Six of China's leading wine and lifestyle opinion leaders have been visiting Australia this month as part of a joint Tourism Australia and Wine Australia initiative to promote Australia's world class tourism and wine experiences to potential Chinese visitors.
The visiting opinion leaders represent major media titles and wine blog sites in China such as WineOnline, WineBlogChina.com, Vinehoo.com, Wines Info, U Life Magazine, Men's Uno and the Robb Report, which have a combined following of more than one million Chinese. Their Australian itinerary has included visits to more than 10 wineries and talks with leading winemakers in the McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills, Barossa and Margaret River.
Tourism Australia Managing Director Andrew McEvoy said the visiting opinion leaders would help to extend the global message of why There's nothing like Australia in one of Australia's most important tourism markets.
"China continues to be a market of increasing significance for Australian tourism and is now our single most important market in terms of value - worth $3.8 billion annually - and key to our long term plans for growth," Mr McEvoy said.
"Whilst we know that Australia's nature is incredibly appealing to Chinese travellers, and has helped to drive the demand for our tourism experiences, we want to extend their knowledge that our landscape has also created some of the world's finest wines.
"Hosting these influential opinion leaders will help to spread word-of-mouth advocacy in China about the many and compelling reasons why Australia is a world class tourism destination, especially those experiences that are built around our wine and food offering," Mr McEvoy said.
Mr McEvoy added the visit followed recent research commissioned by Tourism Australia that shows while Australia's world class beauty and natural environment are the primary reason why Chinese travellers choose to visit, the country's wine and food offerings enhance their reasons to visit and the experience when they are here.
Wine Australia Chief Executive Andrew Cheesman said the visit would help showcase the quality and diversity of Australian wines and wine regions.
"China is Australia's fastest growing export market for Australian wine, with bottled wine exports to China delivering double digit growth in both value and volume this year," Mr Cheesman said.
"Australian wines are fast gaining a reputation in China for their high quality, and the diversity of styles means they are very well matched with Chinese cuisines.
"Education and engagement of consumers, sommeliers, wine educators, importers, media and other key influencers is central to Wine Australia's strategy in China and this visit by some of China's media opinion leaders is a major part of that."
South Australian wineries involved in the visit have included: Hardy's Tintara, Angove McLaren Vale, d'Arenberg Vineyard & Winery, Chapel Hill Winery, Petaluma's Piccadilly Vineyard, Shaw & Smith, The Lane Vineyard, Grant Burge Wines, Jacob's Creek, and Peter Lehmann Wines. In Western Australia wineries visited included Fraser Gallop Estate, Stella Bella, Brookland Valley Winery, and Cullen Wines.
Tourism experiences featured on the program in South Australia have included: Cheese and Olive Oil tasting with the producers of McLaren Vale, Cleland Wildlife Park, Star of Greece Café, Hilton Adelaide and Hilton Brasserie, The Victory Hotel, Barossa Trike Tours, Novotel Barossa Resort, and Harry's Restaurant in South Australia.
Western Australian tourism experiences have included: Pullman Resort Bunker Bay, Margaret River Gourmet Escape, Naturaliste Charters Whale and Dolphin Eco-Tours, Swan Jet Adventures, The Bell Towers, The Trustee Bar & Bistro, Busselton Jetty & Underwater Observatory, Esplanade Hotel Fremantle, Little Creatures Brewery, The Round House, Didgeridoo Breath, Cottesloe Beach, Crown Perth, Kings Park, Wandering West Tours, Perth Mint, and Must Wine Bar.
In the past year Australia welcomed 606,400 visitors from China (September 2012 year end), making it the second largest source market for visitors after New Zealand. As part of Australia's Tourism 2020 strategy, China is expected to grow to as much as $9 billion and 860,000 visitors annually by the end of the decade.
China is Australia's third largest market for Australian bottled wine exports and the biggest for bottled wine exports above A$7.50 per litre, ahead of the US and Canada. China's demand for premium wine continues to drive strong growth in the higher priced Australian wine segments, with the above A$10.00 per litre segment a stand‐out, up 37 per cent. The average value per litre of Australian bottled imports to China is now for the first time higher than the average for French wines.