GOLFING holidays on the Northern Rivers is one of the ideas being floated in an effort to bring more Chinese tourists to the region.
Northern Rivers Tourism chief executive Russell Mills has recently returned from a "sales mission" to China, which was organised by Destination NSW.
He said it was well worth the trip.
"It was incredible. The purpose was to understand the market because it is, inevitably, one that we will be focusing on into the future," he said.
That's because China continues to be Australia's fastest growing and most valuable international tourism market.
According to Tourism Research Australia's new International Visitor Survey released last week, Chinese tourism was worth more than $3.8 billion in 2011, up 15% on the previous year.
Mr Mills said some of that money could be injected into the local economy. But first the region has to market itself in the right way to the right people.
"There are three key groups of Chinese visitors that we think would enjoy a trip to the Northern Rivers," Mr Mills said.
"The first is student travel groups. We have universities, we have TAFEs, we have language schools, so there are opportunities for students to do advanced studies in a regional area.
"The second one is special interest groups.
"For example, the Chinese are mad for golf. Our golf courses are in stunning locations and are perfect for travellers who want golf as part of their experiences.
"The third group we want to target is independent travellers."
Mr Mills said it could take several years before the Northern Rivers became a key destination point for Chinese tourists.
"It's very early days. This is a marathon, not a sprint," he said.
The latest International Visitor Survey also found that, along with China, the New Zealand and UK markets continue to be important to Australian tourism.
The survey found the average spend per trip was $2464, with most of that spent on food, drink and accommodation.
Holiday-makers spent an average of 27 nights in Australia, and 53% had been here before.
International visitors spent more than $18 billion in Australia in the year ending December 2011.
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