This development and the removal of the Sydney Monorail meant the Australian National Maritime Museum had to look at ways to attract new visitors to our doorstep. Because without a convention centre and the monorail tourists would not be ‘dropped’ at our doorstep.
As a result of a China Tourism and China Ready strategy, Chinese tourists have moved from being in our top 5 of visitors to being number 1 in 2015/2016 ahead of the UK and USA.
In addition, our tourism strategy has seen international visitors to the museum grow by 10% over the past two years, now representing 32% of all of our ticketed visitors.
Chinese visitation has grown by over 200% year on year, facilitated by winning a major incentive group Nu Skin Greater China. Even without this group, Chinese tourists grew by more than 100%, followed by Japanese growth of 108%, Indian tourist growth of 90% and Korean tourist growth of 72%.
What we did
We knew the Chinese tourists were coming to Sydney, specifically to Darling Harbour, by looking at the Destination New South Wales visitor data as well as incentives won by Business Events Sydney. In fact, they were coming in coach loads to the Sydney Fish Markets, The Star, Harbourside Shopping Centre and of course China Town – all of which are walking distance to us.
But they weren’t coming to our doors in the same numbers and we needed to figure out why. So we looked at ways to change this. The key things we did to determine if we were of interest to Chinese tourists were:
- Spoke with Tourism Australia and Destination New South Wales, particularly in market managers to determine the appetite for our product.
- Went to market to find a tourism representation agency that could assist us in determining next steps to drive international visitation (not just from China but from Eastern and Western markets). Australian Attractions were appointed on a two-year contract.
- Hosted site inspections and famils for qualified agents and buyers. Then we listened to the feedback of the international Country Managers and Inbound Tour Operators on what we needed to do or change to attract more international visitors.
What we did next
- With the launch of Action Stations – a $12m new attraction, the whole experience was translated into Simplified Chinese.
- As part of this, the microsite was also translated.
- We worked with Union Pay to attract locally living Chinese speaking volunteers to become part of our 400+ volunteer pool – integral to our visitor experience.
- Focused on recruiting casual and permanent staff who had Chinese speaking language skills.
What we learned
- Hurdles included the fact that there was no easy way to translate the word “Maritime”.
- We focused on promoting our outdoor experiences, emphasising the fact that the museum offers the unique opportunity to climb aboard Navy vessels and the HMB Endeavour replica, all in one location.
- Chinese speakers and Union Pay are important to assist the Chinese visitors to have a welcoming experience.
- Chinese visitors are looking for authentic, Australian experiences that they cannot do anywhere else.
- We can host large volumes of International non-English speaking visitors at the same time as English-speaking visitors and ensure all have a good experience.
Where to now?
While we are China Ready we still have a way to go. Next steps for us include:
- Weekly tours in language including Mandarin, Cantonese as well as other languages from our key international visitor demographics.
- Continue to focus on Chinese speaking staff in retail and front of house areas daily.
- Explore the digital platforms or translations for our website but also WeChat and Weibo.
- Look at the longer term international tourism strategy.
- Continue to expand our retail offering to cater to each market while still being true to the Australian National Maritime Museum Brand and authenticity.
— Deanna Varga, Assistant Director Commercial & Visitor Services
To find out more about what the museum did to accommodate the Chinese visitors check out Tourism Upgrade with Holly G’s podcast.