Can Tassie become ‘Little China’?

Can Tassie become ‘Little China’?

12 January 2015 by Simon Henry 1 comments

When Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan visited Tasmania in November, locals did everything they could to turn the one-day trip into an economic success.

The tourism and environment promoters made sure images were beamed back to China of Mr Xi cuddling a Tasmanian devil.

And the economic interests made sure that Mr Xi got photographed holding a little purple teddy bear that smelled of lavender.

The state's Bridestowe Estate sold some 40,000 lavender bears last year, all hand-stitched in Tasmania and stuffed with wheat and locally-grown lavender. They have become a mass hit in China, ever since a Chinese supermodel named Viann Zhang Xin Yu was photographed cuddling one.

"Demand exceeds supply by 10 to one," Bridestowe Estate owner Robert Ravens told the ABC.

Real estate agents also stand to benefit from Tasmania’s high profile after Mr Xi's visit.

As the Australian Financial Review reported, views for Tasmanian property on Juwai.com increased 114 per cent after Mr Xi's visit, compared to the two weeks prior.

Apart from agricultural investors, few Chinese had any idea that Tasmania existed until they saw images on TV of their powerful president touring the state.

These potential real estate investors have gone from oblivious to curious. And with 63 million Chinese having sufficient wealth to buy overseas real estate, they could be a blessing for Tassie's beleaguered vendors.

Don't get me wrong. This window shopping hasn’t yet translated into a rush of new transactions. We have found in many previous cases, both in Australia and other countries, that actual sales usually lag at least four to six months after sustained increases in property views.

Tasmanian agents and vendors now have to do their part to turn China's new awareness of Tasmania into a desire to purchase real estate. They need to capture contact information and educate property hunters about Tasmania's advantages.

The state and national governments can help, by spending more to market Tasmania as a tourist destination in China. They could also invest in Tasmania's educational infrastructure, to improve its ability to draw international students.

Given its small size, Tasmania doesn’t need as much international investment to see real benefits. With its low sales volumes, introducing even just 100 new buyers could improve sales times, reduce time on the market and put a floor under the market for favoured property types.

Simon Henry is co-CEO of Juwai.com – recently named the "most influential international property site in China - 2014" by the country’s peak e-commerce body. Juwai.com sends more Chinese buyer inquiries to home sellers, developers and agents than any other source.

The site facilitated an estimated US$4.2 billion in Chinese real estate purchases in the 2013 calendar year. Simon's co-CEO Andrew Taylor was the only real estate portal executive from anywhere in the world invited to speak at the G20 Global Leaders Summit pre-event in November 2014.

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