A ustralia may be banking on attracting British tourists weary of Brexit with a playful new advertising campaign featuring pop singer Kylie Minogue, but experts say the lucrative Chinese market remains the one to watch for its massive untapped potential. Tourism Australia launched the US$15 million campaign featuring the singer ahead of the Queen’s speech on Christmas Day, calling on Australia’s “besties across the ocean” to take a trip Down Under and forget about Britain’s fraught negotiations to exit the European Union. British visitors to Australia fell 4 per cent to 714,000 arrivals over the 12-month period ending in October as consumer confidence took a plunge amid uncertainty surrounding Brexit . By comparison, about 1.4 million Chinese tourists visited Australia in the year up to July, making China by far the biggest market in terms of both arrivals and money spent – although arrivals slowed from double-digit growth to a rise of just 0.3 per cent amid the fallout of the US-China trade war and a slowing Chinese economy . Tourism Australia is expected to launch an ad campaign specifically tailored for China, one of 15 “key” markets, at an unspecified date. “It will be interesting to see how Australia approaches Chinese tourism marketing because they can’t just rely upon the traditional outback, beach, clear skies, and gourmet experiences any more when newer generations want to see more … and without leaving the comfort of the major Australian cities along the eastern seaboard,” said Andrew Hughes, a lecturer in marketing at Australian National University. “In other words, marketing needs to be designed specifically for what the Gen Y and Gen Z Chinese consumer wants, not what may have worked so well in the past for Australian tourism when it targeted largely Western markets.” Why Bali is losing its shine for Chinese tourists Hughes said future campaigns could make better use of Chinese social media such as Weibo. Josh Watkins, a political science lecturer at the National University of Singapore who has studied Australia’s history of ad campaigns warning asylum seekers against travelling to the country by boat, said the latest tourism campaign fitted a pattern of conflicting messages aimed at different types of arrivals. “To tourist and desired immigrants, successive Australian governments have attempted to frame Australia as a tropical land of fairness and fun, openness and opportunity, its geography and wildlife a source of exotic adventure,” Watkins said. But asylum seekers, who are automatically banned from settling in Australia if they arrive by boat, had been sold an image of Australia as “geographically inaccessible” and “an unwelcoming place where asylum seekers await certain imprisonment, financial devastation, and personal suffering”, Watkins said. The latest ad campaign comes as Australia grapples with raging bush fires that have killed at least 17 people and destroyed hundreds of homes across New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia since October. David Beirman, a lecturer in tourism at the University of Technology Sydney, said international coverage of the crisis was likely to have a negative impact on arrivals, including Chinese, in the short term. “I expect there will be a slight downturn in tourism to Australia from all our major source markets,” Beirman said. “Mind you, when the fires do peter out, the post-fire tourism bounce back should be mighty.” Asia’s beaches go quiet as China’s economy slows and tourists stay at home Also clouding the market outlook have been political tensions over issues including China’s detention of a Chinese-Australian dissident author and the attempted defection of a Chinese man to Australia who claims to have spied on behalf of Beijing . Brian King, associate dean of the School of Hotel & Tourism Management at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said that despite concerns of friction between China and Australia affecting tourism, the trend pointed towards growth in Chinese visitors. “Unless it becomes the cold war again, I think you will still see tourism, leisure travel from China to Australia continuing, with only hiccups,” King said. “I don’t think there are going to be big downturns, I think it will keep growing.” China has held the top spot as the world’s biggest tourism market since 2012, with outbound travellers spending US$258 billion in 2016, about 20 per cent of the global spend, according to United Nations World Tourism Organisation. Tourism Research Australia projects Chinese visitor numbers to soar to 3.9 million in 2026–27, and visitor spending to top A$26.2 billion (US$18.38 billion). Whereas Australia’s latest ad campaign sought to capitalise on Minogue’s popularity in Britain, where she has scored seven No 1 albums, future adverts could make use of Chinese celebrities, said Sarah Gardiner, director of the Griffith Institute Tourism in Brisbane. Chinese tourists and students are turning away from Australia as trade war takes toll “One of the key elements of these kinds of advertising campaigns is not just the advertising push but also its shareability – organic reach that it has where people on social media share the content with their community, their friends and their connections on social media,” Gardiner said. Graham Brown, a professor of tourism management at the University of South Australia, said Australia would see little reason to lessen its reliance on the Chinese market, given its massive untapped potential. “As with most strategies, it is prudent to be as diversified as possible but investment in tourism must be measured against the returns that are achieved,” Brown said. “The tourist markets in the UK and China are at very different stages of development and market penetration and the messages in ad campaigns should reflect these differences.” ■ Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A. Offer valid until 31 March 2020.