Tourism operators in Australia should better accommodate the increasing number of Chinese tourists enjoying driving holidays in the country, according to new research undertaken at James Cook University’s Cairns Institute.
The project, Chinese recreational vehicle (RV) tourists in Australia, was conducted by tourism experts Professor Philip Pearce and Dr Mao-Ying Wu. The researchers analysed the profile of Chinese RV (recreational vehicle or motorhome) tourists, where they travel in Australia, and how local tourism operators can enhance the quality of their travelling experience.
The research, utilising mainly blog-based analysis, found that Australian RV tours are increasingly popular among Chinese tourists.
Chinese RV tourists are generally young (late 20s-early 30s) middle-class independent travellers, and stay an average of 18.3 days in Australia, with average daily expenditure from $250 to $350.
Chinese visitors are impressed by Australia’s ‘Great Three’: the Great Ocean Road, the Great Barrier Reef and ‘the big rock’ (Uluru).
Professor Pearce says there are several reasons why more Chinese tourists are undertaking road trips in Australia.
“Australia is considered a good driving destination since Australians are perceived as friendly, there are great natural landscapes here, and for some people there is a perception of value for money offered by an RV tour,” he said.
“The flexibility of RVs, a feature which has been widely emphasised in the research on the grey nomads and snowbirds, re-occurs with the Chinese travellers.
“Here, however, it has special features in terms of the control of food and time management, compared to the constraints of package group travel.
“The travellers also enjoyed the convenience of motorhome travel. A gentleman from Shanghai who travelled to Australia with his extended family commented, ‘the biggest advantage for a motorhome is saving the packing. Travelling with kids and parents, the packing and unpacking work will be a disaster, considering we are changing destinations frequently.’
“Flexibility, however, was interpreted differently by other Chinese travellers.
“For those travelling with a partner, or with their friends, it was more connected to the spontaneous enjoyment, romance and the surprise value of seeing unexpected views, encountering others, staying in various places (e.g. beachside, national parks, winery farms, and caravan parks), and fully controlling their itinerary.”
Professor Pearce says there are also internal motives that prompt Chinese tourists to undertake driving holidays, including the novelty of their first RV driving experience.
“One informant observed, ‘I’m sure that 99.9 per cent of Chinese people have never seen a motorhome/campervan not to mention drive one’,” Professor Pearce said.
Professor Pearce believes the results of this study can be applied beyond Chinese RV travellers to the larger drive-tourism markets.
“This is especially relevant to those tourists from non-western countries, with a moderate mastery of the English language and different driving systems in their home country,” he said.
“It also offers good policy guidance and practical guidance to the vehicle renting industry, and the transport department.
“Vehicle renting companies can take further steps to assist Chinese RV tourists – for example, proving themselves as supportive throughout their customers’ trips.
“Another example could be providing video and GPS in the tourists’ native language, which would be very welcome.”
Professor Pearce believes this study is relevant to other drive tourism destinations, e.g. North America, Europe, and New Zealand, which are also endeavouring to attract more tourists from emerging markets.
Issued April 22, 2013
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