Chinese have quickly become the most desired customers by all kinds of companies around the world. Their purchasing power over the past few years is almost unchallenged, with the middle and upper class increasing at an incredible rate. Their thriving desire to travel and shop abroad creates a prolific outbound tourism market. However, throughout many decades of developing, this market is becoming increasingly complicated and challenging with Chinese tourists more sophisticated, knowledgeable and powerful. This article summarizes the latest observations on Chinese’s travel habits overseas as well as provides you with marketing tips to attract this huge wave of potential customers.
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THE UNSTOPPABLE RISE OF CHINESE TRAVELLERS
Not only is it the biggest domestic market in the world, where 4.4 billion trips are made each year, but it’s also the leading global outbound market, with over 140 million international departures in 2018 —a 13.5 percent increase over 2017. This number has been increasing in double digits since 2010 and it’s merely the tip of the iceberg. The Asian Development Bank forecasts that that will reach 1.1 billion by 2030. Along with rising levels of income, travel has become a key indicator of quality of life for the country’s rising affluent population with more and more Chinese traveling overseas for their vacations. The average number of countries or regions visited by Chinese in 2016-2017 was 2.1 while that number in 2018 averaged at 2.7, data from a survey conducted by Nielsen and Alipay. Accordingly, the market value is also growing. Data from UN World Tourism Organization shows that overseas travel spending by Chinese tourists reached USD 315 billion in 2017 and is expected to reach USD 457 billion in 2021.
According to The Telegraph, outside of China, the top destinations of these travelers are Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea and Singapore. And beyond Asia, the U.S. and Italy are their top destinations. The potential of the Chinese market is far greater, because only 6 per cent of Chinese people own a passport. So we can expect 200 million Chinese to travel abroad in just a few years’ time. This means enormous opportunities for tourism businesses.
BE ALERT TO CHANGES IN CHINESE TOURISTS’ TASTE AND TRAVEL HABITS
Understanding and adapting are keys to capturing the hearts and pockets of Chinese outbound tourists.
1.Spending on experiences is increasing
Chinese travelers are spending more money at destinations that are farther from home, according to a survey by Nielsen and Alipay, with average spend in the U.S. being USD 4,462 and average spend in Hong Kong being USD 2,487 in 2017. This spend is going toward exploring new experiences. The Oliver Wyman report notes that authentic, social and shareable experiences are now the top reason for traveling—while shopping, used to be the main reason for traveling, has dropped dramatically, from 91 percent in 2016 to 41 percent in 2018. This could have significant implications for tourism agencies to offer more diverse tours and services.
Chinese travelers are particularly drawn to experiences they can participate and then share via Instagram or WeChat. The report by Nielsen and Alipay shows that “for Chinese tourists who are generally well-off, tourist attractions and the travel experience are more important factors than the costs that might be incurred.” As shopping is replaced by other spending items, the overall spend by Chinese tourists is declining slightly.
There’s also a growing number of Chinese travelers from lower-tier cities who aren’t as affluent as their peers in cities like Shanghai and Beijing and may not be willing to splurge on shopping abroad. This could also be a reason for travelers’ growing appetite for experiential travel over material goods.
2. Seeking authentic experiences
Some Chinese tourists expressed that they desired to have unique experiences during their travels such as visiting historical sites, trying local cuisines, shopping for local products, and various other unique choices. Chinese tourists no longer invariably choose to stay in hotels but are very open to other accommodation options such as homestays, inns, and guesthouses. The Post-90s generation tourists, well-known for their eagerness to try new experiences, are more willing to try homestays, as 53% of Chinese tourists in this age group choose to do so. Compared to staying at hotels, homestays are cheaper, more personalized and offer more unique experiences.
Moreover, Chinese travelers are getting more adventurous regarding what they eat as well and are increasingly willing to try local cuisines. They often use websites dedicated to ratings and reviews to find restaurants that will allow them to experience the authentic flavors of their destination.
3. Independent overseas travel is gaining
As Chinese tourists become wealthier, more sophisticated and more confident, the longtime preference for tours is naturally eroding in favor of independent travel. In 2013, 37 percent of all Chinese outbound travel was independent; during the first half of 2018, it was 50 percent (as booked through Ctrip.com International Ltd., China’s largest tour agency). And in some regions, it was even greater. In Australia, independent travelers comprise 58 percent of Chinese tourists, up from 42 percent in 2014; in the United States, they accounted for 78 percent of Chinese tourists during the second quarter of 2018. The younger, richer and more educated demographic has proven themselves to be more independent in its consumer choices than prior generations. Those from lower-tier cities, who are usually less experienced travelers, opt for group tours, while more affluent and experienced travelers are more willing to travel independently.
4. 65% of outbound Chinese tourists paid using mobile payments
About 65% of Chinese tourists have used mobile payment platforms to pay at merchants, restaurants and elsewhere while traveling overseas, more than six times the 11% rate among non-Chinese tourists, according to a new survey from Alipay and research firm Nielsen. Because so many Chinese natives are familiar with paying via mobile phone while in their home country, they are likely to carry that habit abroad with them. Tourism agencies, retailers and other kinds of merchants in other countries around the world should realize their potential to earn a share of all those Chinese tourist dollars by accepting Alipay as a form of payment.
5. Searching is still the primary way to stay informed
Chinese people are really connected. They spend an average of 3 hours each day, surfing on different platforms. The Internet is a part of Chinese life. Before traveling or buying trip offers, they will search a lot for information about brands and their reputation. Travelling forums are very useful for consumers and can also be effective for brands to reach potential customers. Especially, forums and blogs are really appreciated by travelers aged 40 and more.
DIGITAL MARKETING OPENS THE GATE TO REACH CHINESE TOURISTS
#1 Customized website in Chinese
The first step to having visibility on the Chinese market and allow potential customers to find you is to create a website in Chinese. The truth is that most Chinese are unable to speak English, therefore it is vital to provide information about your products or services in Mandarin to reach Chinese travelers.
#2 Provide relevant content
Your website should provide information about what Chinese travelers want to see. This information is not only about your services, but you also have to include information about the country and what you and the country can offer to them. The content must be useful, interesting and relevant in order to attract them. If you can provide more than one service, or provide to more than one sector, make sure your content indicates that in each of their posts.
#3 Create an on-site experience
For brands that want to target Chinese travelers, digital platforms play a very important role. Digital platforms have to provide an excellent user experience to their potential customers; therefore, an efficient strategy is to allow users to share their experience via social media and upload their pictures or comments to the website or the social networks of the brand.
#4 Presence on search engines
Chinese travelers are constantly connected on the internet looking for all kind of information, therefore the knowledge of your brand depends on its integration into the Chinese search engine. If you don’t have a presence on the Chinese search engines, your potential customers are not able to find you. In contrast to Western countries, Baidu is the most popular search engine in China.
Related to search engines, it is vital to be located on the first pages of Baidu and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is the best way to do it. Users only pay attention to the first pages of the search engine, therefore if you are not well placed they’ll never reach to you. SEO is a very powerful tool to attract targeted consumers. Baidu is the source of 75% of the research made in China. Before buying everything, Chinese consumers will first spend time on Baidu to have more information about your brand. SEO is a strategy that works to rank your official website in the natural search results over time. If your ranking on the natural search results is good, you will be more visible and Chinese consumers will trust you.
#6 Integrate with social media platforms
Before choosing their destination and organize their travels, Chinese tourists invest a lot of time looking for information on the internet. During this process, brands have the chance to offer relevant and interesting content which will be helpful to build their presence on Chinese minds before the trip. Chinese make their shopping lists before they travel, so it’s important to get their attention beforehand. Companies have to include social media platforms on their marketing strategies. Chinese tourists through social networks are looking for opinions and information about the products and services that you offer. Create accounts on social channels such as Weibo, Renren or Kaixin are mandatory techniques to target Chinese travelers.
#7 Leverage press and blog relations
There are many conversations about travels and destinations on the internet through microblogging sites, forums, and other social media platforms. A huge number of people are sharing experiences, opinions, and pictures of their travel destinations and its environment as for example information about the restaurants, hotels, stores, activities, and places that they have visited. Brands have to participate in those conversations and interact with potential consumers through the creation of engaging content.
Weibo is a very popular social platform in China which is a mix between Twitter and Facebook. Over the last years, it has become a powerful platform to communicate and influence Chinese people. Brands must open an account on Weibo and publish interesting content in order to interact and target the Chinese tourists. Through Weibo, brands have the chance to know the Chinese travelers, their habits, interest, and behaviors. This information is very useful in order to target them.
#9 KOL campaigns
Through Key Opinion Leader, brands have the ability to influence customers. KOL is a popular tendency in China and those people have thousands or even millions of followers and integrate them into the marketing strategy will increase the brand presence. Many locations have become key destinations simply because A KOL happened to share a picture while they were on holiday there.
The first advantage of this social network is that almost every Chinese have a WeChat account, therefore is a powerful tool to reach a vast number of travelers. Through WeChat, brands have the opportunity to offer personalized treatment to their followers and engage them. Many Chinese tourists use WeChat for collecting information, commenting and sharing their opinion about services, products, activities, and destinations. Wechat allows brands to target their potential customer in an efficient way. WeChat is one of the most popular platforms to engage and attract Chinese consumers, incomparable to any western social platform. Chinese travelers are able to research, plan and purchase their trips abroad within the WeChat application alone.
By following these pieces of advice, brands have the opportunity to reach Chinese tourists. As explained, a good e-reputation is a key to reaching them, due to the strong relationship between Chinese people and the Internet.
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