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3 Dec, 2013

Increasing Chinese tourists embrace fear of extreme and outdoor sports

By Xu Yanyan and Song Dan

MELBOURNE, Dec. 2 (Xinhua) — The cabin door opened when the green light was flashing, Liu Kang moved forward to sit at the edge of the door with his tandem master. Everyone was pretty scared, and they stepped out of the plane after someone behind Liu was shouting “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 Liu.

“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, when at least 10 more brave Chinese 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. According to recent local researches, some Chinese tourists’ taste for traveling has significantly changed in the past years due to improvement of their living standards, many of whom have increasingly participated in the extreme and outdoor sports which are also popular among locals and foreign tourists in the two South Pacific countries, like bungee jumping, skydiving, surfing, jet boat and trekking, rock climbing as well.

“My daughter said I was a little freaky for choosing diving and hiking when travel in Australia, which is quite different from other Chinese tourists,” Zhang Xiaoyu, a 38 years old clerk from Shanghai told Xinhua with a smile. This is her second time to visit Melbourne, with a two-week plan filled of hiking and hot balloon tour, differing a lot from her first visit full of shopping.

“I would like to try the 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 Victoria state is recognized 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 twenty 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 life time experience of skydiving, even 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. According to Derek Melnick, the business development manager of the company, he is so surprised that so many skydivers are from China in recent years, because in Westerner’s opinion “Chinese tourists usually tend to be more conservative and don’t like adventures”.

“However, last year we had around 20,000 skydivers jumped with us,” ten percent of which were from China, including Chinese Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei, just came second after Australia. “If we only count the tourists from mainland China, the figure was seven to eight 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 witnessed so many Chinese and almost all the companies and the country’s tourism department have paid great attention towards attracting more people from the emerging market with huge potentials. Now NZONE Skydive not only opened its account in China’s version of twitter the Sina Weibo, but also hired Li Li, a female staff from Wuhan to specially care the Chinese customers, many of whom can speak very few English.

“Is it scary?” At the drop zone of NZONE Skydive, Wang Jun, one of the Chinese tourists waiting to jump, tremblingly asked Liu in Chinese language, who just finished the skydive.

“Awesome!” Liu replied with a big smile, “You will have no problem with that and it’s very safe.”

In Li’s impression, some customers are concerned about the safety issue and always doubt whether their heart can afford it. “However skydiving is very interesting and safe compared to bungee jumping,” said Li.

Tandem Master Nick Dowling agreed with Li, saying “almost none of the accidents in the skydiving business were directly related to the sky dive itself, mostly were 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.