What do Chinese tourists want?

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Brian Hennessy & Yirong Li. 

Most Chinese tourists who visit Australia will be ordinary people who in one generation have made a giant leap from poverty to a middle-class lifestyle. Not so long ago, their main focus was on surviving in a tough, isolated environment. Now they are travelling the world. Communism is dead, money is their new religion, and China is rising. They are proud of themselves.


What do Chinese tourists want?


What will these Chinese visitors hope to experience in Cairns?

Our guests from the Middle Kingdom will have two basic needs: (i) just like tourists from other countries, they will want to experience the pleasures of travelling abroad; and (ii) unlike other countries they will be constantly thinking of how much ‘face’ they can gain at home from their adventures in a foreign land across the sea. Therefore, the more exotic attractions they can visit and photograph, the more ‘bragging rights’ they will enjoy on their return. We should never underestimate how important ‘face’ is for Chinese people.

If we reflect on where Chinese people are coming from – a Confucian mono-culture with a totalitarian government, and crowded mega-cities with polluted skies and unsafe water – it should come as no surprise to learn that as well as visiting our natural wonders, they will also want to experience our relaxing, healthy, lifestyle. 

Many of our Chinese guests would hope to meet local Australians who they think may be more friendly than their compatriots. Compatriots whose first law of human behaviour is: ‘protect yourself first’ – a sad but true commentary on life in mainland China today. We should take the lead therefore, and help our visitors to overcome their self-protective reserve. 

Although Chinese tourists will want to see clear blue skies, breathe clean fresh air, and visit beautiful sandy beaches, they will avoid any exposure to strong sunlight. Unlike European tourists, they will not want to return home with a Golden tan. In China, dark skin is associated with peasant farmers and poverty. City-folk look down on peasants and their lifestyle.

Unfortunately, our guests may not be interested in delving too deeply into Western culture. And they will not want want to spend a lot of time enjoying just a few very interesting attractions. Instead, they would prefer to sample as many local attractions that they can possibly fit into their tight schedule. This way they believe that they will be getting their money’s worth.

With regard to food, and contrary to some opinion, they will be interested in trying different cuisines. However, this does not mean that they will abandon their taste for rice and noodles. Culinary note: southern Chinese prefer rice, and northern Chinese prefer noodles.

Overseas data, and local experience confirm that Chinese tourists will spend a large proportion of their holiday budget on Shopping. This is because family, friends, and colleagues will expect them to return home with gifts from abroad. Although famous brand items can be purchased in any large city in China, items purchased abroad accrue more face and are less likely to be fake. They will also want to buy local iconic  products – particularly those associated with native flora and fauna.

Some suggestions for retailers: Give them a warm welcome and a lot of attention. Offer to assist. Target group leaders – the rest might follow. Expect them to bargain and do whatever you need to do to make them think that they are getting a good deal. For example; add a token gift to the purchase (old stock that won’t move, a dashboard kangaroo, or a humble koala key-ring).



Chinese tourists will be baffled just as much by Western Culture as we are baffled by Chinese culture. Their cultural prejudices will be challenged and their horizons broadened. And so will ours if we make the effort to understand Chinese culture and do our best to meet the needs of this growing wave of international travellers.


Yirong Li & Brian Hennessy


Buy our eBook, Get China Ready: Understand Chinese culture. Manage cultural differences, from Amazon Kindle eBooks (download their free App for your computer, laptop or tablet). Authors: Hennessy & Li. $9.99







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