Chinese tourist surge expected: the trick is getting them to Bendigo

DRAWCARD: The Easter Festival is one of a number of big tourist events that more Chinese Tourists are coming to Bendigo to see.
DRAWCARD: The Easter Festival is one of a number of big tourist events that more Chinese Tourists are coming to Bendigo to see.

As the number of Chinese visitors surge the head of a local tourism board says the challenge will be to draw them away from Australia’s most popular attractions.

Nationally, there are expectations visitor numbers could more than triple by 2026 and a new report by the Australia China Business Council and LEK Consulting has scored Australian industries on readiness to jump on opportunities from more Chinese tourists.

Among the findings, the report found 81 per cent of Chinese tourists visiting regional areas said they were very likely to to return, compared to 78 per cent only visiting capital cities.

Bendigo Tourism Board chair Kathie Bolitho said the main challenge was getting Chinese visitors out of the cities. Many were were first time visitors not seeking regional attractions.

“We want to attract independent Chinese travellers rather than just the traditional pre-curated bus tours with set itineraries and little time to explore our city and spend money within our local businesses,” she said.

One concern authors raised was that rural areas could miss out on flow-on benefits from Chinse visitors because of inadequate infrastructure.

Ms Bolitho said the new airport might assist requirements of high-end travellers.

“However, we first need to work with our core attractions to adapt and develop their experiences to appeal to the specific interests of this market before we will see any infrastructure issues,” she said.

Ms Bolitho said the industry was preparing as the Chinese market developed. Work was underway to market to Chinese visitors through social media, travel agents and foreign media. Seminars and mentoring was available to businesses developing products.

Yet she said other markets delivering a better return to the local tourism economy also required attention.

“We are seeing more Chinese tourists travelling to see our key events such as the Tulip display, Easter Festival and Bendigo Art Gallery exhibitions, however this is still quite small compared to our domestic market and other international markets,” Ms Bolitho said.