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June 27, 2010

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Aussie state poised to welcome more Chinese

GREGORY Hywood, chief executive of Tourism Victoria, visited the World Expo Shanghai last week. Victoria is Australia's second-most populous state and the major city in the state is Melbourne, with a Chinatown that has the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the Western world.

Victoria was the first Australian state to open a tourism office in China in 1999 and currently China is Victoria's third-largest tourism market. Hywood predicts it will be the largest by 2014.

Hywood talked about Expo Shanghai and Victoria's appeal for Chinese travelers.

Q: What is Tourism Victoria's promotional strategy for Expo Shanghai?

A: The Victoria government has put A$6 million (US$5.22 million) into the Australia Pavilion. We are one of the major sponsors to support the pavilion and the cultural program during the Expo. China is very important, not only in the tourism market, but also in terms of development of Victoria's economy across the whole reign of new industries. We seek a high profile in Shanghai during the Expo.

Q: Will you have any program to encourage people in Victoria State to come to Shanghai during the Expo?

A: There is a lot of press coverage at home about Expo Shanghai. We also learned that outbound numbers from Australia into China are very strong now because of the Expo. It provides a reason for many people to visit Shanghai and the rest of China, where they have always wanted to go.

Q: What does the theme of Expo Shanghai "Better City, Better Life" mean to Victoria?

A: The whole notion of "Better City, Better Life" is exactly the way we think and try to live in Melbourne. The juxtapositions of technology development with environmental sustainability and how the focus should be on how people live rather than pure growth and development is very important. Melbourne has been voted top three in the last 10 years in the ranking of most livable cities in the world by The Economist magazine and we have also won a few times. Melbourne is an urban, clean, sustainable city surrounded by nature in close proximity to wonderful coastlines, extraordinary animals and bush lands and has great fun and food.

Q: How has Victoria State done in the global economy downturn? Did you have strategies to boost the tourism market in the crisis?

A: We had no reduction in the international tourism business during the global downturn. During an economic crisis, it actually became cheaper for people to travel and we have been a unique and popular destination. We actually had very strong international growth during the period -- 1.54 million international travelers came to Melbourne as of December 2009. There has been strong growth from China as well as other emerging markets.

Q: How can China become the No. 1 source market for Victoria?

A: Because of the unique and deeply cultural experience we provide in Melbourne, we have been seeing increasingly more independent travelers from China, compared with group travelers. We are encouraging this as we are a great destination for individual travelers, with accommodative facilities for Chinese visitors. We provide a Chinese visitor's guide and the Melbourne Airport also has introduced Chinese signage and announcements. Chinese signage will be further improved. Our premier also announced a new A$8 million tourism campaign in China during his visit to the Expo early in the month.


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