Sustainable tourism for the Northern Rivers was boosted last week with a visit from two Chinese delegations, who immersed themselves in health, wellbeing and sustainable focussed workshops.
Organised by locally based Mandarin Pathways, one group was from Beijing and was led by Huang Zhen (Jane), the owner of Beijing’s top organic restaurant, Private Kitchen No. 44.
Mandarin Pathways director Katie Grubb told The Echo, ‘Jane brought her four master chefs and family to learn about local produce, different cooking workshops and to take her chefs out of their comfort zone to encourage innovation. The group flew into Sydney and then did a road trip up the coast.’
‘The other group were Chinese people living in Australia who wanted to break free of the city bubble they are in and experience regional Australia. Both groups are leaders in the health and wellbeing movement currently taking place in China. Together they have a combined social media following of over 50,000 people.’
‘The number one workshop they all wanted to participate in was ‘Plastic Free Life’ and to be part of Plastic Free July,’ said Katie.
‘The idea of participating in a bigger community movement really appealed to them. Their second favourite workshop was an interactive and expressive music loop station workshop led by local musician Steven Turner.
The groups also wanted to connect with the local people said Katie.
Huang Zhen (Jane), CEO of Private Kitchen No. 44, said, ‘Anyone can go online and book great tourism products. What we need is something different. We want experiences that are connected to local community in an authentic way. We want to learn how to live more creatively and give back to nature. We can then share this new lifestyle back with China to make healthy change.’
For the group of domestic Chinese travellers, Katie said their reason they visited was because even though they are living in Australia, ‘they seldom actually get to connect with Australian people outside of their ‘Chinese’ suburbs in Sydney. They are so keen to learn about regional Australian culture.’
She continued, ‘China’s upper middle class want to experience healthy living, culturally rich and connected ways of being. They often travel with their families, in smaller groups and when you speak to them, a lot of them don’t want to be caught dead being part of a massive group getting on the bus and off the bus, taking photos and just moving on. Some are starting to know the stigma associated with this. During our business negotiations, I really had to pull the white elephant out of the room and make them aware that a lot of regional Australians are actually not that keen on Chinese people coming to their areas. It was raw, real and got us all talking about best strategies to make sure the local community is properly engaged and benefits from the visitation. For sustainable tourism to work, we are going to have to be proactive about it and make sure that is what we are known for internationally.’
‘The itinerary for the delegation was deliberately designed to include new local start-ups venturing into agri-tourism. In fact, some of the local chefs and people involved had never considered themselves as being part of agri-tourism, so they were excited about the new opportunities.
‘Destination Tweed and Amy Colli were excellent in being on the ground, grass roots and collaborating on the opportunity that Mandarin Pathways presented them. The visit wouldn’t have been as successful without their support. The local community do, however, need a lot more support getting ready for the China market. Their Chinese social media strategies, e-commerce and understanding China Australia logistic chains are going to be really important.
Katie says some of the future projects are having an Australian producer’s and chefs week in Beijing, which will open up export opportunities, a CCTV reality Aussie/Chinese cooking show in Beijing and hosting an annual China/Australian infused banquet annually in the region and combining it with music and art.