South Coast eyes China for tourism boost

South Coast operators are being encouraged to look to China to help grow the region's tourism market, which brings in around $2 billion each year from Helensburgh to Eden.

On Friday morning, the NSW Tourism Minister George Souris launched the NSW government's plan to increase tourism from China in order to double visitor expenditure to the state by 2020.

By Friday afternoon Mr Souris was in the Illawarra spruiking the China Tourism Strategy 2012-2020, which has been allocated $15 million over the next four years.

The strategy will see NSW marketed in four primary China source markets that takes in Greater Beijing, Greater Shanghai, Guangdong Provence and Chengdu.

It will target "high performing consumer segments", including China's emerging middle-class consumers, business events, assisted free independent travellers and students.

Meeting with the South Coast Regional Tourism Organisation in Shellharbour, Mr Souris heard how the South Coast market was traditionally a haven for domestic tourists, a factor that had helped buffer the industry from the impacts of the high Australian dollar, which had hurt tourism elsewhere in the country.

However, Mr Souris said the Illawarra and NSW South Coast were ideally located to benefit from an increased focus on the Chinese market.

"What the Chinese tourism is telling is, what they really enjoy, is just standing there looking at the sites and the landscape," Mr Souris said.

"The Chinese love seeing the water. Here you have the ocean, then turn your head and you see the rolling hills. That is what they want."

Chairman of the South Coast Regional Tourism Organisation Brian Longbottom said the region was starting to see signs of increase in Chinese tourism.

"The middle-class Chinese are great travellers now, traditionally perhaps haven't extended themselves to the regions, but I think that has changed," he said.

"They are becoming more inquisitive about regions outside Sydney, we are finding that, seeing that and hoping to address that."

Mr Souris said that NSW had the largest share of Chinese visitors to Australia, as well as the largest share of Chinese visitor expenditure. Between July 2011 and June 2012, visitors from China to NSW increased by more than 15 per cent to 335,500.

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