The BRIC Tourist - surf where the big waves are!

Here follows a summary of a presentation I gave earlier this month to the Australian Tourism Export Council Meeting Place 2011 in Sydney:

The BRIC Tourist

Currently spending twice the amount of the average tourist, the BRIC tourist market is set for strong growth in the coming decade as travel becomes affordable to a new emerging middle class of over two billion people.

Last year, the number of visitors from Brazil, Russia, India and China increased by 6.4%, 7.1%, 13.0% and 28.2%, respectively. Is the Australian Tourism Industry prepared for this?

Here are some thoughts on how to attract the new BRIC Tourist:

Follow the money!

In the next decade, the tourism market for Chinese visitors alone is forecasted to be worth A$6 billion to Australia, with almost 1 million Chinese visitors forecast to visit Australia in 2020. The Chinese tourist contributes twice as much value as the Japanese, with total inbound economic value (TIEV) having increased on average by 17.1% per year for the past ten years (a contribution to the Australian economy of A$7,287 per person).

Indian tourists also spend on average more each day than other nationalities. The total inbound economic value of an Indian tourist has increased by 14.9% per year for the past ten years. Indian tourists spend, on average, $73 per night and $4,607 per visit. For the next decade, the TIEV for Indian tourists is forecast to grow 6.7% year on year, moving the Indian tourist from Australia’s ninth to our fifth most valuable inbound market.

In 2010, Russians spent $26.5 billion abroad. As the BRIC country with the highest GDP per capita and the lowest levels of debt, the Russians have high purchasing ability and a relatively large luxury consumer market which is predicted to reach the size of Germany’s by the end of this decade.

Education policies requiring Brazilian students to study English are fostering outbound education tourism. Australia is a popular destination for young Brazilians due to our outdoor way of life, beaches and cultural similarities. In addition, Brazilians devote a large portion of their income to discretionary spending and choose to live for the present!

Casting a Wider Net

Unlike in the past, when the tourism industry has relied on above-the-line advertising and travel agents to attract business, the No. 1 source of information for one-third of Chinese, Indian and Russian tourists is the Internet. Even more compelling is the knowledge that, unlike western travellers who usually plan and book their travel many months in advance, Chinese tourists booked their flights within one month of their date of travel.

The importance of reaching potential BRIC customers via online promotional material and marketing campaigns will be a necessary competitive edge for all travel companies in the future.

However, traditional methods of marketing and search engine optimisation are of little significance for BRIC tourists, in particular the Chinese. As an example, the Chinese population’s most popular search engine is Baidu, the Chinese equivalent of Google.  It is therefore very important for the tourist industry to establish a presence in local popular Chinese search engines to attract the lucrative mainland Chinese market.

Revamping the Product

With such alluring growth figures, it is going to become even more important for all tourism companies to develop products that have direct appeal to the BRIC tourist. The BRIC tourist differs quite significantly from their stressed out Western counterparts in that they want to cover as much of Australia in as short a time as possible! A typical day may include a photo stop at Bondi Beach in the morning, followed by a bus trip to the Blue Mountains in the afternoon and then an evening at the casino. This contrasts with Western tourists who typically enjoy sunbathing and relaxing on the beach. With over one fifth of outbound Chinese tourists being labelled as ‘Self Challengers’, Australia is a popular destination for those attracted to adventurous pursuits, being pushed outside their comfort zone and those who are attracted to some of Australia's more remote areas.

Recruitment

There are approximately 150,000 Chinese students studying at universities in Australia, almost 70,000 Indian students, 18,000 Brazilian students and 1,500 Russians, but very few of them successfully find work in Australian companies after they graduate. These students not only have valuable cross cultural and language skills, but also Australian knowledge, experience and qualifications and possibly even high level connections in their home country. With the limited time available until their visa expires, many students are forced to return home if they cannot find suitable employment in the short period available, and this results in a loss of talent and valuable skill setswhich could otherwise be retained in Australia – particularly in the tourism sector.

A good place for Australian tourist companies to start in developing a strategy to attract new BRIC tourists is to review their recruitment policies to attract international students who, after a short period of training and on the job experience, will significantly enhance their ability to tackle the BRIC market.

Business Tourism

The market for business tourism is largely untapped, but with 87% of business travellers staying longer than the ordinary tourist, both before and/or after their business engagements, the business tourism market presents numerous opportunities for the tourist sector. In 2010, business travel from Brazil increased by 59% due to the rapid growth of Australia's energy and resources sector and the desire amongst Brazilian companies to learn from Australia's success.

Why not tailor a tourism package that incorporates business meetings, site visits or even networking events for the more entrepreneurial and business-minded BRIC tourist? With numerous delegations coming to Australia from Mainland China every week, is this a niche opportunity for local tourist companies to start tapping into?

Seasonal Differences

Whilst a seemingly obvious point, it is important not to underestimate the power of seasonal differences, particularly to attract Chinese and Russian tourists. The peak months for Chinese tourist arrivals to Australia are in January and February which, amongst other things, is caused by their desire to avoid the harsh winter climate and travel over the Chinese New Year Season. For Russian tourists, December and January are the peak months for tourist arrivals as they seek to escape the harsh Russian winter.

Tourism companies should focus their marketing and promotional activities to attract Chinese and Russian visitors during our warm summer months.

Cultural Differences

Whilst there are distinct cultural differences between Australia and the BRIC countries, Australia is uniquely placed and well positioned to take advantage of our exclusive position as the only western country within the BRIC region.

With over 1 million Chinese Australians (either born in China or of Chinese ancestry), large numbers of business migrants arriving each year from all of the BRICs, our growing number of international students and our strong cultural and historical ties throughout the region, Australia is a truly multi-national, multi-lingual and multi-cultural society which has so much to offer the BRIC Tourist.

“Speak with one Voice”

In the words of Geoff Dixon, Chairman of Tourism Australia, Australia's tourism industry needs to “speak with one voice” when marketing overseas. Unlike other sectors, The tourist industry is highly fragmented in Australia which means that collaboration, rather than competition, to attract the BRIC tourist will result in everyone having the chance to share in a much bigger pie.

As an example of this, in 2010, Italy, France and Spain signed an agreement to work jointly to attract BRIC tourists, a partnership which would have been unthinkable a decade ago.

Also, in Pattaya, Thailand, high end luxury resorts have been collaborating to attract the Russian Tourist, a innovative strategy which has met with almost immediate success. By introducing Russian street signs, Russian restaurants and developing training courses for hotel staff and waiters to learn Russian language and cultural differences, Pattaya is now attracting large numbers of big spending Russians.

The BRIC tourist presents an unprecedented growth opportunity for the Tourism Industry....what is your BRIC strategy?