THE Chinese and Indian markets will be the focus of many Pacific hotels, airlines and travel companies at a tourism exchange on the Gold Coast over the next three days.
Chinese tour companies attending the Bank South Pacific –sponsored Australian Tourism Exchange will be prime targets for the Pacific because of the growing affluence of those markets.
Despite a recent slowdown in China’s economy, its growing middle class with the means to travel is a potential major source market for the region.
“There is a huge number of Chinese tourism buyers at the Australian Tourism Exchange and they are looking for destinations which the Pacific can offer,” said South Pacific Tourism Organisation Acting CEO, Alisi Lutu.
Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau CEO, Josefa Tuamoto, said opportunities existed for partnerships between Pacific destinations to access more of the Asian market.
“China is big, very big and not all Pacific countries have the flight connections or the rooms needed to cater for such a large market,” Tuamoto said.
“But working together it’s possible for various destinations to take a small number of Chinese visitors each and then move them on to the next country.”
Fiji is the only Pacific destination other than Australia or New Zealand with direct links to China.
Papua New Guinea and Fiji have direct flights to Singapore and Hong Kong while PNG also has services to Indonesia.
Tuamoto said the challenge was for Pacific airlines, tour companies and destinations to work together to develop attractive, efficient and cost effective packages for visitors.
He said this would require a spirit of sharing between countries and companies.
A number of tour companies – including Fiji-based Rosie’s Travel – has reached out to the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to take visitors who arrive in Nadi and want to see more than one country.
With its connections to six South Pacific destinations, Nadi is a natural hub for Asian travellers wanting to visit the region.
“Fiji’s involvement is key,” Tuamoto said.
“And if we can work out packages that are beneficial to smaller countries along with revenue sharing processes then we can all share the market and everyone is happy.”
Meanwhile, Lutu said Samoa and Vanuatu had seen a definite rise in Chinese tourism numbers with direct flights from Hong Kong to Fiji.
“So we have operators who are offering Fiji and another destination to Chinese travellers and that seems to be working well,” she said.
“Now we are working on fine tuning the market and carrying out Pacific roadshows in China.”
Lutu said while China offered large volume, Pacific countries might want to aim specifically at the higher end of the market which typically spent more money.
Chinese visitors have shown a particularly keen interest in diving which is available in most Pacific destinations.
A successful marketing campaign has seen several direct charter services into Fiji, French Polynesia and the Cook Islands boosting visitor numbers in those countries.