Sovereign Hill has been working in China for 25 years. It has five staff in its Shanghai office, which is not owned by Sovereign Hill but is an agency owned by an employee there to more easily comply with foreign companies seeking to establish to establish representative offices in China.
Sovereign Hill deliberately chose to locate its office Shanghai because it has been the gateway to China for centuries and the Cantonese have historically travelled more widely than other Chinese. The office serves key cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing.
Sovereign Hill specifically caters for Chinese visitors through its Chinese Camp, 25 Chinese-speaking staff, extensive Mandarin and Cantonese signage and guide maps and making available Chinese food. It also offers tours specifically for Chinese visitors.
Despite the steps it has taken, Chinese visitors pose some challenges to a tourism destination like Sovereign Hill. Price structures are much higher in Australia than China, making it difficult to be cost-competitive; groups arrive in large coachloads; China is a diverse country, making it difficult to cater for all tastes, for example in food; and there are some cultural issues such as smoking – although these are rapidly diminishing.
CEO Jeremy Johnson believes the key to succeeding in China is to concentrate with a specific and market ready product on a tightly-defined sector or region. He has seen plenty of businesses ‘bite off more than they can chew’. It is important to identify the best initial market for your business through background research and then to expand that later if market entry is successful.