Tapping into the Chinese tourist market requires a destination like Samoa to be “China ready”.
C.E.O. of C.I.S.B.N. and of renowned expert in tourism and investment promotion, Marcus Lee says this is crucial if Samoa wants to attract Chinese tourists, which is why he is working with the Samoa Tourism Authority on how to enter the Chinese market.
On Thursday, Mr. Lee gave a special presentation to members of the Samoa tourism industry at Taumeasina conference room on how to attract Chinese visitors effectively.
“Welcome China is working with Samoa tourism Authority to help them to enter the China market. We have the China Ready programme which is going to launch this August 8th and will help the industry in Samoa to be ready to receive China’s people.”
According to data Mr. Lee presented, China has the largest source of outbound tourists in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Maldives, the U.K. and the other countries. Currently Samoa’s market share of Chinese tourists make up only 2.2 percent of visitors to Samoa which equates to roughly 3000 Chinese.
“There’s like 3,000 Chinese visitors to Samoa and my target is to make that 10,000 in three years." Mr. Lee intends to help the Samoa tap into the Chinese market but told the members of the tourism industry present that they needed to be “China ready” to sustain that market.
“I can do all the promotions that I want but if your industry is not ready, it’s not going to happen. We need to work together.”
He identified some challenges that Samoa face such as the lack of direct Air Services to China and sufficient number of hotel rooms. Awareness of Samoa was a first priority in getting noticed in the Chinese market and branding was crucial for the tourism industry to work on and implement.
“Do more in your branding. Right now what we do with the S.T.A. is the basic online promotion we give them an office in China and we do advance social media, that’s the beginning but we need to do more with better branding. Positioning is very important, explore a unique selling point and then explain this to the Chinese market – brand Samoa because not many Chinese know Samoa.”
Mr. Lee also spoke in depth in describing the needs and wants of a Chinese tourist and at the top of the list for a destination to have was products and the speed of delivery. Having faster Wifi services was a must at any accommodation provider as well as translation services and efficient communication procedures.
“Samoa must to be easy to navigate because 95 percent of Chinese don’t speak English. Being China ready is just about helping them to feel welcome and making sure that they are not being discriminated in any way and they are treated equally with respect as your other tourists.”
Relooking at what kind of activities we offer in Samoa as well assessing whether we have enough to cater to the Chinese tourist who are active and like to explore everything is also another very important feature that Samoa would need to work on in order to be China ready.
“Chinese travel everywhere, 130 million Chinese travelled last year. We go everywhere and we do everything. We went as far as Latin America, Africa, we like to go to new destinations because we like to explore. Now is the golden time for Chinese people to travel the world and now is the golden opportunity for Samoa to attract them, this is the best time.
“I have only been in Samoa for 72 hours but the next time I come. I will do a destination audit on next trip and go around the country and explore what you have and what you don’t have and then to give you suggestion on what you can do to improve it.”
The only other Pacific nation that Mr. Lee’s company has worked with recently is Papua New Guinea and starting in September, P.N.G. will commence direct flights to China as their first step to becoming more China ready.
“The first Pacific Island that I worked with was Papua New Guinea last year for 79 companies. They are doing the second programme in two months so there’s got to be something positive otherwise they wouldn’t have done a second one in less than a year.”
Mr. Lee spoke about a case study concerning helping the country of Peru increase their Chinese visitor numbers despite being a 24-hour flight time. Through promotions via media, online advertising, off line promotions, road shows he was able to expose Peru as a tourist destination to 20 million Chinese viewers.