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How the AFL and wine can boost Chinese tourism


Professor Sam Huang joined ECU's School of Business and Law in 2017.
Professor Sam Huang joined ECU's School of Business and Law in 2017.

While beautiful beaches, cute quokkas and ‘shrimp on the barbie’ spring to mind as typical tourism draws for WA, an ECU tourism researcher suggests we pay greater mind to footy, red wine and clean air.

The prolific author of more than 100 research publications, Professor Sam Huang has examined tourism from myriad angles and says WA needs to reimagine its attributes in terms of modern Chinese sensibilities.

“China is changing all the time, and I would encourage the WA tourism industry to consider how these new realities offer opportunities,” Professor Huang says.

“Chinese people are beginning to understand and take an interest in AFL, and because the game is played only in Australia, seeing the sport live is unique – only we can provide it.

“We have to remember that tourism isn’t a normal tertiary industry, as it is largely experiential.”

To take advantage of this potentially potent tourism drawcard, Professor Huang suggests the Eagles and Dockers follow Port Adelaide’s lead and play in China.

Port took on the Gold Coast Suns on May 14, 2017 in Shanghai in the first game played for premiership points outside Australia or New Zealand – an event which sold out in 2½ hours.

Touring our teams in Asia would position Subiaco, Fremantle and Perth in Chinese minds as destinations, and would help Australian organisers understand the needs of their future guests.

“We have to learn how to host Chinese tourists,” Professor Huang says.

“There is a very different understanding created when you interact with people in their own culture and see what they need – you come to conceive of tourism as more than a transaction.”

The great wines of the Margaret River Region could be key to promoting WA in China.
The great wines of the Margaret River Region could be key to promoting WA in China.

Wine for health

Understanding modern Chinese needs and realities extends to the older generation.

“People’s day-to-day lives affect their travel choices,” Professor Huang says.

“A lot more retired people now have the ability to go abroad, and their motivations relate to health – the desire to escape the pressure and pollution of China and eat good food.

“Chinese people are beginning to consume wine, not just for its taste but for its perceived health benefits.”

This makes packaging the strengths of WA’s South-West logical, with its pristine beaches, unique wildlife and premium food and wines.

“If they can’t get blue skies at home, then we can give it to them here,” Professor Huang says.

International students have a role to play in promoting WA as a tourism destination.
International students have a role to play in promoting WA as a tourism destination.

Our underappreciated agents on the ground

Western Australians should also appreciate an incredibly valuable asset already in our state: international students.

“They are so much more than customers paying tuition and accommodation,” Professor Huang says.

“My research shows that when a person studies in a foreign city, that location becomes strongly linked to their future.

“They become connectors, recommending the city to others as a place to study, visit or do business, and because they are bilingual and have a network, they are valuable to both countries.”

Professor Huang maintains close research collaborations with a number of Chinese Universities specialising in tourism, including Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou and Beijing International Studies University.

He joined ECU’s School of Business and Law in February 2017.

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