Friday, July 13, 2012

Does your motel room have a rice-cooker?

There has been a lot of buzz in the tourism industry about the potential of the Chinese market. Visitors from traditional sources are tanking, while Chinese visitors are growing positively - albeit from a low base.

The stats supporting an increased marketing focus on China are compelling. In fifteen years, the Chinese middle class will reach 800 million, up from 300 million today. Over the next five years, affluent Chinese consumers will grow from four million to 20 million.

It is often earnestly reported that Chinese outbound tourism is going through dramatic change, and will continue to change the dynamics of global travel and tourism industry. This is difficult to fathom by the average motel sitting in provincial New Zealand that has yet to feel the impact.

Chinese demand for international travel is still young. But it is expected to grow by 17% annually over the next decade, driven by rising incomes and aspirations.

There will be an average of 25 million first-time Chinese travelers every year, or 70,000 every day, for the next ten years. International travel from China would become a major source of growth for providers in the destination countries.

For motels in New Zealand, I suspect that any dramatic increase in Chinese demand will be well signaled. Currently, first time Chinese visitors are more than likely in short-stay packaged tours that are attracted to the hotel market in main centres along state highway one. The motel market should be anticipating the second wave of second and multiple-time Chinese visitors that are more likely to travel independently, and not part of a group, meaning that they have a greater choice of timing and destinations.

I see that the Holiday Parks Association attracted some good media from their recent conference, including their chief executive Fergus Brown hitting the headlines with a provocative appeal for his members to add a rice-cooker to their kitchens in readiness for Chinese tourists in camper vans.

 It is interesting that the association is front-footing the Chinese potential. They have sent a group of Chinese travel agents on a famil to Fiordland in camper vans and are promoting camper van holidays through tourism industry bodies. 

Although the instances of Chinese arriving and renting campervans would be extremely rare, its good to see that the Holiday Parks Association are challenging their members well ahead of time. It shows that they have a good relationship with their members and are projecting a willingness to work-in by being open to change.

It would be fair to say that not all accommodation providers are happy with the focus away from traditional overseas markets. Appeasing the Chinese market will need a change of attitude from accommodation providers and a willingness to deal with guests that require higher-maintenance. 

It does make me wonder what the reaction would be from the motel sector if they were challenged to add rice cookers into their guest rooms?

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