THE latest drive to attract more of the Chinese market to the Ballarat region has received federal opposition backing.
During a visit to regional tourist attractions yesterday, opposition Tourism spokesman Bob Baldwin said tourism would play a major part in a renewed push into the Chinese market.
Mr Baldwin, a former tourism operator, said he understood how important the tourist industry was to regional centres like Ballarat.
His comments follow last week’s major Victorian delegation to China from education, manufacturing and tourist sectors, including Sovereign Hill.
After receiving a briefing yesterday on the recent developments to increase the number of international tourist visitors to Sovereign Hill, including the establishment of an office in China, Mr Baldwin toured other regional attractions, including Kryal Castle and the Bathhouse at Daylesford.
“The economic benefit of tourism to this town as we start to go on the verge of the ‘China Ready Syndrome’ will be massive,” Mr Baldwin said.
“You’ve got some great tourism assets here and what you need is people elected that can drive those assets.
“I think Sovereign Hill is doing well tapping into the China market and I understand they’ve now set up an office in China to directly promote.
“This is a $50 million-a-year business and when we look at the potential across the region here with our Asian connection there is opportunity for growth but we must be China-ready.
“As an ex-tourism operator myself, you should never sit back and rest on your laurels or your successes. You should always reach to where the next goal is.”
Sovereign Hill chief executive Jeremy Johnson briefed Mr Baldwin on how the popular outdoor museum was further tapping into the Chinese market.
“We have a team of Chinese speaking guides who greet visitors,” Mr Johnson said.
“Our under mine tours are conducted in both Cantonese and Mandarin.
“Our office in Shanghai, China has already been established earlier this year. We hope it will be fully operating by the end of the year.”
Mr Johnson said the China office already had four staff who had started sales work.
“Tourism Australia’s target is to get one million Chinese visitors per year by 2020. At the moment there are 580,000 so if that doubles, Sovereign Hill’s target should be to double in Chinese visitation.”