Tourism authorities both here and in China forecast a tourism boom the likes of which we have never seen. They say the rise of affluence in China will result in an avalanche of visits to our shores, which will eclipse the Japanese tourist boom of the 80s - something the marine industry can capitalise on.
Figures from China’s National Tourism Administration show that in 2010 Chinese citizens made 57.36 million overseas trips (including to Hong Kong), and according to the China Tourism Academy, spent an estimated US $48 billion while they were travelling.
By 2015, an estimated 83.75 million Chinese will be touring abroad on holiday. During the year to March 2010, Australia received 360,000 visitors from China, generating $2.3 billion in economic value.
And the good news is, a recent report shows that Australia is the number one destination that Chinese travellers intend to visit in the next few years. Considering they are seeking 'natural scenery, sunshine and beaches, and new places', according to the latest Visa PATA Travel Intention Survey, the recreational boating industry at every level is well-positioned to deliver the goods and perhaps in the process, convert some of these thousands of visitors to boating enthusiasts.
Barry Jenkins, Ambassador for the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show and long-time proponent of the Australian marine industry, says the forecast figures are very exciting indeed for the industry.
'I’d like to think there is a boom ahead. That’s certainly why I am doing what I’m doing and visiting China and its boat shows as much as I can.'
China is undergoing an explosion of marinas, says Barry, citing figures that confirm there are more than 200 marinas under construction or on the drawing board, nearly every one planning a boat show to showcase the appeal of the marine lifestyle.
'Of course, it’s early days for most of them, but we need to be aware of what is going on, since we need to compete against and work with the Chinese in many instances.'
On the first leg of his China odyssey for this year, Barry will attend the second annual Tianjin China International Boat Show, September 1 to 4, to be held in a prosperous Binhai New Area on the coast just one hour fast train from Beijing.
Then from 20 to 23 October, there is the China (Shenzhen) International Boat Show (SIBEX) and 4 to 7 November will see the China (Xiamen) International Boat Show.
'Xiamen is a very interesting region,' continues Barry. 'A report from the first half of this year shows that 43 boats were sold in that period alone. Xiamen is in a very strategic place, right opposite Taiwan which is ideal for the boat builders there.'
’Yacht Babe’ at China (Xiamen) International Boat Show - China (Xiamen) International Boat Show
For Australia and the inbound tourists, the objective should be 'to get the Chinese tourists out on our waterways,' says Barry.
'We can show the Chinese what it’s like out on the Harbour, the Bay and Broadwater, whale watching, river cruises. We can get them enthused and then eventually, they will embrace the cruising and recreational boating lifestyle.'
Ideally, that then flows on to the Australian marine industry through a market for our boats and other marine lifestyle products.
'More and more Australian businesses are seeing the importance of being at China’s boat shows and lifestyle expos. The market is simply too large to ignore.'
Wu Yuan Bay, Xiamen - China (Xiamen) International Boat Show - China (Xiamen) International Boat Show
Tourism Australia Managing Director, Andrew McEvoy said survey results show Australia is the top of mind destination for Chinese travellers.
'Australia has been at the forefront in destination marketing since becoming the first Western destination to receive approval to host group leisure travellers from China,' he said. 'Since gaining Approved Destination Status (ADS) in 1999 the China travel market has grown exponentially for Australia to become one of our top five sources of international travellers.'
Tourism Australia is poised to launch its new 'There’s nothing like Australia' campaign in China next month 'to convert the desire for travel to Australia in to actual visits', explains McEvoy.
Chinese tourism chiefs recently supplied to Australian tourism authorities some tips for attracting Chinese to a region: signage, brochures and public address messages in Mandarin or Cantonese, premium packages offering specialised experiences, authentic local experiences and more reasons to return.
Research shows Chinese tourists will try and cram a lot of things into a short amount of time in Australia, often because of the limited amount of time they have available for a holiday. Data from Tourism Research Australia is showing that while the average length of stay per person in Australia by Chinese tourists has been gradually increasing by an average of 4.3% per year between 2004 and 2009, visit length is forecast to shorten by an average of 1.1% between 2009 and 2014.
'We need to work with tourism authorities here and in China to show Chinese tourism operators there’s more to Australia than furry animals and barbeques,' says Barry. 'There is nothing as nice, the world over I believe, than the Pacific Ocean, the Whitsundays and the country’s many rivers, lakes, bays and waterways.'
The Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show traditionally invites VIP guests and Government officials from Asia to promote both Sanctuary Cove and the Australian marine industry.
Mulpha Sanctuary Cove Executive General Manager Alison Quinn says the boat show offers guests from Asia an opportunity to view this fabulous marine precinct and the lifestyle it affords.
'Traditionally, Asians are not avid water users so the event is about promoting the fabulous marine lifestyle to them, in addition to the superlative boats and products. During the boat show, guests can view the Village and how it integrates with the marina, the golf courses and other facilities at Sanctuary Cove.'
The boat show is also the ideal occasion for delegates from Asia and China to seize the opportunity to make contact with Australian companies, such as marina contractors, who can assist in developing the leisure marine industries in their various countries.
'Another benefit of inviting guests from Asia is to provide Australian manufacturers with a sales and promotional opportunity to international buyers,' explains Alison. 'For instance, in 2010, Tournament Boats sealed a deal to supply 100 boats to a Korean company.'