Inviting Asian social media ‘influencers’ to take part in new bespoke experiences, direct flights and more Asian meal options at restaurants are all ideas being floated to bring more Asian visitors to Australia’s south west.
A report released on Tuesday by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, South West Development Commission and Australia’s South West found Asian tourists liked WA because of its natural landmarks and food offering but there was plenty to do to attract more.
Co-author Associate Professor Christof Pforr said the primary motivation for Asian visitors wanting to visit the south west was the clean environment, blue skies, beaches, food, scenery and the overall outdoor experience.
“The key attractions Asian visitors identified included the Leeuwin Lighthouse, the Busselton Jetty, the Margaret River Chocolate Factory, wineries, the caves including Mammoth Cave, Margaret River beaches and the town centre, the Tree Top Walk, Greens Pool in Denmark and The Gap in Albany,” he said.
In 2017 international visitor numbers accounted for five per cent of overall visitation to Australia’s South West. Singapore and Malaysia rated second and third strongest source markets, after the UK, with China eighth.
The researchers interviewed Asian visitors, tourism providers and analysed visitors’ social media posts.
The analysis of Asian visitors’ posts on Twitter found that nature-based experiences and culinary experiences were two major hooks to generate attention towards the south west.
“Many of the social media users here-included are self-entitled ‘foodies’, being strongly motivated to visit new places based on food and wine offers. Next to the scenery and beautiful landscape, activity-oriented offers ranging from hiking to surfing generate interest for ASW on Twitter,” the report said.
It said WA could trigger the ‘iconification’ of a south west attraction by inviting Asian social media influencers, celebrities, film producers, video game producers and book authors to the region where they would communicate their visit back home.
Study lead author Michael Volgger said the tourism sector must incorporate a social media component into tourism activities and enlist the support of Asian social media influencers, as well as expanding free wifi services and offering direct flights from Asia.
“Many Asian visitors are motivated to visit a location based on word-of-mouth and a strong social media influence, so it is important that attractions in Australia’s South West become more iconic by combining the unique features of the region with building popular social media moments into the activities on offer,” Dr Volgger said.
Visitors’ suggestions for improvement included increasing the number of activities in general and providing further integrated experiences in the south west around food, wine and its coast.
The report also said making the south west more ‘Asia-friendly’ would help boost numbers, this included offering more Asian food at restaurants to “show multi-cultural awareness and respect” and catering to the different Asian languages.
Tourism providers highlighted the need to extend trading hours to cater for tourists who are used to longer hours in their home country.
Catrin Allsop, the chief executive Officer of Australia’s South West – the regional tourism organisation, said crafting bespoke experiences and additional activities
would boost visitation from these markets.
“The report provides the tourism industry with clear recommendations to implement over the short to medium term to achieve further visitor growth by promoting and servicing the visitor in a more tailor-made way,” she said.
Some bespoke experiences suggested in the report included permanent food and art markets in south west towns, a surf centre or surf museum, a marine discovery centre, a wine centre, bee centre and forest and wildlife discovery centre.