Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

China and Regional Australia 4 - attracting Chinese tourists 3: providing the right information

Photo: Lonely Planet Guide to Shanghai.

Frankly, most Australian regional areas are absolutely hopeless when it comes to selling their own story. This is a pity, for when it comes to both official material and the conventional guide books, most regional areas get squeezed into a few sentences. How can you sell on this basis?

Then if you look at local material, this is also pretty hopeless, a series of disconnected pieces of paper generally focused on attractions in the main regional center. I get so frustrated at this. It is hard to get the story across that we can do better.

To illustrate what I mean, take the mainstream conventional guide book. If we were to apply this to, say, Armidale, we would have the following structure.

The first few pages might deal with general history and geography, the last pages with travellers tips.

The middle section might be broken into two part. The first might deal with Armidale, the second with the surrounds. Both would incorporate maps and photos. All sections would contain references to the area's unique culture.

Hang on, I can hear you say, unique culture? What is unique about Armidale?

Well, to the overseas visitor all of Australia is unique. Further, each area has its own very specific features. We need to point to both.

Once an English language version has been completed, then turn it into Chinese. That way, your visitors have something that will bring their trip back, an aid to memory.

There is a special problem here because many current publications are littered with ads. I can understand this. Most local tourism authorities are short of funds and look for anything that might help defray costs. Yet in most cases the ads both twist content and detract from reader enjoyment. You really need ad free if you are to get best results.

Back to the entry post in this series

Sunday, September 28, 2008

China and Regional Australia 3 - attracting Chinese tourists 2: telling a story

This is part of a Chinese mega store in Shanghai. Click on the image to get a full feel. While the overall footprint is smaller than one of our big malls, the size and crush of people is overwhelming.

If you are going to attract Chinese tourists, any tourists for that matter, you have to be able to tell a story. Many of our regional areas are very bad at this.

Proud of you parks and civic facilities? Forget it. This won't sell. Proud of your shopping centre and the fact that you have good coffee? Forget it. This won't sell.

Each regional area has different features. Each has its own history, its own life style You have to focus on this.

To illustrate what I mean by taking an area that I know especially well.

If I had a Chinese tour party in Armidale, I would focus one day on mining.

On a day trip, I would start by telling them a little of the history of mining in the area, focusing on the hazards and romance including the role played by the Chinese, the old (California) and new (Australia) gold mountains.

Our first stop would be Uralla where I would take them to the museum with its Chinese Joss House, then to Thunderbolt's statue and grave. Plenty of time for photos. Then on to Inverell with its sapphires. After trying fossicking, there would be time to look at and buy sapphires.

From Inverell to Tingha with its Chinese store museum. Tin, the Chinese presence, the old Chinese store that is now a museum. Then back to Armidale.

This is quite a long day trip with plenty of relevant material.

On a second day I would show the romance of wool. This would focus on the establishment of a new order in a strange land, of wealth and privilege, of the way wool helped form elements of the Australian character.

I would start with Booloominbah, the big White town house that now forms the core of the University of New England. I would follow this with a country tour, including a visit to a working sheep property. Lots of animals. And I would again make certain that there were things to buy, plenty of wool products. On the trip, I would (among other things) explain Waltzing Matilda, teaching our guests to sing the song.

This is only a bare sketch, but it illustrates my point.

In terms of other things that our visitors might do, there is of course a tour of the city and its immediate attractions. Then, too, they might need some choice.

This depends in part on what is on in town. If the markets are on, that is one option. Racing would be a second. Beyond that, things are available like a gorge tour, a helicopter flight, a winery visit, a horse ride.

In all this, there is the need to treat the visitors as guests. A welcome by the mayor, the local Chinese community or the University, learning Australian cooking, meeting Australians in their own homes, the list of possibilities is quite extensive.

In all this, we need to remember my opening point, the need to tell a story.

Back to the entry post in this series.

Friday, September 26, 2008

China and Regional Australia 2 - attracting Chinese tourists 1: what do we have to sell?

Photo: Shanghai crowd scene

As I walked through Shanghai, I ached to get some of them back to visit Regional Australia. China is still a poor country measured by average standard of living. However, I would guess that the middle class has now passed 130 million, many of whom can afford to travel.

Our present travel promotion generally has a city bias, or focuses on things that we think are distinct. We do not think of what might be distinct in the minds of our potential visitors.

China is incredibly crowded to those of us used to even big regional centres. Further, the Chinese are used to and even love the crowds. Here a Chinese work friend said that when she first came to Sydney, she missed the crowds and the noise. To her, Sydney was a small city.

The love of crowds does not mean that we cannot attract Chinese visitors to Regional Australia. In fact, the opposite is true. We have the capacity to offer them a unique experience. We may not attract them all, but even half of one per cent is 750,000 extra visitors per annum.

But what does Regional Australia have to offer compared to the metro centres or the big coastal resort areas? Here I can only offer my own experiences in conversation.

The Chinese appear fascinated by our animals, especially koalas and kangaroos. So this is one part of the experience.

Then, too, the Chinese appear fascinated by our primary production. Wool, sheep dogs, properties with size measured in hundreds if not thousands of hectares. This can be romance territory. Even being able to pat a hen!

Given the current problems with contaminated milk in China, our clean food is another attraction.

Then we have life style in a broad sense. Just about everything in Regional Australia is different in life style terms.

In all this, the key point is to focus on and emphasise the differences with China.

Back to the entry post in this series.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The importance of the block buster

This photo by Gordon Smith shows a week's supply of wood used in the lounge room heater. It also shows a blockbuster.

A blockbuster is a an axe with a specially heavy head used to break up blocks of wood.

The key to using a blockbuster is to let the weight of the head do the job for you. Hit the block in the right spot and it will split easily.

Monday, September 22, 2008

China and Regional Australia 1 - introduction

I have been in China, making it difficult to post. I found the trip very interesting not just because of the exposure to China itself, but also because of the way it generated new ideas relevant to my various interests. Yes, China is very different from Regional Australia, but there are also surprising shared interests as well as things that we can learn.

For that reason, I thought that I might do a short series of posts while things are still fresh in my memory. I will use this post as an entry page, adding posts at the bottom as I write them.

Posts in the China and Regional Australia series

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Regional Living Australia - most popular posts 2

This post continues my series on the most popular posts on this blog. This helps me get a feel for what people like. Howver, my present free stats package will only allow me to look at the most recent 100 visits. To help me overcome this, I decided to start a new most popular posts series reporting every two to three weeks. Over time, this should give me a better feel for things that really appeal.

The most popular posts in the last 100 visits have been:

Monday, September 08, 2008

Tree change - how do I know that I will fit in?

One of the most common worries that people have when considering a shift from the metros is simply the question of whether or not they will fit in in their new environment. This is a very real issue.

Last week I was talking to someone who had made the shift then returned to the city after three years in a large regional centre. The move should have worked. His skills were much in demand. However, he was also single, gay and had lived in one part the city all his life. He returned because he missed home and also felt that he did not quite fit in in his new environment.

The question of fit is partly a matter of family or personal need and of personal interests. However, the degree of fit between you and the culture of the new community is also important.

Each area within Regional Australia has its own character and culture determined by its history and geography. This character and culture can vary quite dramatically between areas. Smaller communities also make for higher degrees of personal interaction and visibility- people simply know more about each other than is common in metro areas.

As a general rule of thumb, people who identify with and participate in their new community generally find that the community identifies with them. However, issues of fit can still arise.

The only way of identifying potential problems is to spend some time in the community as a visitor. Read the local newspaper first, most regional papers now have an on-line presence, to get a feel for the community. Then on your visit or visits take the time to check the community out.

Obviously you will want to check out facilities and amenities linked to your interests and needs. But also spend some time listening and dropping in. Just ask questions, get people talking. Listen to conversations in pubs and cafes. If after this you feel comfortable with the community, you can be pretty sure that they will feel comfortable with you.


Pam kindly added this comment.

thought this was a good post Jim. We lived interstate for a time but moved back because we missed old friends, cycling mates, and suprisingly family, because it was one of the reasons we thought a bit of distance might be good. Proved otherwise which made us laugh. It is true that abscence makes the heart grow fonder. Also there is quite a bit of wariness on both sides, of people you don't know and don't know you, so establishing new friendships takes tentative time.Missing very old friendships was the deciding factor in moving back to familiar territory.

I think that Pam's comment captures some of the elements in the tree change process that I was talking about.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Musings on Australian food and wine

I am a real food and wine jag at the moment. We (Australians) are really very lucky in the range of food and wine that we have available to us.

My current obsession started with a function a Sydney University's International House. I reported on this in a post on my personal blog -What would you serve as Australian food? They key point in the post was the failure of Australians to recognise their own Australian food styles. I followed this with two further posts - More ramblings on Australian food and In Praise of Australian food.

I am not a foodie in the conventional sense of the word. Like most of us, I am just too busy and also do not have the money to indulge myself in this way. Generally I eat to live, not live to eat. But I do think that I am missing out in not deliberately exploring some of the food we have available.

Perhaps that's not quite fair. I do try different things, and I certainly try to follow food in Regional Australia. Yet I still seem to get stuck in cooking and eating the things that I always eat, or drink for that matter.

So I have set myself a target. Over the next month or so I am going to try as many different Australian products as I can. Further, I am going to to write down my impressions. Now there is no way that I can eat or drink my way through them all, but it is a start.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Regional Australia Food & Wine - Orange revisited

In December 2006 I carried a post on the growth of Orange in NSW as a food and wine centre -Regional Australia Food & Wine - Orange NSW . I was reminded of this because I met someone at a function who was selling the Orange story. So I thought that I should mention the earlier post again!