Chinese on tourism radar

Francesca MannGeraldton Guardian

Regional WA will be promoted as a major tourist destination to China after a lucrative marketing agreement was made last week.

The deal with China’s online travel service Alitrip will see WA and its attractions promoted to millions of Chinese travellers each year.

In October, Geraldton Air Charter chief pilot and managing directory Wendy Mann will be among a delegation of WA tourism business representatives who will travel to China to meet 45 outbound tour agencies and promote the State as a holiday destination.

Geraldton Air Charter has been catering to Chinese tourists since 2014 when it was endorsed China Ready — accreditation from the Chinese Government to look after its citizens. The company now has two Chinese-speaking pilots and a marketing officer.

In just the past 10 days, it has had more than 100 visitors from China.

Mrs Mann said Chinese tourism was a growing market and it was important for companies in the Mid West to cater to Chinese visitors.

“Until about 18 months ago, Chinese tour companies were taking their guests to the South West rather than the Mid West,” she said. “Geraldton can attract more Chinese tourists by promoting the pristine conditions, the clear skies and our great climate.”

Mrs Mann said the Pink Lake, Hutt Lagoon, at Port Gregory, was one of the charter’s most popular destinations.

“The Chinese are fascinated by the colour of the lagoon, with many coming especially to the area to see the colour,” she said.

“It has become a status symbol for the Chinese to say they have seen the Pink Lake.”

Mrs Mann said Geraldton needs to work on how easy it is for Chinese tourists to purchase lobster.

“In a video we’ve been showing in China, a Chinese movie star caught a lobster,” she said.

“A lot of people refer to that video when they get here.

“They want to be able to purchase a lobster to eat back at their accommodation.”

Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Glen Whistler-Carr said the agreement would see more Chinese tourists visit Geraldton as they sought a unique experience.

“For them, the experience is all-important,” he said.

“They are not a nation of people known for lying on sandy beaches.

“They want to see rivers and countryside and natural beauty that they do not see within Chinese life. They are now discovering the natural beauty through experience tourism that only regional centres are able to offer.”

Recent statistics from Tourism WA showed in the past 12 months to March, more than 45,000 people from China visited WA, spending $239 million.

Tourism WA is hoping to increase the number of visitors to 100,000 by 2020, stating the deal with Alitrip will help achieve that goal.

Mr Whistler-Carr said the City of Greater Geraldton was working on plans to increase the number of Chinese tourists to the region.

“They’re developing different experiences for that market and the chamber supports any sort of training that can be facilitated to help businesses be China Ready,” he said.

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