India is set to overtake China – ITM15 Bangalore, Indian Travel Mission

India is set to overtake China - ITM15 Bangalore, Indian Travel Mission

Mitch and Apurva Marda, director of Vibrant Holidays, based in Mumbai.

ITM15 Bangalore, Indian Travel Mission

I have been to my fair share of tourism events and promotions both domestic and international (mainly China), but for my first trade mission in India, held just recently, I was chartering into unknown territory.

India is set to overtake China as the most populous country on the planet, so having the chance to promote a new product to a market of this potential was a very exciting opportunity. However, as I had always been ‘China focused’ due  to my specific expertise, I began to wonder about the possible challenges and differences in business culture I would come across.

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Capturing the laid back and friendly nature of Australia at networking function, Sheraton, Bangalore

I am pleased to say that these worries would prove to be unfounded, as due to the amazing organizational efforts of Tourism Australia, the event was smooth, stress-free and extremely valuable in a business sense.

One thing that struck out the most to me was the quality of the appointments. Almost all of the people I conducted appointments with were either business owners, directors or decision makers of some kind, which as anyone in this game knows is extremely important.

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Appointment Schedules were fast and furious, as seen here

Tourism Australia have been working hard to train agents to be specialists in selling Australia, and now there are currently more than 2,114 travel agents/consultants from 1,462 travel agencies throughout the main markets in India who are qualified Aussie Specialists*.

The ‘ITM15 Bangalore’ was composed of two days of frenzied of appointment schedules in which I showcased Australian skydive product to over 75 agents. However, the real value came in the form of  networking sessions which varied from an informal ‘board shorts and flip-flops’ pool party to a more formal suit and jacket evening. It was at these events where I learnt of the great warmth and welcoming nature of our Indian counterparts. Sometimes, events such as these can be a little stiff and cold, but I have never experienced anything such as the relaxed, fun attitude of this event, which leads to an environment open to discussion and getting to know people.

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Catching up for some well deserved ‘down time’ after the appointments concluded

I have been told that in this market, friends and relationships come first, and the business comes (maybe) after.  If this recent mission is anything to go by, I feel like I have already made friends to last a lifetime and looking to the future, with China and India being two of the biggest economies in the world, I see it as an investment in the long term future to be involved in these massive emerging and dynamic markets!

 

* Source – Tourism Australia

 

(Stay tuned for more on India…)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mitchell Callander is a freelance Chinese marketing consultant specializing in the Asian markets, specifically China, Japan, Korea and India. He speaks fluent mandarin, conversational Japanese and is developing an online social media based channel completely in mandarin, called Strange Rice TV.

Trekking in Henan Province, China

Trekking in Henan Province China
Trekking in Henan Province China

Trekking in Henan Province China

Trekking in Henan Province, China

When most people think about China, the big attractions such as Beijing (Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City), Xian (Terracotta Warriors) and Shanghai are usually first to come to mind. However, China is a huge place with a plethora of diverse and amazing places to visit. If you love getting off the beaten track and challenging yourself to some real cultural experiences there are countless numbers of places which are out there to be discovered.

 

I first moved to China in 2005, and chose the city of Zhengzhou, Henan to live and work. Henan is a centrally located province and one of the most populous in China. The famous Yellow River runs through it, so the area often referred to as the ‘Cradle of Chinese Civilization’.

Trekking-in-Henan-Province-China-02

After living and working in the concrete jungle of Zhengzhou for a few months, I managed to find a trekking club, who organised camping trips to the countryside on the weekends and holidays. Finding this club was definitely a game changer for me and enabled me to experience Chinese culture on a whole new level.

 

Henan province is extremely mountainous, and despite many cities relying on heavy industry, you can easily escape to the rural areas, which are steeped in dramatic scenery and ancient history.

 

Some of my most memorable personal moments include the challenge of communication with my trekking colleagues, none of whom spoke any English (this was to be a big factor in my Chinese level improving), the generous nature of the Chinese, who would constantly be sharing fruits and snacks with each other during the expedition, and climbing out of my tent in the mornings to the crisp mountain air and noodles for breakfast, boiled on gas camp stoves.

 

Trekking through tall, misty mountains and coming across old stone bridges and remote villages was an awe inspiring experience for me, and getting my lungs full of fresh air was just the tonic from the bustling industrial city of Zhengzhou. Also, just spending time with my Chinese trekking club was an experience in itself, as I learned so much about language and culture when travelling and spending time as a Chinese person would.

 

As a born and raised Queenslander, another big difference was the changing seasons. Seeing the beautiful hues of red, yellow and orange of Autumn on the mountainside while following old paths for me was a highlight, as was the snow in winter.

 

I guess the point of this article is to highlight that no matter where you go and what you do, you can always go deeper. Speak to locals, find the people who share similar passions within that country, and you will have experiences and find places which otherwise, you may never have known existed. Not to mention, you will make new friends, connect with people and share cultural experiences beyond that which you may have ever previously expected.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mitchell Callander is a freelance Chinese marketing consultant specializing in the Asian markets, specifically China, Japan, Korea and India. He speaks fluent mandarin, conversational Japanese and is developing an online social media based channel completely in mandarin, called Strange Rice TV.

The Great Social Media of China

No Facebook or Youtube, Just Weibo and Wechat?
No Facebook or Youtube Just Weibo and Wechat!

No Facebook or Youtube Just Weibo and Wechat!

No Facebook or Youtube, Just Weibo and Wechat?

 

Most of us are aware now that the ‘Great Firewall of China” blocks out social networking sites such as Facebook and Youtube (which many of us couldn’t imagine a world without). So, if Chinese aren’t using these, what social media are they using and are they as infatuated with it as we are?

 

The short answer to that question is ‘yes’ – the Chinese are at least as much if not many times more infatuated with social media as we are in the west. As a matter of fact, the first question you will usually here from a Chinese traveller upon arrival will be ”is there free WIFI?’

 

Let us go back a little, to Weibo and Youku. You can think of Weibo as the Chinese version of twitter or facebook. A user can blog using photos and text, subscribe to accounts, follow others, scroll the home page for days – you get the picture. Youku, on the other hand, is basically Chinese Youtube and is used for video sharing.

 

Weibo was HUGE, and amassed a massive number of users. However, such is the speed of change in China, it has already been superseded by an absolute giant of social media. Wechat. Wechat works on a ‘Whatsapp’ principle (and the logo even is a little similar – coincidence, maybe?) of using WIFI to message and text, however it has many functions which make it very appealing. Think of Wechat as a combination of every kind of social media app we have. It has already eclipsed the 350 million user mark.

 

Companies even use ‘public wechat profiles’ which are basically like mini – websites.  These public profiles are not easy for Australian companies to get a hold of, as they need to be registered in China so that content can be monitored (of course). Also, believe it or not,  but wechat QR codes are being used to make payments when shopping, acting as a credit card of sorts!

 

Personally, I was in denial about needing Wechat until I heard a Chinese friend tell me frankly: ‘No Wechat, No Business,’ so I uploaded it immediately.  Since then,  I have realised just how much it is used in doing business in China. If you do business with China and don’t have it, I suggest you download and English version of Wechat yourself from the app store.

 

Just be careful… Once you get started, you may get a Wechat addiction too.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mitchell Callander is a freelance Chinese marketing consultant specializing in the Asian markets, specifically China, Japan, Korea and India. He speaks fluent mandarin, conversational Japanese and is developing an online social media based channel completely in mandarin, called Strange Rice TV.

Australian Tourism Exhange (ATE) Melbourne 2015 – Things I Learnt

ATE Melbourne 2015 - Things I Learnt
ATE-Melbourne-2015

ATE-Melbourne-2015

ATE Melbourne 2015 – Things I Learnt

 

After having recently attended the Australian Tourism Exchange in Melbourne, one big thing that I came away with is that things are changing faster than ever before in the Chinese market.

 

Now that we are settling well into the digital age, and we are seeing the new generation raised in this era starting to travel independently, the game has changed forever.

 

Now, in the past some similarities had been drawn by people in the tourism industry between Chinese and Japan’s trend of development. Since the Japanese started travelling much earlier than the Chinese, many believed that the trend would not only follow the same path, but the same time span.

 

However, what they have failed to take into account is that we are now living in a time where an abundance of information is available at any time, literally by the touch of a finger on a phone. The rate of change that we are seeing in tourism as a result of this is staggering.

 

While only a year ago, some travel agents were resting on their laurels in the hopes that their group business would continue ‘as is’ for the next 5-8 years, they are now having to look outside the box for new ideas, products, itineraries to give them an edge over their competitors.

 

Some agents have reported a big shift in FIT focus as their group to FIT traveller ratio went from 80/20 to 50/50 over less than two years! Agents purely dedicated to the FIT market and adventure activities are popping up, while agents who relied solely on traditional group business are now in catch – up mode.

 

So, what does all this mean for Australian tourism suppliers? Big opportunities! However, it also brings with it great challenges. Our products and marketing have to move and advance with the changing face and requirements of the Chinese when comparing to the rest of the world, or we will simply be left behind.

 

The fact is, that the consumers are driving the demand for change. Change is happening fast.  Tourism Australia has been focussing their Chinese campaigns on the FIT market in anticipation of a doubling of expenditure from this market by 2020, and as the Chinese traveller dares to dig deeper into their travel experience, it opens up a whole new range of opportunity for us to enter the market and get a piece of the action.

 

The only question is, are we ready for it?

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mitchell Callander is a freelance Chinese marketing consultant specializing in the Asian markets, specifically China, Japan, Korea and India. He speaks fluent mandarin, conversational Japanese and is developing an online social media based channel completely in mandarin, called Strange Rice TV.

The Emerging Chinese FIT Market

The Emerging Chinese FIT Market
Chinese FIT enjoy a scenic helicopter flight off Green Island

Chinese FIT enjoy a scenic helicopter flight off Green Island

Traditionally, when the Chinese traveler comes to one’s mind, we tend to think of those large groups of 20-30 mid to late age tourists, diligently following their tour guide from attraction to attraction, on the bus, off the bus, marching the streets while squawking loudly in mandarin, Cantonese or their preferred dialect. These tour groups generally speak little to no English, are controlled by ‘duty free shopping’ (hence the name ‘gou wu tuan’ ‘shopping tour group’) and rarely interact with local Australians, let alone really step out of their comfort zone. In fact, it is not widely known that a lot of the time they are purposefully kept away from anywhere they can spend their money, as agents  book the most isolated hotels available.

However, there is a new, emerging wave of independent, young adventurers Chinese on the horizon, and these come with very different needs and attitudes.

Since China opened up to the west in 1980, these new generation Chinese have been exposed to Western culture, through study or travel overseas, learning English at school, social media and have started adapting new western habits.

Tea is out, coffee is in. Forget about Tai Chi, yoga is the new trend. Shopping tours, too, are now being increasingly scrapped in favor of a more bold, independent approach to travel.

With a myriad of available information at their fingertips, a new found confidence in English and evermore influenced by TV shows and travel programs featuring activities which the ‘traditional’ Chinese traveler would never consider, this new generation is ready to step outside the previous confined boundaries of the packaged group itinerary.

Popular blog sharing sites such as ‘qiong you wang’ (think Chinese trip advisor) and ‘mifeng’ are enabling a platform to share travelers information like never before. Also, with a ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’ attitude, everyone wants to jump aboard new travel trends.

Travel agencies have had to respond quickly to this demand, by setting up their own ‘FIT’ (Free Independent Traveler) departments and designing new flexible itineraries for fear of missing out. Some have even reported going from 80/20 group/ FIT to half of their market becoming FIT within a 2 year period!

These FIT customers will tend to travel in smaller groups of 2-10 people, have a better level of English, be well – learned and usually have done a fair amount of research before choosing their tour.

Considering that we have just signed an agreement to invite 5000 Chinese working holiday visas per year, and the massive influx of Chinese students entering Australia and the many settling here, the future looks extremely bright for the FIT Chinese market. Jump aboard!!!

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mitchell Callander is a freelance Chinese marketing consultant specializing in the Asian markets, specifically China, Japan, Korea and India. He speaks fluent mandarin, conversational Japanese and is developing an online social media based channel completely in mandarin, called Strange Rice TV.

Chinese Flying High On Skydiving

Chinese Flying High On Skydiving

Chinese Flying High On Skydiving

When I began consulting for Skydive Australia not even a year ago (as I write this article), I was met with remarks from peers in the industry that ‘it won’t work,’ ‘Chinese people aren’t adventurous’ and even that ‘they don’t have time in their itinerary.’

However, after having worked in a local travel agency catering specifically to the Chinese/ HK/ Taiwan markets prior to taking on the challenge, I knew that the Chinese had already developed an appetite for Skydive and that this was just the beginning!

Firstly, the Taiwanese and HK backpackers and working holiday makers are already crazy for Skydiving. It is one of their ‘bucket list’ items which they often fulfill before returning back to their homeland to resume ‘life as usual.’ It took a period of about five years to get to this point for them.

So, it is only natural to see that this popularity will spill over to the mainland Chinese, which by nature follows trends set by Taiwan.

Since my representation of Skydive Australia at the Australian Tourism Exchange 2014 (which was, fittingly for me, in Cairns), we have seen a huge influx in popularity from Chinese groups and FIT market via our engagement with travel agents.

Previously, agents who were at first not interested have been suddenly approaching us, as their customers start to steer the demand for skydiving by request.

Nearly one year later, and Skydive as a product has already been accepted along with any other product as a viable selling option. The original tentativeness shown by agents has been replaced by a keen interest, as they learn more about the product and the safety aspects of it.

With the burgeoning youth Chinese market, adventure experience companies such as Skydive Australia can expect ever – increasing numbers of Chinese customers keen to step out of their comfort zone and really experience what life has to offer them other than work.

 

Mitchell-Callander-Avatar
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mitchell Callander is a freelance Chinese marketing consultant specializing in the Asian markets, specifically China, Japan, Korea and India. He speaks fluent mandarin, conversational Japanese and is developing an online social media based channel completely in mandarin, called Strange Rice TV.