28.06.2013 11:36 Age: 6 yrs

Alumni, tourism industry and beyond

International student alumni from Australia are widely valued for their capacity to facilitate and support stronger connections between Australia and the world regions from which they come. This is particularly the case for China based alumni who have progressively grown in numbers as Chinese students now represent more than 40 per cent of all international student enrolments in Australian higher education.

Recent research has been undertaken to explore one dimension of the power of alumni networks through an investigation of the role and influence of China-based Australian alumni on travel and tourism. There is increasing recognition of the connections between international education and tourism and the importance of education as a major driver for travel. One of the aims of the research was to explore this connection.

Completed in March 2013, the research is based on in-depth interviews and a survey of more than 1,200 alumni living in China about their connections and travel to and from Australia.

Most importantly, the research findings highlighted that alumni are indeed potentially powerful in their capacity to facilitate mutually beneficial industry development outcomes, yet these powers are often undervalued and overlooked. Compared to countries that compete with Australia for both inbound tourists and international students, such as the US and the UK, alumni relations assume a relatively low priority and Australia’s success in sustaining relations with international alumni is relatively patchy. This is particularly the case with China based alumni where language and cultural barriers, the size and diversity of China and restrictions on communications mean that connections with alumni have been particularly difficult to maintain. The research suggests that alumni are actually very keen to stay in connected, yet our capacity to harness this enthusiasm is considerably less than its potential. One conclusion is that this is a wasted opportunity and greater investment in international alumni relations could potentially yield major benefits not only for two of Australia’s most important export industries but for Australian international relations policy objectives more generally.

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