by Ryan Bozeman
November 27, 2017

Australia and New Zealand have become hotspot holiday destinations for Chinese nationals that have become increasingly mobile over the course of the last decade. By 2022-23, Chinese visitors to Australia is forecast to generate an expenditure of $8.2 billion.

Today China is the second largest inbound international tourism market for both New Zealand and Australia. In the past year, more than 400,000 visitors have entered New Zealand from China, and more than 1.3 million travelling to Australia. Most of these entrants come willing to spend, with 55 percent of visitors coming to Australia for holiday, while only 7 percent come for business.

Just take a look at the growth of Chinese tourists entering Australia, according to Australia’s official tourism page:

As you can see, Chinese tourism has seen rapid growth over the last five years and that trend is expected to continue.

For businesses, putting yourself in a position to attract Chinese tourists can mean big bumps to revenue and a presence among a rapidly growing demographic. According to the Tourism 2020 Strategy, Chinese tourism has the potential to be worth up to $13 billion by 2020. In response to the growth in demand, Australia is planning large marketing campaigns in major Chinese cities to encourage further tourism in the region.

According to a 2014 report, overall satisfaction after trips to Australia among Chinese tourists were very high, with 90 percent of visitors stating that the trip had exceeded their expectations. The same survey showed that only 10 percent of visitors reported low levels of satisfaction after leaving the country.

However, many CEOs and businesses owners have their doubts about investing too much into targeting these demographics. It can be hard to know how to appeal to Chinese tourists. After all, most business owners in NZ and Australia don’t speak Chinese and aren’t likely to know many Chinese nationals.

Breaking into that market can seem prohibitively difficult. Most probably conclude that their efforts are better spent attracting native customers instead.

But the truth is that there are a few simple steps that any public-facing business can take to attract Chinese customers, without having to make huge investments in advertising in Chinese markets.

The biggest concerns among Chinese travelers are:

  • Chinese-language services. A lack of Chinese-language services played a key role in overall satisfaction when visiting the region. Like anyone, tourists appreciate traveling to places where they can effectively navigate and communicate. This can be a big barrier for companies who aren’t in a position to offer Chinese-language services at this time. But, another strategy can be to cater to Chinese visitors by embracing their culture in other ways — such as accepting WePay or AliChat as payment methods.
  • Value for Money. The report showed that value-for-money played a large role in overall satisfaction among Chinese tourists. While Chinese nationals increasingly find themselves with a higher quality of living, there are still budgetary constraints associated with traveling abroad. Being affordable can give you a big boost among travelers.
  • Shopping and food. Many independent Chinese travelers come to NZ or Australia for shopping. Both shopping and food play a critical role in their overall enjoyment of their visit. Interestingly, the availability of high-quality Chinese food was directly correlated with a positive experience.

However, even with these preferences in mind, it can be difficult to pinpoint what changes you need to make to make your mark as a destination that Chinese tourists would like to visit. We have a recommendation.

The Growth of Mobile Payments in China

In most of the world, the idea of “digital wallets” becoming the defacto payment method for most transactions is still on the horizon but nowhere near the current standard. The earliest implementations of digital wallets are already available, but the number of businesses that utilize them are relatively few and far between. You can’t go to the grocery store and expect to pay your bill with Google Wallet, at least yet.

Things are different in China. The nation has already embraced digital wallets for most daily transactions, with businesses around the country accepting them as an increasingly popular form of payment.

Today, China’s digital mobile payment market is worth up to $5.5 trillion. That’s more than 50-times bigger than the same market is in the U.S. The growth in mobile payments in the country have been driven by booms in online shopping among the populace along with a lack of accessible payment alternatives, such as credit cards.

Today, the Chinese use their mobile payments systems for nearly every bill that the pay. The types of transactions that they use digital wallets for can include but are not limited to bill payment, financial products, offline payments, and P2P transfers between friends or family.

For years, this payment processing revolution in the country has been driven by Alibaba’s AliPay service. Alibaba rose to prominence as the largest eCommerce brand in the country and has quickly spread into other markets. In many ways, Alibaba has become the Amazon of China.

AliPay was originally launched in 2004 and was a service comparable to PayPal, processing payments through its Taobao eCommerce platform. In the years that followed, AliPay positioned itself as the premier payment processor for China’s growing digital payments market. However, in recent years they have seen falling market shares among the increased competition. AliPay enjoyed 71 percent market share in the third quarter of 2015 but saw their market share dip to 54 percent by the fourth quarter of 2016.

This fall in market share is mostly due to a new entrant in the market – WeChat. WeChat made their name in China as a call and text messaging app. Because large social networking services like Facebook and Google are blocked or inaccessible to Chinese residents, these kind of messenger apps are critical for modern everyday life.

Today, both WeChat and AliPay are widely accepted and battling for market share inside of China. However, both companies have set their sights abroad, hoping to increase the popularity of digital wallets in other countries and position themselves as the solution there, as well.

This presents a huge opportunity to NZ and AUS companies that are looking to attract Chinese tourists and establish themselves as a destination among the demographic.

Our Recommendation: Accept WeChat and AliPay

Quickly, China is moving toward becoming a cashless society where digital wallets are the standard for transacting business. With the standard of living in China rapidly rising, residents have gained mobility. Due to proximity, both New Zealand and Australia have been reaping the benefits of their increased mobility, putting businesses in the region in a unique position to cater to Chinese tourists.

As a business owner hoping to attract Chinese tourists, the most impactful change that you could make is to accept the payment methods that they are already accustomed to. In a society that is quickly moving away from cash, expecting Chinese tourists to exchange their currency for a local one and visit your place of business just provides an unnecessary hurdle.

Accepting WeChat and AliPay not only improves the transaction for Chinese tourists, it makes your company a sought-after destination. Companies in tourism-centric cities can attract crowds of Chinese tourists simply by offering WeChat or AliPay as a payment method, a gesture sure to be appreciated by a recently-mobilized populace that has found trouble finding companies that cater to them internationally.


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