As the first step towards putting Melbourne on the world’s Chinese New Year map, the city’s many Chinese community players have this year united under a single brand and have significantly expanded the celebrations.
The 2016 celebrations will go for longer and will be found in a continuum from Chinatown, through Federation Square and down the river via Southbank to Docklands.
The chair of Chinese New Year United (CNY United), Jane Nathan, hopes that the number of Chinese visitors to Melbourne will double to two million as a result of the City of Melbourne initiative.
“We’re aspiring to build this as an international event. We want Melbourne to be recognised as having one of the most significant Chinese New Year events in the world,” Ms Nathan said.
“Chinese visitation is now over a million people per year and we know we can grow that even more if we give easy access to information about what is occurring. A unified approach is needed so people can understand they can come and have a whole-of-Melbourne experience.”
Federation of Chinese Associations president Junxi Su supports the initiative and applauds that the event aims to include the wider community.
“The united approach has given us more chance to work with more partners in different areas,” Ms Su said. “It’s no longer just Chinese looking after Chinese New Year. It has become more integrated.”
Ms Su’s organisation is this year expanding its activities beyond Chinatown to Federation Square, Southbank and Docklands.
“The benefits are that the cultural aspects will be widely promoted and there will be more involvement from the Chinese community. And the standard of the activities will be lifted by working together,” she said.
Melbourne Dai Loong Association president En Lim is adopting a “wait and see” attitude before declaring full support for the united approach. She views her association as the custodian of Chinese culture and she is less enthusiastic about working with outsiders.
“The united approach is supposed to be in marketing and branding, so we will leave it to them to do that,” she said. “We are very much on the cultural side.”
Nevertheless, the Dai Loong Association is co-operating with CNY United.
“We will all have our individual things to do. Each area has their own celebration,” Miss Lim said.
Asked whether she thought the new approach would deliver more people to the Chinatown festivities, Miss Lim said: “I can only comment on that after the new year to see the results.”
Ms Nathan praised the co-operative approach of all participants in the new incorporated venture.
“The response to the idea of marketing the whole city has been really positive,” she said. “It’s a credit to everyone involved that it has moved to this level in such a short time. We started in July but were not incorporated until November. Everybody has been working very, very hard.”
Ms Nathan said the co-operative approach would deliver benefits to city as a whole as well as the individual participating organisations.
“There are a number of motivators [for the establishment of CNY United]. Certainly economic return is one of them. But it’s also about the promotion and profile of Melbourne as an active and multicultural city,” she said.
“The sky is the limit with this. But we’ll be evaluating carefully not only what occurs, but also the potential that can come from it. You have to have the product and you to have allow for participation.”
“I think a lot of people might wander right through. They might start at Chinatown and then they’ll head for Federation Square and wander down the river following the lights.”
“There are opportunities for them to come not just one night or one day, but to enjoy all the activities. I’m hoping we can grow the visitation from China to two million tourists and they choose to do a lot more during the Chinese New Year.”
City of Melbourne marketing portfolio chair, Cr Beverley Pinder-Mortimer said: “The Chinese New Year Melbourne Festival is an opportunity for all of Melbourne to celebrate this age-old culture and I am personally proud to have been a part of the unified festivities bringing the whole city together for a major celebration.”