How International Tourist Boards Wooing the Chinese

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Last year the Chinese overtook the Germans as the WORLD'S highest spending tourists according to the Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), so it's not surprising that tourists boards around the world have their eye on the giant Chinese market.

Half of China’s population is now online and two-thirds of international Chinese travellers use the internet to research and book trips. However, this has created a problem rather than made it easy to reach potential Chinese tourists. China is not part of the World Wide Web and run their own unique search engines. International tourist boards have to learn a whole new system and create information and websites specifically for China.

The other way to woo the Chinese is to get creative with other mediums.

Romancing the Tiger

Some tourism boards such as Thailand have got theatrical and romantic in their bid to woo the Chinese. After a blockbuster film Lost in Thailand became a sensation in China, tourist numbers leaped. Mauritius is hoping to follow with a soon to be released feature film entitled Five Minutes to Tomorrow, a romance starring Chinese actress Liu Shishi.

Tourism New Zealand’s went one step further hosting the real wedding of Yao Chen, an actress with 66 million followers on Weibo (China’s answer to Twitter) in Queenstown in 2012. Tourism New Zealand than received 40 million posts and comments, 7,000 news articles and a leap in Chinese honeymooners.

Appealing to Nature

New Zealand must be doing plenty of other things right.  While in actual tourist numbers they rate 23rd according to the London based Euromonitor research group (Australia ranks 15th) they recently topped a Chinese survey of list of 22 nations as Chinese tourists' favorite destination. This quarterly survey by the China Tourism Academy (CTA) measures travelers' satisfaction across indicators such as public services, environmental conditions and security.  

The reason the Chinese were so impressed by New Zealand- nature and low levels of pollution. This is both good news and a wakeup call for rural Australia tour operators.

Shop but Not `til they Drop

The Chinese are big spenders on food and accommodation (and gambling is some regions), but they are also careful spenders who according to consumer surveys have moved from buying designer status labels to being more discerning quality and value. They will dish out the cash only if they believe in the quality and uniqueness of object.

Ironically, here lies the opportunity for authentic quality indigenous art and local produce, rather than cheesy made in China souvenirs (stuffed Koalas and fake didgeridoos) once flogged to other Asian tourists.

By the sheer numbers the opportunity to attract high-end tourists looking for luxury goods cannot be underestimated. Printemps department store in Paris has a special entrance for Chinese tour groups. Harrods in London has put in 100 Union Pay terminals scattered throughout the store. Both are recruiting Chinese-speaking staff and have Chinese-language websites and maps.

Relaxing Visa Conditions

Countries that have reduced the time and paperwork for Chinese visa holders are already being rewarded. The Indian island nation of the Maldives waivered visas a few years ago and since then Chinese honeymooners and families are coming in huge numbers. Last year the number of Chinese visitors to the tiny island nations increased by 45% and reached nearly a third of the 1.1million.

The USA has started to interview Chinese visa-applicants online and allows them to pick up their visas at bank branches, rather than travel to embassies. It has seen a 22% increase in Chinese visitors last year. 

The Australian government is also looking at simplifying visas for Chinese tourists. Chinese can apply on line and new multiple entry visas are underway. However, one barrier that James Packer recently complained about to ABC news is that the application must be in English.

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