As the world welcomes the Chinese Year of the Dog, the most important holiday in the Chinese calendar, it’s timely to think how we can capitalise on the China Tourism boom here in NSW, that is, beyond the fringes of Sydney.
This year, in February alone, more than 100,000 extra Chinese tourists will make the trip down under, and preference Sydney over all other Aussie capital cities.
This means hundreds of millions more tourism dollars being pumped into the State’s economy.
There is no doubt that China tourism is big business and it’s everybody’s business.
Whether people are passing through town, staying a few nights at a bed and breakfast, visiting a winery or attending a local festival or sporting event, they’re all putting money back into the pockets of local business people, who in turn employ locals.
Last year I undertook a tourism mission to China, and it became apparent just how much potential there is for further growth; with millions more potential travellers looking for holiday destinations every year.
As a government, we must support our tourism operators to position themselves to capitalise on this exponential China growth, and we must advertise what “all” of NSW has to offer in a way that captures the Chinese market.
Of course, Sydney will remain our biggest drawcard and the gateway to NSW and Australia.
It is not a question about how we compete with the big city, but rather, how do we leverage off Sydney’s success?
We know that our natural attractions, wide open spaces and our food and wine are huge draw cards for Chinese tourists to Australia, so why aren’t they making the most of life outside the city?
Put simply, we need to make it easier and we need to make it known.
We have to make rural and regional NSW ‘China ready’.
According to a recent study by the NSW Business Chamber, just five per cent of Chinese visitors to NSW extend their trip beyond the Sydney metropolitan area.
The Chamber’s report, Getting Out There: Encouraging Chinese Tourism highlights the challenges faced by regional businesses in attracting those visitors and offers recommendations which can be adopted by Governments to capitalise on the Chinese tourism market.
The report recommends improving mobile coverage and public WiFi, investing in new infrastructure to improve access, focus on marketing to Chinese students in Australia and providing greater support to business.
As the State’s Tourism Minister I am well and truly up for this challenge.
I have established an independent Visitor Economy Taskforce to take a long-term look at the NSW visitor economy, with one of the areas of focus being China tourism and the dispersal of tourists into rural and regional NSW.
This Taskforce will report to me soon and when it does it will be time for actions.
Whether it is supporting rural and regional businesses and operators with marketing and sales opportunities, incorporating Chinese language into tours and wayfinding signage, providing specialised EFTPOS facilities or utilising Chinese social media platforms, I am determined to do more to ensure rural and regional NSW can get a bigger slice of the Chinese tourism pie.
We have made progress in this space, with a 33 per cent increase of Chinese travellers visiting rural and regional NSW last year, but as a rural-based Minister I’m not resting on my laurels.
I want this simply to be the start.
I am unashamedly committed to rural and regional NSW being a major part of our future visitor economy plan and I’m looking forward to every corner of the State reaping the benefits of this golden era for tourism.
Adam Marshall is the Member for Northern Tablelands, NSW Minister for Tourism and Major Events and Assistant Minister for Skills.