“The whole island resembles the shape of a heart,” says Beijing-based Chinese investor William Wei who has acquired three luxury bed and breakfasts in Tasmania for $20 million, with plans to turn them into wedding retreats.
Mr Wei, through his company Australia Travel and Culture Group, plans to tap into the local industry, particularly the burgeoning Chinese wedding industry. Chinese matrimonials are big business and Hobart’s Villa Howden, Stanley’s Hanlon House and Beachside Retreat West Inlet will now take a slice of it.
“In China, it is very attractive to get married overseas including the honeymoon,” he said. “And with the strong tourism relationship between Australia and China, plus Australia’s beautiful environment, it will be attractive to weddings.
“The demand will be huge.”
The affluence of the Chinese middle class and the enormous significance of marriage in China means demand for wedding services is strong.
The Chinese wedding industry raked in $25 billion in revenue in 2016 across services like car rentals, master of ceremony services, restaurant decoration, photography and videography, Ibisworld’s Wedding Services in China report in February says.
It is also growing at about 4 per cent a year, according to Ibisworld, and 10 per cent of Chinese weddings are held overseas.
The weddings are large, attracting hundreds of guests, pre and post wedding photos, three to four changes of outfits for the couple and traditional tea ceremonies often necessary.
Bali has been hot favourite in recent years, but Australia is fast becoming a popular destination, Mr Wei says.
Mr Wei’s three bed and breakfasts will stay in the hands of the local operators but he will market the three scenic properties as wedding and honeymoon getaways in China.
He plans to buy up to 10 to 15 similar bed and breakfasts across Tasmania, Melbourne and Sydney. At the three locations, he will add new services like photography and reception catering.
Chinese visitors to Tasmania has been growing at an annual rate of 29 per cent for the past five years.
Tourism Tasmania said it would do more to keep up the numbers such as offering better Wi-Fi access for Chinese visitors who use social media such as WeChat heavily.
Tasmania became a hit with Chinese holidaymakers after Chinese celebrities endorsed the island’s Bridestowe Estate’s lavender bear on Chinese social media in 2014.
But Tasmania, as well as the rest of Australia, has great potential in becoming more than just bears and lavender, the organiser of Australia’s only Asian wedding expo, Event Weddings’, Sy Chung said.
“The demand for wedding planners and wedding vendors who know Asian weddings has been growing,” he said.
“We started with 20 weddings in 2012, and in four years, we grew our number of weddings fivefold. We are now planning over 100 weddings a year and still growing.”
Many venues like hosting Asian weddings because guests are “best behaved” and tend to be more measured in terms of alcohol consumption, Mr Chung added.
While there is competition with Europe, Japan, South East Asia and New Zealand, what Australia offers to Chinese couples is “beautiful sceneries, great weather and variety”, he said.
“Blue skies, blue water and a laid back lifestyle. These are what the Chinese are very attracted to because it’s a change from the hard work and tough life in China,” Mr Wei said. END CUT
“This is a big investment opportunity for Australia, which has been diversifying from its mining industry. Tourism is ideal for the next phase of development for Australia, particularly through its partnership with China.”
By Tan Su-lin