Imagine the problem of having 4 x your entire population added each year in tourists. Sounds great! But think about the infrastructure and needs of those tourists. Well it’s going to get even bigger for Croatia, which has been named the most sought-after new European destination for Chinese tourists in 2018 at the China Travel Awards-World Best Awards.1
From 160,000 in 2017 (a 53% increase on 2016), Croatia was expecting 250,000 Chinese tourists this year and China (including Hong Kong and Macau) was the fifth source of visitors. Adding Taiwan tourists, the number is around 300,000. Tourism (all sources) contributes one-fifth of Croatia’s GDP with 18 million arrivals (population of around 4.2 million!)
Problems with growing these Chinese numbers include no direct flights, visa delays and the need for more Chinese guides, signage and services specific to the Chinese market (Mario Rendulić, President of the Presidency of Chinese Southeast Business Association (CSEBA)). The Tourist Board of Croatia has now opened an office in Shanghai, and to keep the momentum these issues will need to be addressed. A couple of searches in translator territory yielded two qualified translators in the Croatian-Chinese pairing.
A conference was held in late 2018 in Dubrovnik attended by entrepreneurs from some of the most influential tourism companies in China. At the same time, your erstwhile correspondent was on a mission researching Chinese tourist habits in Croatia (nothing to do with GOT, she assures us)! The Game of Power as it is known in China(权力的游戏 Quánlì de yóuxì) is a big deal since it was first aired on CCTV in 2012, and Chinese visitors put King’s Landing (Dubrovnik) as a must-see.
Chinese like active holidays, authentic experiences, natural and historic surroundings – just like an episode of GOT. I observed mostly groups led by Croatian Guides with English-Mandarin Interpreters (so three languages in play). A general lack of information in Chinese was noticeable, eg signage and menus; plenty of Chinese visiting the big-ticket items like Dubrovnik, Split and Plitvice Lakes – but in large groups. There is lots of upside to tackle the FIT sector and to open up many of the other fantastic locations in Croatia and the Balkans broadly.
Some advice I could provide (and not unlike what we propose to our Australian clients) in how to attract more Chinese tourists and better cater for them:
● Building Weibo and WeChat marketing showcasing beauty spots, history, food and stories
● Training tourism operators in how to attract and look after Chinese visitors
● Being found in Chinese Language with website content that is appealing
● Attending Chinese tourism events and meeting agents
● Joining relevant organisations and sharing knowledge
● Always using QR codes on all materials
● Chinese signage in the window
● Chinese speaking staff and guides
● Establish relationships with tour companies in China but with properly translated collateral first
● Creating Chinese brands for your location or offering that is easy to remember (and trademarking it)
● Offering specials during high seasons like Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn festivals.
Australia stacks up pretty well in the above, but we can always improve and often something as simple as a landing page, a sign or a WeChat account can make a big difference to visitors finding you and enjoying the offering – and, most importantly, spreading the word. All we need now is to open up a new Game of Thrones destination in Australia!