A mix of academics, policymakers, tourist attraction agencies and operators came together to share insights and perspectives on Chinese outbound tourism at an international conference in Wellington on 4 December.
The “China’s New Tourists: New Zealand and the Year of Chinese Tourism” conference provided a forum for debate and discussion on how New Zealand can best position itself ahead of the 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism.
The conference was organised by the NZ Contemporary China Research Centre in partnership with the China-New Zealand Tourism Research Unit at Waikato University.
The following were some key takeaways from the day.
1. China’s new tourists: independent, tech-savvy, female
A number of experts presented insights based on research to build a picture of China’s outbound tourists: their demographic profiles, travel behaviour and tourist preferences.
Kate Deng from KateTravel shared key trends in Chinese tourist behaviour from the FIT (free independent traveller) market. These included growth in self-drive holidays, adventure tourism and sharing experiences with friends and family back home via social media.
According to Dr Rui Song, the main travellers are “millennials, born between the 1980s and 1990s, who perceive travel as a way to enjoy life not purchase products. They love to share with friends and are a female-dominated group – 62 per cent”.
Professor Phillip Pearce also shed light on emerging trends which offer new tourism opportunities including “an interest in the mundane and everyday including ordinary stuff such as what it’s like to live in a New Zealand”.
He spoke about the rise of “pop culture play” to describe “the move from gazing to participating through getting involved in experiences”.
2. Demand from China may not be constant
Although there was consensus that China’s outbound tourism has grown rapidly over the past decades, there was debate over the level of future growth.
Professor Haiyan Song cautioned against continued levels of tourism demand because of a downward trend in China’s economy as well as “competing hot destinations within Asia-Pacific such as Thailand and Vietnam”.
Dr Rui Song was more optimistic pointing to changing tourist preferences driving increasing flows of Chinese tourists to places such as New Zealand in the future.
3. NZ needs to ‘shout its uniqueness out loud’
The importance of knowing your visitors, their habits and expectations was a recurring point. However knowing what makes you unique as a destination was also reiterated.
Canadian tourism expert David Goldstein encouraged New Zealand to “shout its uniqueness out loud”.
“Know who you are to retain your authenticity. Tourists aren’t looking for a trip, they’re looking for a badge. Find that piece is yours – that’s different from competitors.“
Dr Mingming Cheng, a millennial himself, spoke about the emerging younger generation Chinese tourists, “the first to travel freely who want to be different from their parents” and were attracted to destinations that were unique and different.
4. Kiwis need to be ‘China-ready’
Community-readiness was a recurring theme and included practical considerations such e-commerce platforms, tourism infrastructure as well as cultural knowledge.
David Goldstein, President and CEO of Destination Canada gave advice based on lessons learnt from the 2018 Canada-China Year of Tourism.
“China-readiness workshops” were seen as an essential way to ensure locals were on board and help overcome negative attitudes towards increased tourists based on perceived challenges in local infrastructure.
Australia-based Professor Sam Huang reminded the audience that tourism doesn’t exist in isolation, but presents an opportunity for “enhanced cultural understanding among the public through people-to-people contact”.
– Asia Media Centre