Chinese tourists are fast becoming the major market in the Australian tourism industry but the poor practices of some tour operators and guides can leave Chinese visitors dissatisfied and threaten Australia’s reputation as a desirable travel destination, warns a new report on the growth potential of the Chinese market.
In his report ‘Taken for a Ride’, Andrew Dawson notes that some inbound tour operators are misrepresenting the quality of accommodation, forcing travellers to buy souvenirs at over-inflated prices and even ‘charging to take photographs of free iconic sites such as the Opera House or beaches in Sydney and on the Gold Coast’ (1).
Another study found that it was these types of unethical practices as well as poor quality tour guiding in general that were the major causes of Chinese visitor dissatisfaction (2). The influence tour guides have over the enjoyment of tour experiences can’t be overstated – particularly in non-English speaking visitors.
In their study on Chinese visitor satisfaction Betty Weiler and Xin Yu report that Chinese speaking tour guides are ‘the main point of contact between the destination and their Chinese clients….influencing where tourists go, what they see and what aspects of the host culture they are exposed to…’. While other improvements are also important, ‘the greatest focus should be on the tour guides who play the key role in facilitating the experiences of Chinese visitors’ (3).
AVANA is one organisation focused on improving the experience of Chinese visitors to Australia by providing skilled Chinese speaking guides for the Australian tourism industry. Eco Guiding is AVANA’s national tourism training division providing specialist training for current guides looking to build on their skills as well as those new to the industry.
AVANA have also recently unveiled their China Ready program which is designed to train existing tourism and hospitality workers in the intricacies of servicing the Chinese market. The program recently received a Strategic Tourism Investment grant of $600,000 and aims to train 11,000 people over 12 months.
The head of Asian strategy at AVANA, James Hutchinson, feels that ensuring guides have the skills to offer visitors an enjoyable experience is one of the key factors in consolidating Australia’s position as a desirable destination in the Chinese market.
‘It’s no longer enough that Chinese tour guides in Australia are simply those who speak both English and Mandarin. We need to develop the skills and expertise that will allow Chinese speaking guides to offer visitors a first class, interpretive tour experience.’
A number of Chinese speaking guides have already completed AVANA’s comprehensive Eco Guiding course in various states around Australia. Courses are now being offered in Victoria where provision of state and federal funding means that eligible individuals can have the entire cost of their training subsidised.
Statistics from Tourism Victoria show the number of overnight Chinese visitors to Victoria increased by 30% in 2012 to over 273,000. This number is expected to more than double by 2020. A number of iconic Victorian tourist attractions such as ECO Certified Phillip Island Nature Park already employ Mandarin speaking guides with more and more operators expected to follow suit as numbers of Chinese visitors continue to increase.
‘The sheer size and potential of the Chinese market makes it important for all sectors of the Australian tourism industry but particularly for Chinese speaking guides’ says Mr Hutchinson. ‘It’s a very exciting time for anyone looking at working in this area.’
Any individuals looking for tour guide training or operators seeking staff training or access to AVANA’s database of trained guides are asked to contact AVANA directly on (02) 8908 7300 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Dawson, Andrew. Taken for a ride: Rigue operators are threatening Australia’s reputation in one of our growing tourist markets.
2. Weiler, B. and Yu, X. Understanding experiences of Chinese visitors to Victoria, Australia. 2006.
3. Weiler, B. and Yu, X. Case Studies of the experience of Chinese visitors to three tourist attractions in Victoria, Australia. 2007.