Meet Justin Steele, the Sydney tour guide fluent in Mandarin
In another life, Justin Steele was once a corporate lawyer.
But, Justin had always felt his passion lay elsewhere, and in 2017, he launched his own travel agency, AussieYou Travel, and since then, he has never looked back.
Advertising his main tours through AirBnb Experiences, Justin has created a near-to five star reputation for himself by hosting tours in the ‘unknown’ inner-western suburbs of Sydney, including Glebe, Pyrmont and Ultimo, to hundreds of customers from around the world.
“Most people don’t even think about visiting those places when they come to Sydney, but that’s my neighbourhood and through doing a lot of research on the area, I’ve come up with a lot of interesting stories that I’ve woven together,” he said.
“I just show international visitors a different side of Sydney, a more cool perspective.”
However, it’s not just Justin’s friendly demeanour and out-of-the-box tours that attract his customers, but it’s also his ability to speak fluent mandarin.
“A lot of my Chinese customers tend to speak a sufficient amount of English already, but they definitely find me speaking Chinese with them very helpful and it means I can can explain things a little bit better to them,” he said.
I get more strange looks from other passers-by when I’m walking around on the tour, and speaking Chinese, when I’m clearly not Chinese.
“It’s not just from other Australians, but it’s also from people like old Chinese men walking past, their heads turning as they walk, watching me go and looking very confused.”
According to Tourism Australia, from June 2017-18, the number of Chinese tourists had increased by 13 per cent, but Justin believes tourism operators aren’t quite doing enough to cater to this rapidly growing market.
“I don’t think the tourism industry does enough to actually communicate ourselves to the Chinese market, and that’s why I got into the industry in the first place,” he explained.
“We’ve got this great story to tell people and these amazing places to visit, which are are unlike anywhere else in the world, plus amazing people, but we’re not very good at communicating that.
Now while working as a tour operator, I can see the difficulties that Chinese people face when they come to Australia, especially Chinese international students, and it really gives you a perspective on things that need to improve.
Justin’s love of the Chinese language and culture began when he was quite young, when he attended a primary school in the heart of Sunnybank, a place known now as Brisbane’s Little Asia.
From there, Justin pursued the language throughout high school and university, with his knowledge and passion giving him the opportunity to complete two exchanges in China during his studies.
“You can say I’m fluent, but there’s always more to learn with a language like Chinese,” Justin said.
“It has been a real way to open up a whole new side of things for me, and it has become a huge part of who I am, from primary school all the way to today, and it’s opening up a lot of opportunities now as it has in the past.”