Small changes could make WA more ‘China-ready’ for tourists
— Limited trading hours, internet access and language the biggest barriers —
— Chinese tourists in WA generally younger, have more money to spend —
Western Australia’s biggest spending tourism market – Chinese visitors – frequently suggested that extending retail trading hours to 6.30pm on weeknights would enhance their stay, the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre’s latest report shows.
The BCEC report, Are we China ready? Chinese Tourism in Western Australia, examines the travel experiences of Chinese tourists in WA and suggests policy changes the WA Government can make to capture this growing market.
Lead report author Associate Professor Jianhong (Cecilia) Xia from the Faculty of Science and Engineering Curtin University said extending retail trading hours was one way the WA Government could increase the $291 million already being spent in the State by Chinese visitors each year.
“Our analysis shows 75 per cent of Chinese visitors to Western Australia are aged 20 to 40 years, and we know these travellers are generally looking to purchase luxury goods. In fact, Chinese visitors spend an average almost $500 per night when they stay in Australia,” Associate Professor Xia said.
“Visitors that we surveyed said they often filled their days with day trips away from Perth city and expected to spend the early evening shopping before eating out for dinner. Extending retail trading hours to 6:30pm during the week would allow more time for travellers to shop during the limited time they spend in Perth.”
Associate Professor Xia said the report also uses spatial mapping that reveals a distinct pattern where Chinese visitors travel in the State, highlighting the areas Western Australia could focus on increasing tourism infrastructure.
“A triangle of travel is noticeable, with Perth at the centre and points extending out to iconic Western Australian landmarks including the Pinnacles, Busselton Jetty and Wave Rock. Beyond this area, Karijini National Park, the Murchison River, Kalgoorlie and Esperance were also popular,” Associate Professor Xia said.
“Wave Rock has been marketed well in China and we can see this translating into strong visitor numbers. However, feedback from visitors was that it was a long way to travel to see one landmark, suggesting more infrastructure or transport links may be needed.”
Report co-author Professor Kirsten Holmes, Dean of Research at Curtin’s Faculty of Business and Law, said the report also recommends tourism operators make their products ‘China-ready’ to appeal to this growing market.
“Feedback from Chinese visitors suggest the tourism industry itself may not be doing enough to encourage Chinese tourism, and to make them feel more welcome when they arrived,” Professor Holmes said.
“Of the 22 tourism providers surveyed, 78 per cent did not have any Asian language skills or training and 44 per cent had no training or experience in the Asian market.
“Online courses or formal accreditation programs could go a long way in boosting Chinese visitor numbers in our tourist hotspots, but it is up to tourism providers, with some government assistance, to educate themselves in this growing market.”
Key findings from the report include:
WA’s Chinese visitors are a generally young cohort
- Analysis of Tourism Research Australia data shows 75 per cent of Chinese visitors to Western Australia were aged between 20 to 40 years, with 30 per cent aged between 25 to 29 years.
- Only 7 per cent of visitors used commercial group travel services, the majority travelled independently with their own itinerary, accommodation and transport.
- 8 per cent of visitors were here for recreation, including school-trips and visiting family or friends studying in Perth.
- China’s growing population of retirees are a fast-growing segment for outbound travel and preference special interest tours.
- International travel remains a luxury in China, so visitors are generally relatively wealthy and spend an average of $497 per night while in Australia.
- In 2017, Chinese tourists were WA’s sixth largest market for visitor arrivals (58,600 people), but the largest market in terms of expenditure ($291 million).
Chinese visitors are technologically advanced
- Survey respondents stated they use a wide variety of online sources to research and plan their trips, suggesting WA tourism providers need to keep online information up-to-date.
- Visitors expect free public internet to be accessible where they travel, but report it is often not available in regional WA.
- Poor mobile phone signal was also cited as a negative factor in regional travel, with visitors reporting they felt unsafe without phone coverage and wouldn’t know what to do in an emergency situation.
Food and entertainment preferences
- Most visitors reported they were happy to try new food experiences, but also stated they would like to have at least one familiar, Asian meal per day.
- Retail trading hours could be extended to 6:30pm every day of the week, with additional earlier trade on Sundays. Travellers didn’t know where to find information on entertainment options, and suggested an online directory of event listings would be helpful.
Capitalise on the time zone
- Perth shares the same time zone as all of China, but many travellers were not aware of this before they booked.
- Being in the same time zone makes Perth an ideal first stop on an Australian holiday, with more than 79 per cent of Chinese holiday visitors arriving direct into Perth. However, only 18 per cent stayed in Western Australia.
- Beijing was the most popular point of origin for those surveyed, but there are no direct flights between the city and Perth.
Lost in translation
- Survey respondents reported the language barrier as an issue when they travelled in Western Australia, but said they were used to it wherever they travelled.
- Tourists welcomed the use of multilingual signs in tourist precincts, on public transport and at major tourist attractions.
- 78 per cent of tourism providers surveyed did not have Asian language training or skills.
- Translation services are available at some regional tourism centres, but providers aren’t aware of the service or deem it too costly to use.
Travel patterns of visitors
- Marketing of Wave Rock to would-be travellers in China has resulted in popularity of the landmark among visitors.
- Tourists tend to travel from Perth to The Pinnacles, Wave Rock and the South West region and frequently commented on the beauty of WA’s landscape.
- Visitors said WA was less crowded than over East and their home in China, which was a major drawcard for visiting.