If you are a tourism professional, whether a hotel, a tour operator or even the manager of a landmark, this trend is no news to you. Chinese are traveling, a lot. In 2015 they spent over half a billion dollars on travel and there are no signs it will stop there. In this article we will talk about the best practices to benefit the most from these inbound travelers from the Middle Kingdom.
Step one: be visible…
To create the best return on investment you must advertise where Chinese people are looking and that means targeting mobile devices instead of desktop PC’s. There are over 720 million netizens behind the Great Wall, and when connecting to the web, their device of choice is the mobile phone.
Affluent Chinese millennial households spend an average of $65 000 per year on travel outside of China. These younger customers are best marketed to through social media and, while social media platforms are huge in China, they are not the ones we are familiar with in the west. As you may be aware, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are blocked in China and as a result the Middle Kingdom has developed its own networking applications. With over 700 million monthly active users, WeChat will become your best friend when it comes to communicating with young travelers. Weibo, the Chinese Twitter, is also relevant with over 120 million users per day despite experiencing a decline in usage.
Chinese consumers regularly use their mobiles to make purchases as it is very convenient to do so with the many payment solutions available. Travel agencies using mobile as key vector for their promotion are therefore the ones having the most success. They post the full travel plan with the itinerary and images so consumers can easily view the information, make a decision and buy from their mobile phone.
Step 2: … a positive brand
In China, reputation is everything so it is essential to have a professional monitoring and managing your e-reputation.
Social networks give you the opportunity to work on your branding. You can control your brand on Baidu (China’s Google), but in China forums and question-answer sites are very popular and these are hard to control. Some competitors will not hesitate to try to tarnish your reputation and misinform Chinese consumers about your products on these forums.
Recent events linked to terrorism and crime has led to some travel destinations being less popular than they should. France and its capital, Paris, are a perfect example of this phenomenon. Travel professionals should design special communication strategies (such as dedicated personnel speaking Chinese) for Chinese tourists, to ease any concerns they may have about their safety.
While all this will help your visibility, don’t forget to tackle the more tradition channels such as travel agencies. Many Chinese still prefer to take the group travel route when it comes to going abroad. Over 50% think that it is a much safer and easier way to travel for several reasons.
The first being it avoids obstacles with the language barrier. Most Chinese tourists do not speak a foreign language so communicating abroad is seen as difficult. Secondly, group travel usually has a lower price tag and a swifter visa procedure making it easier and more affordable.