From Beijing to Ballycotton and Shangai to Shanagarry, East Cork tourism is gearing up for the arrival of the Chinese.
Tourism training workshops are to be hosted early in the new year in the Cork Harbour town of Cobh to mobilise the region for a hugely-anticipated emerging visitor market.
Over four million Chinese choose Europe as a destination every year and Tourism Ireland has already teamed up with China Youth Travel Service to claim a greater share, mainly during the off-season.
Over 45,000 Chinese tourists visited Ireland in 2015 and 2016 figures are likely to show an improvement.
However, the long-established Cobh Tourism has also come up with a strategy that involves a British institute with strong links to the Chinese tourism market.
The pioneering initiative by Cobh Tourism comes as the numbers of Chinese people holidaying in Ireland had trebled since 2012.
A number of centres in Britain are also embracing similar strategies including York, Chester and Derby.
Cobh Tourism chairman Hendrick Verwey says the training will help the port town to provide a better visitor experience for Chinese tourists.
He said Cobh is determined to officially acquire a recognised ‘Chinese Tourism Welcome’ accreditation towards capitalising on the rapidly developing market.
“Chinese people have distinct customs and interests that we hope to understand more fully,” Mr Verwey said.
“Travelling designates status in China which suggests different expectations in itself. At a basic level, we would like to be able to offer a more appropriate greeting perhaps, speak a few phrases of Chinese or whatever.
“We are also conscious that they are huge users of social media.”
The idea was introduced by Cork tourism consultants Events, Tourism, Communication (ETC) as part of a tourism marketing plan for Cobh.
The town consulted with the Irish Centre for Competitiveness (ICC), an all-island agency that promotes international economic standards through innovation, productivity improvement and quality excellence.
ICC directed the tourism body to its British-based partner China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRI) which provides a Chinese Welcome Tourist (CWT) training programme.
Once the training workshops were decided, Cobh Tourism successfully applied for a €4,000 grant aid from the municipal district authority’s Town Development Fund to finance the programme.
Training will be preceded by a Chinese ‘mystery tourist’ visit to the town to assess the level of understanding afforded towards Chinese visitors.
The workshops will run for one or two days, to be decided, with two tutors addressing a maximum of 25 delegates drawn from local businesses who will pay a nominal fee to participate.
As China’s outbound tourism rises, current estimates indicate 155m Chinese crossed their borders in 2016, up from 116m in 2015 and from just 10.5m in 2000.
Chinese tourists’ global spend at US$129 in 2013 far exceeds American and German spend of US$86m each.
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