Out to make China our mate

NOT too many Chinese tourists come to the Northern Rivers.

In fact, China accounts for only 0.5% of the region's international visitors (one in 200).

But that's something Northern Rivers Tourism is hoping to change and, if it's successful, there could be huge economic benefits for the region.

The organisation's chief executive, Russell Mills, is joining the greater China sales mission next week, along with 25 other NSW tourism businesses.

The mission has been organised by Destination NSW.

Mr Mills said the delegation will meet with travel agents specialising in outbound travel to Australia.

"This is a first look at the potential to establish visitation from China to the Northern Rivers as part of a visit to Australia," he said.

The need to push into new markets is more important than ever.

There has been a significant decline (14%) in the number of people who visit the Northern Rivers from traditional markets such as America, Britain and Europe.

Spending was also down 20% to $111 million in the year ending September, 2011.

That's why China is now a critical market for the Northern Rivers.

There were almost 290,000 Chinese visitors in NSW in the year ending September 2011, they stayed 10.7 million nights and contributed $1.2 billion to the economy, up by $70 million on the previous year.

Redirecting just some of those tourists away from Sydney and up to the Northern Rivers will bring millions of extra dollars to the region and a much-needed boost to the industry.

"Our primary objective (on the sales mission) is to gain insights into Chinese culture, the way business is done in China and to identify where there are potential visitors who are well-travelled, culturally curious and who seek the kind of authentic Australian holiday experience we can provide as a region," Mr Mills said.


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