More Chinese tourists head for Australia, NZ to embrace extreme sports

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-12-2 10:50:46

As the green light flashed, the cabin door opened and Liu Kang moved forward to sit at the edge of the door with his tandem master. Everyone was pretty scared, but they stepped out of the plane after someone behind Liu shouted " embrace the fear." With a 60-second free fall from 4,500 meters high at a speed of 200 km/hour, an amazing world with spectacular views of lakes and snow mountains surrounded him.

"The world has never been so clear, this ultimate experience opened a significant chapter of my life," Liu told Xinhua shortly after he landed at the NZONE Skydive company's drop zone in New Zealand. At least 10 more brave Chinese were waiting behind him to board the next available aircraft for skydiving.

Australia and New Zealand are famed for their great nature beauties and agriculture products with splendid quality, attracting hundreds of thousands of Chinese tourists to visit annually.

But according to recent local researches, Chinese tourists' taste for traveling has significantly changed in the past years due to improvement of their living standards, as more began to take part in extreme and outdoor sports like bungee jumping, skydiving, surfing, jet boating, trekking and rock climbing, which are also popular among locals and foreign tourists in the two South Pacific countries.

"My daughter said I was a little freaky for choosing diving and hiking when traveling in Australia, since it is quite different from other Chinese tourists," Zhang Xiaoyu, a 38-year old clerk from Shanghai, said and smiled. This is her second time to visit Melbourne, with a two-week plan filled with hiking and hot balloon tour, which is a lot different from her first visit, which is dominated by shopping.

"I would like to try paragliding and some more special things this time," she said.

Australia provides the planet's best environment for outdoor sports. The mountain Arapiles located in the southeastern state of Victoria is known as one of the most ideal rock climbing areas in the world. The southern island state of Tasmania also offers hundreds of world-class bush-walking trails, including the 65 km- long "Overland Track," which usually needs one week to finish and has been awarded as one of the 20 hiking tracks that can't be missed in the world by the National Geographic.

"I have talked to my friends and we will definitely come back for the Overland Track," said Zhang.

In the neighboring New Zealand whose south island is the birth place of bungee jumping, people are even more enthusiastic for the extreme sports. Many foreign tourists, including Chinese, choose to taste the once in a lifetime experience of skydiving, even though the cost is relatively expensive compared to other sports.

Queenstown-based NZONE Skydive was New Zealand's first Tandem Skydive operation and enjoys a global safety reputation of 200,000 jumps without any accident. Derek Melnick, the business development manager of the company, said he is surprised that so many skydivers are from China in recent years because Westerners tend to see Chinese tourists as more conservative and less inclined to adventures.

"However, last year we had around 20,000 skydivers jumped with us, 10 percent of which were from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, coming second after only Australia. If we only count the tourists from mainland China, the figure was 7 to 8 percent," Melnick told Xinhua.

"The idea of Chinese tourists has changed a lot, they are no longer conservative like before, last week I just welcomed a young mother from Beijing, taking her eight-year old son to jump with her, which was quite astonishing," he said.

According to Melnick, the whole extreme sport business in New Zealand has seen an increasing amount of Chinese customers, and almost all the companies and the country's tourism department have paid great attention towards attracting more people from the promising market. Now NZONE Skydive not only opened its account in Sina Weibo, China's version of twitter, but also hired Li Li, a female staff from Wuhan, to take care of the demands of Chinese customers, many of whom can speak very few English.

"Was it scary?" Wang Jun, one of the Chinese tourists waiting to jump at the drop zone of NZONE Skydive, asked Liu in Chinese, trembling.

"It was awesome!" Liu replied with a big smile, "You will have no problem with that and it's very safe."

Some customers are concerned about the safety issue and always doubt whether their heart can bear the burden of excitement, said Li. "However, skydiving is very interesting and safe compared to bungee jumping," she said.

Tandem Master Nick Dowling agreed. "Almost none of the accidents in the skydiving business were directly related to the sky dive itself. They were mainly caused by air crash, which is related to the airplane's maintenance only."

"So I suggest Chinese tourists choose companies with relative scale and good reputations," said Dowling, who has jumped more than 11,000 times during his career.

According to staff from tourism departments of Australia and New Zealand, the extreme and outdoor sports in these two countries are attracting Chinese customers at a surprising high speed, and they are planning for more promotion programs in China with these specific contents.

"Our target is the 30 to 40 years old wealthy in China," they told Xinhua.

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