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China is now Australia's fastest growing inbound tourism market. Tourism Australia’s latest projections suggest that annual spending by Chinese visitors to Australia could rise to $13 billion by 2020, an increase of nearly 50 per cent on the previous estimate of $9 billion in 2011. The potential for growth in in-bound tourism from China is illustrated by the family-owned Tangalooma Island Resort which receives 40,000 Chinese visitors a year. Tangalooma Island Resort built up a network of travel agents in China that enabled them to target more affluent customer groups and then match expectations with carefully selected services in the resort.

Tangalooma Island Resort’s David James began to travel to China in the 1990s to forge business links with Chinese partners in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Since 2000, these arrangements have expanded to other major cities such as Chongqing, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Suzhou and Tianjin. China is Tangalooma’s fastest growing tourist market. Over a decade of cultivating relationships and building up the Tangalooma brand, the number of Chinese visitors has increased tenfold from 3,000 to 4,000 visitors per year in the early 2000s to 40,000 a year today, creating vast benefits to business, the local economy and the local community.

From the outset, Tangalooma concentrated its efforts in China on a small number of highly selected travel agencies and long-term relationships. Tangalooma’s strategy is to work with a select group of key travel agencies, normally four to five wholesale agents and the same number of high volume retail agents in each major city, to avoid brand erosion and price competition. These agents hold a crucial role in providing information and resources to present the resort as a high quality holiday experience.

Tangalooma has built a strong and recognised Chinese brand name as Dolphin Island (???). The brand is targeting China’s rising independent tourists who demand more unique and authentic experiences when they travel. These tourists, often referred as Free Independent Travellers (FIT), tend to be younger, more affluent and sophisticated than other tourists. A strong brand plays a key role in enhancing the overall image of Tangalooma and attracts the more affluent travellers. Carefully nurtured, the brand caters for travellers who want an Australian experience but in a familiar Chinese environment. The resort has a Sichuan restaurant, Chinese speaking staff and special activities on annual Chinese festivals.