Sunday, August 12, 2018
Chinese tourists' thirst for blue skies, open spaces leads to bump in educational trips to WA
PHOTO: Chinese families are encouraged to travel and learn together in large groups. (ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Laura Meachim)
Middle-class Chinese parents are splashing out to give their children unique educational experiences in Australia, by taking them to the regions where they can see blue skies and open spaces.
The Western Australian city of Geraldton is tapping into the growing Chinese tourism market, by accommodating school groups who come to see the region's natural sights and attractions.
Last week, 100 students and parents visited Geraldton from Beijing, the biggest group to travel through regional WA.
PHOTO: The group of 100 children, parents and celebrities was the largest to visit regional WA.(ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Laura Meachim )
The trip was led by two popular Beijing television presenters, who gave formal lessons to the children each evening about Australia.
PHOTO: Mandarin-speaking tour guides enhance the visitors' learning experience.(ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Laura Meachim)
Presenter Fang Wang has taken children and their parents on bonding trips to both Europe and the United States, as part of a new travel concept where families learn about new places together.
Miss Fang said she first came to WA on her own, but knew she needed to bring families to learn about the unique landscape.
"There are so many differences between the two countries," she said.
"We wanted to explore the differences, we want to get our kids to experience such a different environment.
She said the maiden trip had been successful.
"Before we came here we heard this place was very isolated," she said.
"It is actually beyond my imagination, when we came here we found everything was so good and we hope we can come next time as well."
PHOTO: The trip provided families the opportunity to bond, while checking out WA's coastline.(ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Laura Meachim)
For the children, many had spent their whole lives surrounded by the bustling streets of Beijing.
It was the first time some of the children had seen the ocean.
Annie, a 10-year-old student said her favourite thing about WA was how clean it was.
"Here is very beautiful and here is very clean," she said.
"I think it is cleaner than China."
Her friend Bella said she thought Australia was very big.
"In Beijing, it has a lot of people," she said.
"Here has many mountains and rivers."
Just four years ago, barely any Chinese tourists visited WA's mid-west.
But natural sites like the Hutt Lagoon pink lakes and the Kalbarri National Park have proved popular in China.
Mayor of Greater Geraldton Shane Van Styn said now they attract about 5,000 visitors a year.
"This is a significant increase in patronage to our wonderful city," he said.
"We hope that this exponential growth in Chinese tourism continues both now and into the future."
Mr Van Styn said the city hoped to host more celebrity-led tours.
PHOTO: The Hutt Lagoon pink lakes are a popular attraction, particularly for Chinese visitors.(ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Laura Meachim)
"Having people like Miss Fang, a famous Chinese celebrity promoting all things that are wonderful in our city, that audience runs in the millions," he said.
He said they hoped to increase the numbers of Chinese tourists into the tens of thousands each year within the next decade.
"I do not think we are ready for that but it is something we need to start preparing for," he said.
The city is expanding the airport to allow for bigger planes, with the potential to start exporting produce directly to China.
Mr Van Styn said he hoped one day, the city would be able to offer direct passengers flights to make visits to the mid-west easier and more accessible.