Plans are underway to increase Chinese arrivals as a new source market for Samoa.
The first official familiarisation visit of Chinese tour operators landed in Apia this week, with a delegation of ten influential figures from the Chinese travel industry visiting major tourist sites across the country. Coordinated by Samoa Tourism Authority (STA), the visit marks a combined effort to grow tourist arrivals to Samoa from the world’s fastest growing source market, which so far this year has generated 100 million outbound tourists.
In 2012, 88% of Samoa’s visitors were from New Zealand, Australia or other South Pacific Islands, a region with a combined population of less than 30 million. With changing global tourism trends and rising competition in traditional markets, more South Pacific destinations including Samoa have recognised the potential of China, which was the number one tourist source market in the world in 2012 and is now a major source market for Australia, New Zealand, Maldives and also Fiji.
The tour operators visiting Samoa this week were responsible for 1.25 million outbound tourists in 2012. This high calibre group had the opportunity to meet and discuss potential tour packages with local inbound operators and accommodation providers throughout their visit. “With an increasing GDP, the number of Chinese outbound tourists continues to increase and there is an emerging trend of Chinese visitors wanting and demanding to explore new and exciting destinations like Samoa”, says President of China Environment International Travel Service, Mr Zhong Hui. An influential figure in the Chinese travel industry, Mr Zhong said he is “very confident in Samoa attracting more and more tourists from China”.
Supported by the International Finance Corporation and South Pacific Tourism Organisation, the visit is a key stepping stone in developing a marketable product for the rapidly growing Chinese outbound market. The visit follows a request from Government and last month’s Chinese media visit to Samoa, where a group of notable media representatives travelled throughout the country capturing footage for the promotion of Samoa in China.
“Tapping the China travel market is a tangible goal for Samoa. However, Samoa is not a low cost destination, and visitors from China are likely to represent a well-heeled, well-travelled market niche interested in adventure and culture-based travel,” said Dina Nicholas, Team Leader of IFC’s Pacific Regional Tourism Program. “As the market grows, the tourism industry in Samoa will adjust to a relatively demanding group of new tourists.”
“Samoa, which is an Approved Destination for Chinese, acknowledges with appreciation the assistance of the IFC as a key partner in this initiative and as well as the SPTO and private sector members which hosted the group” said Samoa Tourism Authority CEO Papalii Matatamalii Sonja Hunter. Papalii encouraged the private sector to capitalise on the leads presented and mentioned that this is part and parcel of STA’s ongoing efforts to enhance trade awareness in China.