Report finds businesses fail to woo Chinese

Sarah IsonBusselton Dunsborough Times
Flametree’s Liz Mencel sets up mutlilingual signs.
Camera IconFlametree’s Liz Mencel sets up mutlilingual signs. Credit: Busselton Dunsborough Times, Pierra Willix

Travel distances, limited retail hours and a lack of online engagement internationally have been identified as some of the key gaps in tourism operators being “China-ready”, according to a new report highlighting the region’s lack of traction for Chinese visitors.

Pointing to recent Tourism WA statistics, the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre report Are We China Ready? noted only 7 per cent of Chinese tourists visited the South West and found “distance represented a problem for some visitors”, which, coupled with early shutdown of retail outlets and services, posed significant inconvenience to visitors on tight time frames.

Margaret River Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Rebecca Young said transport and travel times were long recognised as major issues for the region and highlighted the importance of the Busselton-JUMargaret River Airport to make visitation easier. in the future.

“This would also see more time in the region rather than getting here,” she said. “On a local level, we encourage businesses to consider the benefits of increasing their customer experience, retail hours and presence on social media, with WeChat being the most used App in China.”

The report noted uptake of programs such as the Tourism Council of WA’s China Ready Accreditation — aimed at helping businesses cater specifically to Chinese customers — were “poorly accepted or not yet considered” by South West operators.

Wonky Windmill eco farm operator Michelle Fleming said she had not yet considered catering her offerings more specifically to Chinese tourists, especially given the 40 per cent spike in Singaporean visitors she experienced this year.

Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association marketing group manager Sharna Kearney said the Chinese market still fell well behind the top five key tourism markets in the region — of which Singapore is No.2 — but was growing faster than most others and needed to be better catered for.“There are a number of tourism operators in our region that are ‘China-ready’ in that they offer translations, mandarin speaking staff and specialised menu items, and they are having great success with the Chinese market,” she said.

“However, there is still more to do to offer Chinese visitors a seamless experience across the destination.”

Operators such as Swings and Roundabouts and Flametree Wines recently implemented multi-lingual signage and materials and started using online Chinese platforms such as WeChat to better connect with customers.

However, Busselton Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Jo Richards said while some operators were turning their attention to Chinese markets, this needed to be a much greater focus across the board.

“It’s important that we continually highlight to our businesses in this region that Asian visitors are incredibly important...and we need to ensure we are being inclusive of their culture and assisting them to have the best visiting experience possible,” she said.

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