourists with a taste for sophisticated adventure.

Speaking Monday with Xinhua, TA's Managing Director, John O' Sullivan, just six months into one of Australia's highest profile public positions, described Australia's plans to embark upon a new 'high yield' distribution strategy in China, the golden apple of international tourism's highly competitive outbound market.

Australia has been fastidious in its partnerships, choosing to build long-term relationships with what O'Sullivan calls "an elite network of specialist travel agents, professionally trained to sell high quality Australian holiday packages to the country's rapidly growing middle classes."The lessons of fumbling at the door, when sophisticated Chinese travellers come knocking, have been taken on board by O'Sullivan's tenure which began in January. 'China-Ready,' is more a mantra here, than a motto as Australian officials implement travel structures defined by analyzing the do's and don't's of serving the Middle Kingdom guests.

Last year has seen Sydney airport full of Mandarin-speaking ' Red Ambassadors,' the world famous Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb open a 'Mandarin Climb' with local bilingual guides, and an explosion in government funded workshops all targeted at ensuring Chinese visitors are given the best of Australia, with Chinese characteristics.

Under the new model, launched Tuesday, TA will work closely with a select group of travel agencies, each highly committed to developing new and innovative Australian tourism products for Chinese travellers.

O'Sullivan, who took up the post after running Rupert Murdoch's Fox Sports as Chief Operating Officer, told Xinhua the move was closely aligned with Australia's Tourism 2020 strategy and hoped the drive would see more affluent travellers from Australia's fastest growing and by far most valuable inbound visitors explore the 'secret and sophisticated parts of the country that Australians themselves adore.'

The strategy comes as the shape and scope of visitors from China begin to evolve into more of a reflection of modern Chinese society, a society that has grown in step with its hard-won economic independence.

"We're starting to see a big shift away from lower yielding group travel to more free and independent travel," Mr. O'Sullivan said.

"But where other nations just see dollar signs, in economic success, we see a market that has grown in sophistication, in expectation and in confidence. They know who they are and they know what they want. It's up to us to meet their expectations."At the time of O'Sullivan's move to the big chair of Tourism overseeing the 94 billion Australian dollars it generates in spending, Andrew Robb, Australia's minister for trade and investment, said Australian tourism is not only growing, but is ' well respected and more unified' than ever.

"It's a good time to hand over the baton and, in John, the right person to take things forward."The new strategy borrows heavily from O'Sullivan's previous stints as Events Queensland Chief Executive; Football Federation Australia, Chief Commercial Officer and critically, the man at the center of Australia's largest and most defining events of the last 20 years , chiefly the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Organizing Committee; the 1995 Rugby World Cup; and the 1994 World Masters Games.

He said, "the logical next step is to look at distribution, and how this too can be improved to better reach these independent minded travellers."Tourism Australia launched a major FIT tourism campaign in China in March, specifically targeting independent travellers by highlighting many of the country's unique and most distinctive holiday experiences.

O'Sullivan has been keen to begin building a platform for Chinese guests within China itself, and not just when visitors arrive at Sydney airport.

The vast majority of international travel out of China was still booked through travel agencies and O'Sullivan sees this as ' an opportunity for partnership,' not an obstacle.

"Alongside the work we're already doing to increase flights and improve aviation access, we see an equally important role for travel agents to provide this new breed of independent Chinese travellers with the information and resources to build a much richer and higher quality holiday experience," he said.

Tourism Australia says it is confident that the focus on higher spending Chinese visitors would be welcomed by the industry, who could expect to realize improved financial returns by investing in better quality tourism products and more 'China ready' experiences.

"Increases in independent travellers mean more Australian tourism businesses are getting to welcome our Chinese visitors, as they go farther and experience more of our country," O'Sullivan said.

As part of the new recruitment drive, Australia's national tourism organization aims to sign up between 30 and 35 specialist agents in the first year, based primarily in the 'Tier 1' cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, plus a selection of 'Tier 2' cities, including Nanjing, Hangzhou, Qingdao, Chengdu and Chongqing.

The new distribution strategy will be supported by increased advertising spending. New and innovative itineraries and programs, designed to meet the needs of Australia's target market in China, will also be developed and promoted by Tourism Australia.

China is Australia's fastest growing and most valuable inbound tourism market, with more than 750,000 Chinese visitor arrivals spending more than 5 billion Australian dollars in the past 12 months.

Figures recently released by Tourism Australia suggest that annual spending by Chinese visitors to Australia could rise to 13 billion Australian dollars by 2020.

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TAGS: outbound travel | China | Tourism Australia
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