Australia's top tourism operators have been given a wake-up call to lift their standards or risk losing the valuable Chinese travel market. We have to compete with other fantastic holiday destinations like the US and language seems to be the biggest stumbling block. China's growing middle class has dramatically changed the way we need to serve Chinese visitors.
Peter Hook from Accor, our largest hotel group, has introduced a program at 35 hotels to make service and rooms more Chinese-friendly. They employ more Mandarin-speaking staff, serve their favourite foods, particularly a breakfast they are used to, and offer television programs direct from China.
Garry Crockett is Managing Director of China Ready, a Chinese-owned business that trains our people in the tourist industry. "There are 56 ethic groups in China and you can't see people as a whole" he said. Some Chinese are superstitious and the number 4 is considered unlucky, so the right room number allocation is important. "You don't give a Chinese man a green cap" Mr Crockett says. "That has a connotation of disgrace, it means their wife has had an affair."
Saffire Resort, Tasmania
We have some good high-end examples of what can be achieved to attract big spenders from China. Bob Oatley's Whitsunday resort Qualia on Hamilton Island was rated the best resort in the world 2012; Southern Ocean Lodge off the South Australian coast on Kangaroo Island, and Saffire, the $1500-a-night resort on Freycinet Peninsula in Tasmania tick all the boxes.
Qualia on Hamilton Island
On the service side, there are growing examples of what can be done to make Australia a welcoming and remembered experience. For example, the Jacobs Creek Visitor Centre in the Barossa Valley, South Australia, employ Mandarin-speaking staff and provide cultural awareness training for all employees and brochures and menus are in simplified Chinese.
Federal Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson said that Sydney had some serious infrastructure problems that have to be sorted out, such as a new airport. Both Labor and the LNP have ignored the problem for years, frightened of losing seats, and there is still no agreement on where to put it. Finding extra places for cruise ships to dock in Sydney Harbour also needs resolving.
Federal Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson
The Minister thinks we need to lift our game as many hotels are still not up to standard. "We're not ready for the Chinese tourists the way we should be" he said.