ENTICING Chinese visitors into a German pub nestled in a quaint Australian town is certain folly, but a South Australian restaurateur has made it a business success.
Hahndorf Inn owner Andrew Holmes shared his journey of turning a small German pub in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia into a must-see attraction for Chinese tourists today at the Greater China Future Leaders Dialogue in Adelaide, South Australia.
“Getting recognised by the China market and its benefits do not happen overnight,” Holmes says. “I have been focusing on the China market since 2006 and only now am I really seeing the growth impact on my business.”
When Holmes took over the Hahndorf Inn in 2006, the pub was turning over 38,000 visitors a year with 8 per cent Chinese.
In ten years, the Hahndorf Inn has seen its number of yearly visitors increase five times and 35 per cent of their visitors are now Chinese.
“In 2007 we put in place a strategic plan to target the Chinese market. I started engaging inbound tourism operators and created new menus in Chinese among other things,” Holmes, who has had an extensive career in the five-star hotel industry, says.
In 2008, Holmes brought his restaurant to China and opened the first one in Chengde, a second-tier Chinese city.
“That was a cultural learning experience for me, and it equipped me to service the Chinese a lot better," Holmes says. "One snowy winter, I welcomed a Chinese gentleman into my restaurant with gloves on and he wouldn't shake my hand!”
Holmes went on to open a restaurant in Guangzhou in 2010, the third biggest city in China.
Holmes shared insights into the top factors Chinese travellers consider in picking holiday destinations, the different types of Chinese visitors, and how to tailor products to suit this market.
“The Chinese look for world-class beauty and natural environments, good local cuisine and produce, safe and secure destination, and rich history and heritage,” Holmes says.
“Soon, China will surpass the UK and North America, and become the largest source market of tourists to South Australia,” Holmes says.
“There are many steps Australian businesses can take to enhance Chinese visitors’ experiences,” he says, listing such things as setting up Weibo and Wechat social media accounts, acknowledging Chinese festivals in a way that ties in to the business, and offering UnionPay, the official Chinese bank card.
Holmes is determined to grow the popularity of the Adelaide Hills as a tourist destination and has worked together with other businesses in the region to provide attractive packages for tourists.
“With Hahndorf being the 17th most visited tourism destination in Australia in 2013, the region has a lot of potential. It is important to identify areas we can improve on to ensure we are ready to meet the demand,” Holmes says.
"One thing we lack is premium accommodation. Our current offering is not good enough and I am working on building premium room divisions in Hahndorf. Besides, we need to improve restrictions on trading hours and provide more flights to meet expectations of the Chinese who are used to easy access,” Holmes says.
The Greater China Future Leaders Dialogue is part of the OzAsia Festival and also featured roundtables on education, social media, sports and entrepreneurship.