During Chinese New Year, I was with my wife in Melbourne for few days. What amazed me was the overwhelming numbers of tourists from Mainland China. I was told this was a normal year-round business, not just the Chinese New Year phenomenon. I must congratulate the Australian Government, as well as its private sector, whom had done the right approach touching the heart of Mainland Chinese.
Sitting on the free city circle tram, tourists were greeted with songs and greetings of Chinese New Year in mandarin. Most of the shopping centers welcomed visitors with lion dances and God of Fortune. The local tourism board provided Chinese language signage at all lookouts along the scenic Great Ocean Road. There were even free Mandarin speaking guides at the 12 Apostles every 45 minutes daily. Apart from the free services offered by the government, there was no shortage of private Mandarin speaking tours at a cost.
We spent a night in a small motel in Apollo Bay. 95% of the guests were from Mainland China. The receptionist told me that she observed an increasing number of Mainland Chinese tourists. She carefully advised her Chinese guests where to fine Chinese food or to enjoy local fare. There was even a traditional red banner (chun lian 春联) with Chinese New Year greetings of prosperity and good fortune at the local eateries.
When I asked some of the Chinese tourists why they chose Australia as a tourist destination, the usual answers were its beautiful blue sea, pristine white sandy beaches, varieties of shopping, safety and the vibrant multicultural environment. In short, they felt that it was value for money travelling in Australia. It was also helpful with the mandarin signage as hey didn't feel lost in a foreign land. The Australian government had even designed its business visa for Mainland Chinese as "88 visa" or "888 visa" since EIGHT was a prosperous number in Chinese culture. These simple measures had touched the heart of Mainland Chinese and made them feel welcome in Australia. There were no expensive gimmicks, high profile promotions, nor hosting of extravagant festivals. The tourists may have enjoyed the sights and the spectacles but they were often unable to be connected with the events unfolding before them.
Malaysia hopes to reach the target of 10 million Mainland Chinese tourists. Currently, we are receiving about 1.5 million. The Mainland Chinese are known to be high spenders. If not mistaken, every Chinese tourist spends average RM3,500 per trip. If we have 10 million of Mainland Chinese tourists, we are boosting our economy with RM35 billion. The Ministry of Tourism should seriously look into these simple measures that makes Mainland Chinese tourists feel at home.
"Malaysia, truly Asia" is a beautiful slogan but it has no relevance to the Mainland Chinese. What Australia has to offer, Malaysia could offer in abundance and more especially in Sabah. It is HOW we market our tourism products to the targeted Mainland Chinese tourists.