Tourism Australia has unveiled plans to build an elite network of travel agents in China that are specially trained to sell Australian tour packages to high-yielding clients from the increasingly lucrative inbound Chinese market. Under the new model, the tourism marketing group will work more closely with a small number of targeted travel agencies in higher income cities with good air connections to Australia, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Nanjing, Chengdu and Chongqing. The aim is to work with 30 to 35 travel agents in the first year.
Tourism Australia managing director John O’Sullivan said the move was closely aligned with its Tourism 2020 strategy and would encourage more affluent travellers from Australia’s fastest growing and most valuable inbound visitor market to consider Australia as a holiday destination.
“We’re starting to see a big shift away from lower-yielding group travel to more free and independent travel,” he said. “This is a lucrative market and one we’re targeting through our marketing activities within China. The logical next step is to look at distribution, and how this too can be improved to better reach these independent-minded travelers.”
Focus on Chinese Travelers
The Chinese market lacks major national travel agency chains, and most are focused on their own city market. Mr O’Sullivan said the vast majority of international travel out of China was still booked through travel agencies.
“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 traveler with the information and resources to build a much richer and higher quality holiday experience.”
The focus for Tourism Australia’s new program will be on joint advertising and developing new products and itineraries that better meet the needs of new Chinese travelers, in partnership with Australian accommodation providers and tour operators. Tourism Australia has marketing partnerships with China’s three largest airlines, China Southern, China Eastern and Air China, all of which fly to Australia. Tourism Australia is spending $17 million a year in partnership with the airlines. The marketing group is also working with China UnionPay, the nation’s monopoly credit and debit card provider, to ensure that Chinese tourists are able to pay for items with their cards when they visit Australia.
Chinese arrivals for the year ended in April reached 749,000, up 13.1 per cent on the previous year, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Chinese visitors spent $5.1 billion in Australia in the year ended in March. The Tourism 2020 plan had originally projected spending by Chinese visitors would reach $9 billion by 2020, but that has since been revised upwards to $13 billion as the market shifts away from cheap package tours to higher spending, independent travelers.