Connect your Chinese tourism strategies
WRITER: Carole Lydon
PHOTOGRAPHS: Kindly supplied by Jacob's Creek Visitor Centre, Barossa Valley, South Australia
We hear it. We read it. But are we ready for it? China is on the move. Its people are travelling in a way they never have before.
China is the world’s second largest economy. Even though its growth has slowed in recent years, it is still massive and still growing. If South Australian business and government can work together and think outside the square, the economic opportunities for our state are almost limitless.
According to the South Australian Tourism Commission’s Activating China 2020 Report, some 430,000 people visited Australia from China in 2012 for leisure purposes; of these, only 11,000 chose to holiday in South Australia. In that same year, 12,000 Chinese students came here to study. And they stayed far longer.
Industry collaboration is not new. Indeed, the state’s development model for advanced manufacturing is underpinned by collaboration. When tapping into the Chinese market, Chinese tourist visitation offers tremendous opportunity for growth. Leveraging inbound tourism to maximise the performance of our exports in Chinese markets is the next step. In short, a great holiday experience creates a great South Australian advocate.
In their recent white paper for the Australian Marketing Institute, titledChasing the Dragon, Dr Jasha Bowe and Dr Justin Cohen, Research Fellows at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science highlight the need for a strategic and research-based approach to understanding the Chinese market. They suggest that by increasing the number of Chinese inbound tourists and maximising their tourist experience, we can strengthen the South Australian brand. Food, wine and education offer fertile ground for effective collaboration.
Cohen is clear about SA’s future, “We should be harnessing the potential of the huge number of food, wine and tourism businesses out there. We need high-level policy to integrate our tourism and education markets. And research insights can be used to help businesses better understand the Chinese market.”
According to Cohen, mental and physical availability are key when it comes to promoting Brand SA, “It is South Australia’s job to help Chinese people understand our culture and experience the things we are proud of. We have wonderfully fresh and clean resources in South Australia, and a beautiful environment in which exquisite food and wine are made.”
The Ehrenberg-Bass Institute works closely with peak industry bodies to better understand how tourist visitation and experience impacts on their evaluation of Australian wine and seafood, and their likelihood to purchase. The Institute’s broader China research program is supported by the Australian Grape and Wine Authority (formerly the Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation), and includes four China-specific projects designed to help Australian wine businesses match their marketing to Chinese audiences here and in China.
China Wine Barometer: 1300 Chinese wine drinkers across nine Chinese cities are surveyed every six months to measure their awareness and perceptions of Australian wine, regions, grape varieties, and its competitors.
Chinese Lexicon Project: conducted across three Chinese cities, this research aims to establish where there is equivalence in the types of words used by Western and Chinese wine drinkers to describe the range of wine flavours, aromas and characteristics.
Inbound Tourism Project: researching how to best intercept Chinese inbound tourists (i.e. at the cellar door or through a wine dinner) and create positive food and wine experiences so they can advocate for Australian wine on returning home.
Chinese Student Wine Club: the student wine club is run every six months with 150 Asian, predominantly Chinese, students. This research, while interesting and fun for the students, develops techniques to optimise the wine learning experience for novice drinkers and creates Australian wine advocates.
There are a small number of wineries which specifically target Chinese inbound tourism and its potential to maximise exports. These range from Red Dolls Wine in McLaren Vale to the much larger Jacobs Creek label, owned by Pernod Ricard and based in the Barossa Valley.
Create value with symbols
China is now the 2nd largest consumer of luxury goods in the world. Dr Song Yang at the UniSA Business School researches Chinese consumer behaviour under the influence of Chinese culture and political ideology. His research shows a clear relationship between the importance of social hierarchy and the transformation of materialism as a Chinese value. “It is important to understand that what happens to the generation before affects the next generation,” says Dr Yang.
“We have studied three generations: the Cultural Revolution Generation (born 1930-1950), the Economic Reform Generation (born 1951-1960) and the Social Change Generation (born 1961-1975). From this we understand how the acquisition of luxury items becomes necessary to build and sustain status.” Dr Yang’s advice for South Australian tourism marketers is that the experience must be exclusive and authentic. While overseas experiences are important for Chinese tourists, symbolic values are more crucial. Chinese tourists may not really understand the Indigenous cultures but they need the symbolic icons in their photos to share with friends and family. For social status to be reinforced you must show proof of your luxury experience.
It was when Tim Nicholls, Co-owner of Red Dolls Wine, travelled to China as part of the UniSA Business School MBA program that he started to understand the types of experiences that Chinese visiting tourists were looking for and the true scale of potential for the South Australian market. The study trip was also a catalyst for recognising the remarkable potential in combining education with tourism. Since then, Red Dolls Wine has worked closely with Study Adelaide to introduce Chinese students to wine education experiences.
According to Nicholls, “Being ‘China Ready’ means that your business is prepared to make Chinese tourists feel welcome, comfortable and connected. And it means building a stellar reputation for being ‘China ready’ in attitude and aptitude.”
Any traveller knows the relief they feel in a foreign country when someone starts speaking their language. At its most basic, the Chinese tourism experience here should offer some of that comfort. Pernod Ricard conducts considerable research into the Chinese market. Jacobs Creek is an iconic label which has attracted tourists from all over the world to see ‘the Creek’. Staff at the Jacobs Creek Visitor Centre are trained in Chinese customs, with Mandarin speakers and signage easily available.
The issue for South Australia, however, is far more multifaceted than the individual tourist experience. This is an economic opportunity with immense business and cultural complexity. It requires attention at every level of business from government strategy and policy, to peak industry associations, right through to business support.
According to Bowe and Cohen’s report, business readiness and industry integration are crucial, but no more crucial than the logistical imperative of actually getting people here from China. The saying ‘If you build it, they will come’ no longer applies. Perhaps, ‘If you build it and schedule a direct flight, they will come’ is closer to the mark. There is no doubt that the scale of economic growth South Australia is looking for hinges on this practicality.
Tapping into China’s economic growth rides on the precarious balance of getting people here and being ready for them. It is about creating a practical strategy to assist the 18,000+ South Australian food, wine and tourism businesses to access the Chinese market. It is about acknowledging that students can also be tourists and will most definitely be advocates if they have an enjoyable experience. And it is about creating and using a South Australian brand which holds us firmly in the minds of Chinese people when they head home.
Dr Justin Cohen is a Research Fellow with the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science at the UniSA Business School. His research interests include wine marketing, retail and consumer behaviour.
Tim Nicholls is an owner-operator of Red Dolls Wine. He is also a graduate of UniSA’s MBA program.
Dr Song Yang is a Lecturer of International Management at the UniSA Business School. His research interests include marketing strategies and consumer behaviour under the influence of Chinese cultural values.
> To find out more, visit the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science