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‘You’re not even market ready, mate… let alone China ready’ warns Destination NSW CEO

Australia’s regional tourism operators aren’t ready to cater to Chinese tourists, and are suffering from “China blindness”, according to Sandra Chipchase, CEO of Destination NSW.

“In regional, everyone’s got China blindness. They think ‘there’s a billion people!’, and it’s like ‘yes, but how many of them are coming?'” Chipchase told the audience at Mumbrella’s Travel Marketing Summit on Thursday.

“We’re saying to them, look ‘you’re not even market ready, mate, let alone export ready, let alone China ready.”

Chipchase: ‘In regional, everyone’s got China blindness’

According to the Destination NSW CEO, despite China’s size, the Chinese market doesn’t make up a large proportion of visitors to Australia’s regional areas.

Instead, “it’s the traditional western markets that go out to the regions”, she told the audience, pointing out that the 17 to 19 percent of the international market comes from the UK, followed by New Zealand, then USA, then Germany at about seven percent, while China comes in at about six percent.

Chipchase explained how despite the numbers, many operators were still attempting to attract the market, but without basic facilities in place.

“It’s trying to take them on a journey, because they’ve got to be prepared. You’re saying to them: ‘Do you have an in-room directory in Mandarin?’ ‘No.’ ‘Have you got a fire escape information in Mandarin on the back of the door?’ ‘No.’

“This is where we’ve got to come back to basics. Who is your target market, and who should you be targeting? Ring your state tourist office, because they can tell you who is coming.”

However, even if regional tourism operators think they’ve got a handle on the market, things can change faster than marketers can adapt, warned researcher Dr Joseph Cheer, who was also on the panel.

“The China market is not a homogenous one,” he explained.

“Even saying ‘the China market’ can be quite deceiving. Over the last few years, research has shown the market is changing quite rapidly. Just when you’ve got a handle on what they want, it changes again.”

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