Tourism Australia boss: ‘Being China-ready is critical for Australian tourism’

In a recent interview with The Byte, Australia and New Zealand’s news John OSullivan, Managing Director, Tourism Australianetwork for professionals working in the youth and backpacker market, John O’Sullivan Tourism Australia’s newly-appointed Managing Director has explained the importance of the Australian tourism industry becoming better prepared to serve young, adventurous Chinese visitors.

The full interview is available here, though below I’ve provided some of the highlights of his discussion with The Byte’s Editor in Chief, Tom Wheeler:

  • Youth travellers/backpackers are an important part of Australia’s visitor mix, especially from key markets such as the UK and Continental Europe, the US and Korea. Youth visitors leave a powerful economic footprint for Australia – representing more than a quarter of the country’s international visitors, contributing A$12 billion annually (or more than A$7,000 per trip).
  • After challenging years for the economies of the key outbound markets of the UK and Germany, arrivals figures are starting to show resurgence from these countries.

Becoming China ready

  • Chinese travel attitudes are changing from heavily scripted sightseeing to more unique, personal experiences. Tourism Australia (TA)’s campaigns and marketing activities in China are focussing upon this.
  • Examples of Australian tourism operators adapting their business to cater better for this market include Merlin Entertainments Group, operator of Sydney Aquarium, WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, Sydney Tower Eye and Madame Tussaud’s Sydney. Queensland is also providing cultural awareness training for its staff, with annual refreshers. Other simple measures include welcome signage and guides in Simplified Chinese.
  • While Tourism Australia doesn’t currently have a specific strategy for the youth market, Mr O’Sullivan sees Tourism 2020, the existing all-encompassing tourism plan as a yield strategy, less about visitor numbers and more about maximizing the amount of money Australia’s international visitors spend when they visit.

A copy of Tourism Australia’s latest data on the youth market (year to December 2013) is available here.

My take

Sydney Harbour, May 2014As I discussed in my keynote presentation at this year’s Australian Youth Travel Conference as well as subsequent blog posts, Australia does indeed have the assets to attract cash-strapped working holidaymakers from Northern Europe, as well as an increasing number of visitors from across Asia.

The number of visitors from China bears this out, and John O’Sullivan is exactly right in that more work has to be done to help providers in the country understand these new types of visitor, their desires and travel style.

With Australia ranked by young Asian travellers in 3rd place in the league of dream destinations, in PATA’s recent report The Rise of the Young Asian Traveller there is clearly interest and demand for young people across Northeast and Southeast Asia (ie. not just China). Converting these dreams into bookings, and converting passive visitors into those who want to actively engage with what the Australian youth travel industry is offering will require hard work, especially since these visitors’ tastes seem to differ slightly from those that the industry is traditionally used to.


Find out more about PATA’s report The Rise of the Young Asian Traveller, as well as its recommendations to the tourism industry.

Find out more about The Byte

Find out more about Tourism Australia’s work with the youth market

Find out more about the author of Gen C Traveller

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