Asia means Big Bucks for SMEs… 9 Steps to Success

Friday was a good day for Australian Tourism – David Kosh announced on Sunrise that 100,000 Chinese tourists visited in February, he made the comment…

“Small business should focus on how to flog things to these tourists”

I’m not sure I would put it that way but I do totally agree with his view.

Also very cool was the Port Adelaide AFL game being televised into China on Friday night, especially with the player’s name written in Chinese on their jumpers and the commentary in Mandarin, excellent publicity and image, it’s up there with Angus Houston’s calm reports on MH370 which lit up WeChat across China every day.

I’ve seen first-hand the growth of Mainland tourists throughout Asia, there is no doubt they are willing spenders with deep pockets.  When I arrived in Hong Kong in 2002 there were 16 ml tourists per year (41% from mainland China) and when I left Hong Kong in late 2015 there were 61ml (78% from mainland China).   I also lived in Singapore where there were similar numbers 2007 10ml and 2015 15.2 ml – well on target for 17ml in 2020.

The tourists are coming to Australia and it’s time for SMEs to get a wriggle along, the window of opportunity is not infinite.

Hong Kong’s richest business mogul said recently the Hong Kong economy was the worst he’d seen in 20 years with retail and property sales dropping fast, who would have thought this could happen so quickly; one of his main points was that tourists deserve respect; if they do not receive it they will not come back.    (Read the article here)

The Aussie Education Export Industry has done a great with a value of over $18bl and growing.

Australia is in a prime position to learn how the various countries managed such massive growth, being clear about what we need to do to take advantage of this growth but also make sure we maintain our cultural identity.

The difference between Hong Kong and Singapore is chalk and cheese – Singapore has done an amazing job in absorbing these visitors with great contribution to their economy, at the same time maintaining their cultural identity, Hong Kong got swamped.   Per capita Singapore had more tourists visit; good planning and engagement from all parts of Government and business with great execution has delivered excellent results.

Since returning I’m amazed at the hesitancy to embrace this opportunity at a grassroots level, I get a sense that SME business is waiting for Government or corporate to lead the way.  Government actually has done its job through very active work by Tourism Australia and signed Free Trade Agreements and corporate will always move where the money is.

Our Time Technology business in not in retail nor is it in tourism yet I can say without doubt the tourism explosion in Asia significantly contributed to our success in that market.  Like an old surfer I’m here chasing the next wave.

 A few ideas to throw into the hat….

  1. China has 1.2bl people with only 10-12 ml speaking English – we must make communications easy. On a recent flight from Hong Kong the plane was packed with Chinese tourists with only 2 in 8 speaking English, there was not one Mandarin speaking crew member on board, not easy.
  2. Tap into the huge Asian student and graduate population in Australia to recruit people who can help visitors to spend more money in your business.
  3. Look for collaboration opportunities with other small businesses to expand together, tap into the various groups that want to move forward. Now is not a time for competition, there will be plenty for all.
  4. Be patient, our visitors can push and shove with no idea that it’s not ‘proper’ to queue jump. In countries with large populations in small areas there is a feeling of missing out, I’m still trying to remind myself not to stand close to people – Aussies are so spatial.
  5. Get educated – For many visitors this will be their first long haul trip with high excitement, a little like Willy Wonka in the Chocolate factory – they can be loud; the average stay is 5-7 days so they are looking to do a lot in a short time. The Chinese Government released a guide called How to Avoid Being a Terrible Tourist, worth a look. (Read about it here)
  6. Lose the “‘my way or the highway” arrogance; a costly mistake for me in the first 3 years of my business; trying to replicate a successful Australian business in Asia, the secret is to take the best from both worlds.
  7. Embrace the multiplying factor, when a satisfied tourist returns to China, 3 will come in their place. I’ve attended many Chinese gatherings (dinners) with friends and business colleagues and the power of a good experience shared many times is amazing.
  8. Up the standard; in retail there is a high bench mark, shopping is an experience and shopping centers reflect this. These recent photos are from Pacific Place in Hong Kong one of many shopping centers around town – I’m not a shopper but I just love walking through these centers just for enjoyment.

Just take a look…


  1. Go to Asia and have a look for yourself, don’t wait for some trade mission, it’s only an 8-hour flight and cattle class is around $2,000. There are over 100,000 Australian passport holders in Hong Kong alone, probably more in China and a lot in Singapore.  You can’t go into a bar or restaurant in the main areas of any city without bumping into an Aussie who will be only too willing to share their knowledge.

Last and most importantly SMILE…  Wouldn’t it be great if we can replicate the 2000 Olympic Games success in welcoming visitors to our country; if managed well tourism will make a great contribution to our changing economy.  It’s a shared responsibility to contribute to the tourist experience; we all have a vested interest in ‘keeping the wolf’ from the door.

If you found this helpful, please share it with your connections and I’d love to hear from you too…please share your thoughts in the comments below… 🙂

Christine Petersen is an authority on Time Management, Productivity and Workflow Management solutions. With over 20 years’ experience working with in excess of 20,000 Senior Managers internationally; Christine has a passion for rigorous processes and the effective use of business technology.