More Chinese Opting For “Therapeutic Tourism” Instead Of Shopping Sprees

Australia Launched New Tourism Campaign In China This Month

Tourism Australia's "There's Nothing Like Australia" campaign includes a multi-language app

By now, it should come as no surprise that wealthier and middle-class Chinese are becoming big on travel, with trips by Chinese outbound tourists expected to grow to 80 million trips this year, according to the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRI), up from 70 million in 2011 and 57.4 million in 2010. While many well-heeled outbound tourists hit other foreign metropolises for long-distance shopping sprees, a growing number of the more adventurous (or more seasoned) are seeking to escape the whir of urban life in pursuit of a different travel experience, from experiential tourism to eco-tourism and even wine tourism. But for others, to the list, tourism for health or medical reasons is a growing trend, while the rising popularity of therapeutic travel — absent many of the logistical kinks seen in medical tourism — is offering areas of natural beauty a huge opportunity.

One example of a destination trying to attract big-spending mainland Chinese therapeutic travelers is quite close to home: China’s Hainan Island. (A place that Jing Daily has returned to again and again.) Still in the midst of a construction and rebranding campaign, launched in 2009, aimed at recasting the island as “China’s Riviera,” a high-end getaway on par with Hawaii or Bali, amid Hainan’s typical five-star resorts and beaches lie a growing number of smaller resorts and spas aimed at enhancing the mental and physical well-being of the stressed-out Shanghainese.

But China’s tourists are venturing much further afield in the hopes of winding down. As Jing Daily wrote this past February, China has become the Maldives’s largest source of tourism, while Malaysia, Thailand, Bali and Singapore have been working to position themselves as hot spots for therapeutic travel.  Last year, Thailand’s Phuket, Koh Samui and Krabi lured around 1.4 million Chinese tourists preferring a “back-to-nature” experience to a sanitized five-star “experience.” Often, packages in Thailand and Malaysia combine therapeutic tourism with medical tourism, looking to attract more middle-aged Chinese travelers.

The Amanpuri Resort in Phuket is a popular luxury destination for Chinese tourists

Knowing that a steadily growing subset of Chinese urbanites increasingly view tourism as a chance for R&R rather than intense multi-day shopping, organizations like Tourism of Authority of Thailand (TAT) and Tourism Australia are investing in marketing events and campaigns to sustain their appeal to China. Earlier this month, Tourism Australia launched their US$250 million global campaign, “There’s Nothing Like Australia” in China. Recognizing China as “Australia’s fastest-growing and most valuable overseas tourism market,” Tourism Australia’s Managing Director Andrew McEvoy said at the launch that “China was the logical location to launch the new creative,” noting that Australia ranks as one of China’s top travel preferences.

“The primary purpose of this, and indeed all our global marketing, is to drive international visitation,” McEvoy added, “and China now represents both our fastest growing and most valuable international inbound tourism market.” McEvoy further pointed out that, by decade’s end, China could account for around 900,000 annual visitors to Australia, contributing around AU$9 billion per year to the local economy. Unlike France and Britain, countries that promote their shopping and spending options and sightseeing and cultural options roughly evenly, Australia’s new campaign is focused mainly on natural beauty, environment and space — three things increasingly scarce in urban China.

The campaign features many attractions unique to Australia, including the Bungle Bungles in The Kimberley, Sydney harbor, Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef’s Lizard and Hayman Islands, Freycinet in Tasmania and South Australia’s Kangaroo Island. Starting in China, the UK and USA and also in Australia, we consider “There’s Nothing Like Australia” a smart move, as it displays an understanding of current best practices: namely, global uniformity and consistency of message. In terms of attracting more Chinese tourists in particular, the fact that the campaign will play in countries that have many Chinese overseas students means that many will see the campaign (as may their parents) and some will convince family members to travel to Australia.

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