By Melissa Keogh
A pair of highly successful Aussie entrepreneurs has chosen South Australia to pilot a smartphone app set to improve visitor experiences for Chinese travellers.
Shanghai-based Simon Henry and Andrew Taylor, who founded China’s largest international property website Juwai.com, last week launched their latest tech project in Adelaide.
Pronounced ‘you-why’, UWAI is aimed at high net worth, frequent and independent Chinese travellers in SA and allows them to search for restaurants, cafes, shops and landmarks in their own language.
The pair claim the app is the world’s first digital tourism platform allowing users to communicate, engage and transact with local businesses, governments and corporations.
More than 800 businesses and landmarks across metropolitan Adelaide and the regions have been selected to have their details appear on the app and translated into Chinese.
Simon says UWAI – which means travel abroad in Chinese – helps knock down cultural and language barriers between international visitors and local business owners.
He says the Chinese tourist market offers huge potential for SA’s economy, with Chinese travellers already injecting $352m a year into the visitor economy.
“Everyone sees Chinese tourists in Australia, but few local businesses know how to engage and transact with this market,” Simon says.
“We have made it easy for local businesses to be found and to be welcoming to Chinese tourists without having to change their identity or hire Chinese speaking staff.
“If we can increase the number of Chinese visitors and spend per customer by just 5%, it can mean over $200m additional income and 5000 new jobs over three years.”
While most Aussie tourists solve their food, retail or landmark curiosities with a quick Google or Facebook search, Simon says the Chinese do not use these platforms.
“These are blocked in China, so they have no idea what we are talking about,” Simon says.
“(However) they are the most advanced mobile users on the planet, spending $5.1 trillion on mobile transactions in 2016, 50 times that of the US.
“Everything is going digital, everything is going mobile.”
Originally from Queensland, Simon has lived in Asia for 25 years.
Before launching UWAI, he had only visited Adelaide once but says he was impressed with its potential.
“I was blown away by how diverse the community was and the high number of Chinese students really surprised and shocked me,” he says.
“The quality of the air and the clean green produce is just incredible.
“SA is really in prime position to capitalise on international tourism.”
In 2010, Simon and Andrew founded Chinese translation property app JUWAI which has reached millions of high net worth Chinese globetrotters.
The duo recently sold out of the company, and began shortlisting Australian locations to pilot their new venture.
The top three UWAI headquarter candidates were Cairns, Gold Coast and South Australia.
Simon says he already knew Adelaide had strong ties to China through China Southern Airlines’ direct flights between Adelaide and Guangzhou and the Port Adelaide Football Club’s debut match in China earlier this year.
The State Government has helped fund UWAI through the South Australian Tourism Commission (SATC).
SATC executive officer Rodney Harrex says UWAI will redefine the Chinese visitor experience in SA and benefit local businesses.
“The application is great news for our retailers, tourism operators, and other local businesses –
providing them with an innovative platform to embrace the incredible China opportunity,” he says.
Rodney says Chinese visitors remain the most lucrative market for SA, with visitor numbers up 56% to 56,000 visits in the 12 months to June, 2017.
This month’s I Choose SA for Industries stories are made possible by sponsor, the University of South Australia.