Chinese tourists and the Great Outdoors – let’s explore

Parks and gardens? Really? Surely it’s all about landmarks and outlet malls? Well, no. As it turns out, a mulberry tree can be just as appealing as a Mulberry handbag.

Venturing outdoors to the countryside, to see elegant botanical gardens and unrivalled displays of natural beauty, is becoming a very popular Chinese travel trend. It provides a change of scenery from world-famous landmarks that lure droves of tourists annually, while still allowing visitors to experience a country’s unique culture and natural environment.

This article aims to uncover the rising appeal of outdoor, rural, and natural spaces among Chinese travellers, exploring why it has become a trend, and highlighting the need for tour operators to introduce outdoor-themed itineraries.

Why is this a trend?

China’s air pollution is a growing concern

Many of China’s cities are notorious for being the most polluted spaces on our planet. Beijing is infamous for its air pollution – the thick smog poses long term health risks to its citizens, and data claimed breathing its air for a day was more harmful than smoking forty cigarettes a day.

When we ask our office in Beijing about the weather, the response often includes the ‘red light’ on the air quality monitors in everyone’s apartments. And it’s not just Beijing. Shanghai and Guangzhou, China’s trade and manufacturing hubs, have recently recorded higher levels of air pollution than the capital. This has prompted the Cordis Hongqiao, a newly opened luxury hotel in Shanghai, to boast its superior ‘air filtration’ system as a luxury feature. This is an attractive offering to its Chinese guests; each room is fitted with pollution monitors and sealed double-glazed windows to contain the fresh air indoors.

Rural tourism is on the rise

Perhaps this constant exposure to polluted air encourages citizens of Chinese cities to escape to the countryside when given the opportunity. Indeed, rural tourism has witnessed sharp growth in the past few years; around 2.1 billion trips were made to the Chinese countryside in 2016, creating jobs for 6.72 million rural people.

In 2017, China’s government invested $550 billion yuan into the development of rural tourism, as they expect it will help alleviate poverty and boost economic growth. This investment will provide better tourist services for travellers, but it will also consolidate rural tourism as a key preference for overseas travel.

Furthermore, China’s forest tourism industry has witnessed staggering growth in recent years. In 2017, around 1.39 billion trips were made to China’s forests and wetland parks, comprising of 28% of trips made in China that year. The industry, worth 61.8 billion in 2012, saw a rise in revenue to 140 billion in 2017. Clearly, more Chinese travellers are seeing the value in visiting areas of outstanding natural beauty.

Garden and flower tourism is b(l)ooming

One incentive for countryside escape is to see beautiful flowers. There are many ‘flower tours’ held throughout China every year, especially in the Yunnan, Guangdong, and Sichuan provinces. The idyllic countryside village of Huangling recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of its Flower Town program. This floral-themed experience, which provides visitors with scenic views of rapeseed flowers and peach blossoms, alongside flower tours and other cultural events, attracted 200,000 people globally in April and May 2017, an increase of 67% from the previous year. Evidently, escaping to the countryside is a popular travel trend.

The passion for the great outdoors among Chinese travellers extends beyond their own country, with many tourists travelling abroad to witness world-famous displays of natural beauty. Jing Travel recently interviewed Cai Wanza, a popular Chinese garden traveller who organises “world garden tours” and promotes “the garden lifestyle” in books and on social media. In 2018, Ms. Cai added routes covering California, France, Switzerland, New Zealand, and the Maldives to her garden tour themed itineraries.

Indeed, Ms. Cai’s garden tours give Chinese travellers the opportunity to see more of a destination they initially didn’t take seriously. While many Chinese travellers would stop off in Belgium for only a day or so before transferring, on Ms. Cai’s garden tour, the group spend fourteen days there since it has 200-plus private gardens.

Other Chinese social media influencers and KOLs have made their name through their enthusiasm for gardens and flowers. DACAI (@大菜微博), a popular food and floral travel blogger, has over 700,000 followers on Weibo, and according to Jing Travel, the second-most popular question posted on Mafengwo’s forum in 2017 was “What places in China can you recommend for roaming through a sea of flowers?”.

Chinese tourists are becoming more interested in travelling around Europe to see gardens and flowers. An article on the UK’s “most popular lavender fields” was recently published on Red Scarf (Honglingjin), a lifestyle website targeting young Chinese people living in the UK, and has over 180,000 views (as of June 2018). The article features lavender farms in Yorkshire, Somerset, and the Cotswolds – places renowned for their stunning natural beauty.

Isparta in western Turkey, known as the ‘Land of Roses’, welcomes thousands of tourists to its annual harvests. According to the Culture and Tourism Provincial Director, Osman Çot, the rose gardens have become an “attraction center” for tourists, with most of them coming from the Far East.

While flower and garden travel may not yet be as popular as sightseeing, it does support the narrative of Chinese travellers seeking unique experiences offered only by outbound destinations. Thus, tour operators should begin to have a more open mind and monitor developments in this trend to determine if it’s worthwhile introducing more garden product. As Ms. Cai said herself, “if tourism officials assume Chinese are not interested in their gardens, they miss a big opportunity”.

Outdoor attractions rank highly on Chinese review sites

Attractions in the great outdoors or in the countryside appear to rank highly on China’s influential review sites. Two of the top five attractions in the Netherlands, according to Mafengwo, are the historic neighbourhood of Zaanse Schans, known for its traditionally Dutch houses and windmills, and Keukenhof botanical gardens, among the world’s largest flower gardens. They respectively have 355 and 245 reviews on the platform.

Mafengwo’s listings for the most popular attractions in Germany also shed light on this trend. Ranked first is Neuschwanstein Castle, a 19th century palace overlooking vast areas of greenery and quaint Bavarian villages from its hilltop, which currently has 746 reviews. The runner-up is Königsee, an alpine lake in the heart of the countryside, with 288 reviews. Obviously, these destinations have had a huge impact on Chinese travellers, with many commenters describing the attraction for unassuming travellers, sharing advice on the best times to visit, and recommending other places to explore nearby.

Chinese travellers visit destinations purely for the countryside

Many destinations attracting Chinese tourists can attribute their success to the great outdoors. One such example is New Zealand – known for its vast landscapes of greenery, it has been attracting Chinese tourists for years to its outdoor adventure activities. The Antipodean Explorer, dubbed the “world’s best moving hotel”, is a new venture aiming to attract luxury-oriented Chinese travellers. It transports them between Auckland and Queenstown, past New Zealand’s beautiful landscapes.

Some destination marketing organisations are beginning to realise the potential of promoting the ‘escape to the countryside’ theme to Chinese tourists. Recently, a China Readiness workshop was hosted by I Love NY state tourism and the Sullivan Catskills Visitors Association (SCVA) to improve understanding of Chinese traveller’s needs to 50 representatives of local businesses. SCVA represents the Catskills Mountains, a scenic country getaway located 90 minutes from New York City. In delivering overviews of the difference between the domestic and Chinese tourism markets, and how to effectively use WeChat to market destinations to Chinese travellers, this workshop encouraged local businesses to embrace change and begin to “think globally”.

Speaking of ‘thinking globally’, we’ve done a fair amount of work to promote UK botanical gardens in the Chinese travel market. Back in March, we took Kew Gardens on a sales mission to Beijing, arranging meetings with key tour operators, including Ctrip and Caissa Touristic, to sell the Kew Gardens product. In May, we also arranged a visit to the beautiful RHS Wisley Garden for the influential Chinese travel blogger, Liu Huan (Queenio欢儿欢), who took stunning photographs of the gardens and displays for her followers to enjoy.

Listen up

It seems as if there is a subsection of Chinese tourists who travel both domestically and abroad to see the countryside, picturesque gardens, and rural towns. There is evident demand here, and since many tour operators assume Chinese tourists only want to see a country’s must-see attractions, the forward-thinking have an opportunity to step in and make some hay whilst the sun is shining.

If you are interested in the benefits of attracting more Chinese visitors, please contact us for a chat.

Enjoyed this article? Then these may also be of interest to you:

Are Chinese tourists the new adventurers?

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What will the EU-China Tourism Year bring?

Explaining Chinese Payment Systems – What’s the fuss about?

Photo – Ana Madeleine Uribe from Pexels (https://www.pexels.com/@bananamade)

Watch and Go – How do TV and film influence Chinese travellers?

Image: Malin Head, Donegal, Republic of Ireland. Appeared in the latest Star Wars franchise films.

Is it really a travel incentive?

Travelling abroad to visit film and television locations is an often-overlooked tourism incentive. Since Chinese tourists are beginning to favour authentic travel experiences over shopping and organised group tour packages, travelling to see film and television shooting locations, often in remote areas of countries steeped with history or natural beauty, plays right into this narrative.

Despite the blind-eye turned to articles and reports concerning this subject, it is hardly a recent phenomenon. I am guilty myself of reserving particular days of my holiday itinerary to visit iconic film and TV locations, such as Tokyo’s Park Hyatt Hotel, famously featured in Lost in Translation, and the city walls of Dubrovnik, which double as King’s Landing in Game of Thrones (more on this later). I’m certainly not alone – the Making of Harry Potter studio tour at Warner Bros Studios in Watford was the most-booked attraction through TripAdvisor last year.

This article hopes to uncover how and why film and TV location tourism is an important trend tour operators should consider when developing products for Chinese tourists.

Lights, Camera, Action

A recent webinar co-hosted by Mafengwo revealed while Chinese people watch films or TV for its content and characters, they also pay close attention to shooting locations. According to Mafengwo, 25% of Chinese FIT travellers will visit a film or TV shooting location during their next domestic or international trip. 42% of these FIT travellers are from the post-90s generation, meaning this is a hugely popular travel experience among young people.

Reality shows, TV series, and animations have more influence over FIT travellers than any other genre. Nicholas Tse, a famous Chinese chef, recently visited New Zealand to film his reality show Chef Nic, which has received over 1.04 billion hits across Tencent and iQiyi since 2014. China is “New Zealand’s second largest international visitor market”, meaning Chef Nic may help attract Chinese travellers to New Zealand.

Among the most popular destinations to visit due to film and TV shooting locations are Northern Ireland, Turkey’s Istanbul, Morocco’s Casablanca, Iceland, and the Koh Chang ‘Elephant Island’ in Thailand. Elephant Island is the filming location of the popular Chinese reality show Chinese Restaurant, which invites Chinese celebrities to open and run their own independent restaurant. Following the success of the show’s pilot episode, broadcast in July 2017, Elephant Island witnessed a 547% increase in visitors.

The ‘Lost in Thailand effect’

This was not the first time Thailand had welcomed international visitors to its shores for its filming locations. Film enthusiasts have been visiting the country’s northern city of Chiang Mai in droves since December 2012 when the Chinese comedy, Lost in Thailand, became a surprise blockbuster hit. By early January 2013, the film had grossed over RMB 1 billion, becoming China’s most successful homegrown production.

Lost in Thailand’s success was a driving factor in Thailand, welcoming 4.7 million Chinese visitors in 2013. The growth in tourism numbers to Thailand continues to be outstanding, with 8.8 million Chinese tourists visiting the country in 2016. On Taobao, China’s largest e-commerce website, travel agencies continue to offer Lost in Thailand-themed activities, such as crossing rivers on elephant back.

Seattle has seen similar success with the 2013 Chinese romantic comedy Finding Mr Right, known in China simply as Beijing Meets Seattle. The film’s popularity helped attract more than 75,000 Chinese visitors to the seaport city in 2013.

According to The Guardian, in 2014, more than a third of homes priced over $1 million in exclusive parts of Seattle and in its suburbs were “being bought by Chinese owners looking to move to America”. The success of these films in China has made tour operators realise the potential in attracting Chinese travellers to destinations featured in popular films and television series.

Europe is also benefitting

Europe has also tasted the fruit borne from this trend. In 2015, popular Chinese travel website Qyer attributed the popularity of Czech Republic, Switzerland and Turkey to the phenomenon of hit films and TV shows. Czech Republic witnessed a 119% increase in spending by Chinese tourists in 2015 – the country benefitted from the success of Somewhere Only We Know, the first Chinese film to be set in Prague. Like Seattle, direct flights from Beijing to Prague were introduced, seven months following the film’s Chinese release in mid-September of 2015.

The lasting influence of Somewhere Only We Know is still evident – over 491,000 Chinese tourists visited Czech Republic in 2017. The steps of the Rudolfinum, featured in the film’s finale, are still a popular place for Chinese tourists to gather and take photos.

Why international co-productions are important

Many countries have attempted to capitalise on the success of Chinese productions filmed abroad to improve their own tourism numbers. In 2015, following Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s, visit to China, three deals were made to create India-China co-productions, one of which was directed by a star of Lost in Thailand. China also made cooperation agreements with Russia and Spain in 2017 in the hope of rolling out their domestic films overseas. With regards to the China-Russia agreement, between Russian Film Group and Chinese film company Yangtze, the two countries plan to collaborate on three feature films planned for theatrical release, investing around $50 million each.

However, co-productions aren’t always a stable bet. The Great Wall, released in 2017 and starring Matt Damon, is the most expensive China-US co-production to date, but it fell short of box office forecasts, despite becoming one of China’s highest grossing films. The difficulty with co-productions is “finding films and stories that can work both in China and international markets”, but if done correctly, these films can gain mass market, international appeal – drawing more eyes to the locations shown on-screen.

Closer to home

The UK’s film and television history also contributes to its popularity. Our recent article on the EU-China Tourism Year explored some of the UK’s key film and television-related attractions that appeal to Chinese tourists – from Castle Howard to Dover Castle. While these particular locations are well-known for their cultural heritage, their appearance in popular British dramas and Disney musicals attract hundreds of thousands of overseas tourists every year.

The HBO fantasy drama Game of Thrones, most of which is shot in Northern Ireland, has become surprisingly popular in China. When the first season aired there in 2014, it was heavily censored by China Central Television, which removed all traces of violence and nudity. In this form, Asia Times described the show as like “watching a documentary of European castles on the History Channel”.

Since then, the rise of online video platforms in China like Youku, and WeChat mini programs like Tencent Video, have allowed viewers to watch uncensored versions of the show with Mandarin subtitles.

Ctrip discovered that Game of Thrones is putting countries like Croatia, Northern Ireland, and Iceland on the Chinese map. The online travel agency reported that the number of Chinese tourists who booked a visit to Croatia through the website in the first half of 2017 increased by 300% compared with 2016, while Iceland saw its tour booking numbers increase by 148%.

In August 2017, Tourism Ireland ran a promotion to remind Chinese fans that Northern Ireland is “one of the main filming locations of Game of Thrones”, which was estimated to be seen by 14 million people across Chinese social networks, film review sites, and Tourism Ireland’s social media accounts.

This was followed by the news that Northern Ireland is expecting over 2.3 million visitors in 2018 because of China’s emerging market. The recent announcement that Cathay Pacific will launch the first direct flight between Hong Kong and Dublin this year will help achieve this, helping to expand Northern Ireland’s visitors to the 100 Chinese nationals living in and around the Chinese city. Clearly, an international phenomenon like Thrones can incentivise travellers to visit places previously overshadowed by more popular destinations.

Show me the money

It looks as if film and television shooting locations are becoming a significant draw for Chinese tourists, and are a key incentive for them to travel abroad. The importance of film and television in travel of tourism should not be understated, and tour operators and DMOs should closely monitor Chinese productions set to film abroad so they can pounce early on any opportunities to promote their tours and destination.

If you are interested in the benefits of attracting more Chinese visitors, please contact us for a chat.

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Selecting Travel KOLs: How do we choose our bloggers?

In our last blog, we wrote about the metrics you need to understand when selecting a travel KOL. So what’s the process when our clients come to us and suggest they would like us to organise a KOL trip?

Match product with skills, audience and interests

The first thing we consider is the objective of the project and the product itself. When we were looking to promote the destinations accessible by rail for our client, London North Eastern Railway, we needed to find a mainstream travel blogger with a strong reputation and access to a wide reach on China’s popular travel review sites. We also wanted someone with excellent photography skills so they could really showcase the personality of the North East of England and Scotland. Thus, the influential blogger Sicilia (西西里玩不停) was the perfect choice.

However, when we were looking at our Heritage is GREAT trip for English Heritage, we knew we needed to find someone with a really keen, genuine interest in both history and heritage. The trip involves visits to many sites up and down the country, so a love of heritage was essential. Our choice, in the end, surprised us all, as we discovered that the actual co-founder of one of China’s premier travel review sites, Qyer, Mr Cai Jinghui, is a huge heritage fan. Never backwards in coming forwards, our team in Beijing approached him with the proposed trip and we are delighted that Mr Cai will be visiting in September, bringing with him a museum expert and photographer. The review will appear on Qyer and posts will be shared on Mr Cai’s personal social media accounts – presumably with many of the Chinese travel industry’s A-listers.

We also ensure your blogger appeals to the right audience. If you are VisitBrighton or Destination Bristol, we might look for a blogger with a predominantly millennial audience. If you are London Zoo, families are probably more important to you. We will choose the right blogger who actively markets to your target segment.

Be practical and flexible

We always have to consider budget and scheduling. We know lots of great Chinese travel bloggers, but they are busy people and charge different fees for their time. Travel blogging is how they make their living (lucky for some!). Sometimes, it’s a difficult balancing act to find someone who matches our budget, wants to visit the UK, and has the time in their schedule to do so. Where we can’t pay the normal fees, sometimes we can offer the KOLs something else; help with a future holiday, discounts on hotel rooms, or the promise of more work for other clients. We are competing for these bloggers with places like Australia and Dubai who have huge Chinese KOL budgets, so we have to be prepared to find a work-around to make things work with the right blogger.

Success often depends on the destination. We have never had to pay for bloggers we’ve hosted at the paradise island of Vanuatu because the bloggers have never been before, were really excited to go (who wouldn’t be?), and know that the island will offer them new and original content that give them a competitive edge over other bloggers. But, over time, as more travel blogs are written about Vanuatu, fees will inevitably come into play.

Occasionally, bloggers are free when the opportunity is too good to refuse – this is usually when the entire trip includes luxury accommodation and business-class flights.

It can also depend on their personal circumstances, who we know, and whom they know. We invited Wang Yuan (王二媛), the food blogger and editor of the Chinese fashion website MOGU Street Lifestyle to England and Scotland in June. Yuan brought her friend, Liu Bo (bobobaby7), along, who is also an influential KOL, free of charge. Liu Bo has a staggering popularity on Weibo and their being on a trip together meant that the two ladies took more pictures, shared more content, and had more fun, making for an even better result for the client at minimal extra cost.

The platforms are always in charge

It’s important to think about how the content will be promoted. Weibo have set up a group for Fashion KOLs, whereby bloggers pay a fee to have their content promoted. For example, a celebrity would have to pay Weibo a sum for people to see their posts otherwise they won’t be sent traffic. This cost can be as little as 200 RMB (£22.00) or upwards of 5,000 RMB (£575.00) if the blogger represents a big brand. Fashion KOLs often include this cost into their service fee, but if you just want a detailed blog with no Weibo promotion behind it, they will only charge you for travel time.

Contrary to popular belief, most Chinese bloggers are no longer freelancers – they have to partner with a company for Weibo to send them traffic. These companies manage a network of bloggers and have direct contacts with Weibo, and bloggers have to share profits with their company.

It’s a professional service and you’ll need a contract

Working with KOLs is completely different to working with journalists. Bloggers will agree a fee and the deliverables and this will be written in a contract, signed by both parties. It will cover things like the minimum number of social posts which will be delivered, and how many platforms the review will be published on. Remember, Chinese bloggers don’t publish on their own blogging websites (this is very old school indeed and the market moved on from that about 10 years ago). They publish on third party platforms such as Qyer, Mafengwo and Ctrip.

Social media posts on WeChat and Weibo made throughout the blogger’s trip are normally free of charge with a certain number agreed within the contract per trip, but costs may incur for video content. A detailed blog with video can cost between 25,000 and 30,000 RMB (£2,800 – £3,500) per project, which includes an average of 3 to 5 Weibo posts.

Pick the best of the bunch

Of course, we check if the bloggers are actually any good. Chinese social media and travel site users follow bloggers for their personality and to communicate with them, in addition to reading their travel insights. Readers enjoy blogs that inject personality into them while being informative about the destination or attraction. This comes down to effective writing skills – some KOLs can’t write at all!

Travel bloggers don’t all write about the same thing – some will focus on specific travel trends, such as food tourism or flower and garden tourism, to stand out among the rest. If your travel blogger is eating at the finest restaurants during their trip, it makes sense for them to have had blogged about food in the past. The content travel KOLs produce and publish on their social media accounts and travel sites is important to keep in mind.

There are practical considerations too. Does the blogger have a visa for our client’s destination or will we have to cost that into the trip? Where does the blogger live? Will we have to pay for connecting flights in China or transit hotels? Language barriers may be an issue if the blogger only speaks Mandarin, but a detailed and informative itinerary can help assure them and having a Mandarin-speaking colleague on hand to communicate with them is always useful.

Most importantly, we consider whether the blogger will be easy to work with in sticking to the itinerary, communicating promptly if any problems arise, and being an all-round responsible traveller. We never want our blogger trips to turn into a headache, either for us or for our clients.

If you would like to find out more about working with Chinese KOLs, please contact us for a chat.

Enjoyed this article? Then these may also be of interest to you:

Chinese KOLs – it’s not all about WeChat and Weibo

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Chinese tourists and the Great Outdoors – let’s explore

Chinese KOL trip from London to Scotland by rail (Case Study)

A Day in the Life of Vivienne Song

Vivienne Song is China Travel Outbound’s Beijing Director. Her team of diligent, skilled, and young businesspeople collaborate closely with the Brighton team to ensure our clients receive the best possible promotion in China. Exceptionally hardworking, Vivienne is an essential member of our China Travel Outbound team.  

But what is her life in China like? Vivienne, her husband, and her two adorable cats live in Beijing, China’s capital city. Living and working in Beijing has its difficulties, but it also provides many modern conveniences un-afforded by other global cities. In this article, the Marketing Executive for our Brighton office Tom Luckin interviews Vivienne to reveal what an average day is like for a businesswoman living in this relentless city.

TL: What is it like being a working woman in China?

VS: For many years, the image of women in China was to look after the family and support the husband while he’s at work. Men are meant to be ‘out to hunt’ to support the whole family. Nowadays, women are standing out in business, and are starting to take the lead. We now do the same jobs as men, and sometimes make more money than they do, all the while looking after the family. It’s a tough role – but it shapes us to become stronger people.

From my circle of friends, I am seeing more and more women who are younger than me and are already very independent financially and emotionally.

TL: How do you travel to work every morning?

VS: Whenever the weather is lovely, I cycle to work. Beijing’s brilliant shared bike service means you can simply pick up and ride any shared bike on the street for as little as 1 RMB [about 11 pence] per hour. Travelling to work by bus is also handy, since they run fairly frequently and let you to sit back and relax.

The best contribution I have made to Beijing’s notorious traffic is by not driving myself. The traffic is bad enough as it is – we don’t need one more terrible driver to make it worse!

TL: What do you do on a typical working day?

VS: Monday and Tuesday will usually be office days for me and my team to schedule meetings for clients and review the work we did last week. As Beijing is extremely large, and has overwhelming traffic, travelling around efficiently really depends on luck. This is why we tend to organise one meeting in the morning, and two meetings in the afternoon.

Face-to-face meetings are very important. We always visit a tour operators’ office so that we can introduce our client in person and provide assistance to help develop and promote the tour products. Professional partnerships are very important to us, but so are our friendships with tour operators.

TL: Please can you talk about the people who make up your Beijing team?

VS: Sarah Cao is our PR & Media Manager. She studied in the US and majored in Tourism Management and Hospitality. After returning to China, she worked for a PR company in the media industry for two years.

I have known Ian King for ten years as he used to be my colleague in the MICE department of China Travel International, who I worked for shortly after moving to Beijing. He has experience in both the travel trade industry and brand marketing. He also used to look after high-profile clients such as P&G and Unilever. He also has very good connections in the entertainment industry.

TL: Sounds like a busy life you live! What do you do to relax?

VS: I really enjoy going to the gym to sweat away all the pressure. It’s the best way to stay fit, helping myself stay energetic and ready for work. Watching old movies is one of my other favourite things to do to relax at the weekend. Al Pacino is my all-time favourite actor.

TL: Who doesn’t love Al Pacino!? …Why did you decide to begin a career in the travel industry?

VS: There was a TV show on about 20 years ago called ‘The Wonderful World’, which was one of the first travel shows broadcast in China. It influenced a lot of people of my generation to think about beginning a career in the travel industry, but at the time, we did not know much about outbound travel. The show taught us a lot about other cultures around the world.

The female host of ‘The Wonderful World’, or ‘Guide’ as we called her, had one of the most admired jobs in China for quite some time. Since then, I decided to work in the travel industry as I naively thought the job was all about travelling for fun!

TL: What were the early days of your career like? Any highlights?

VS: I started my career with Star Cruises, which is an international cruise company based in Singapore. I was lucky to snatch a role in their Tourism Department where you not only travel to many different countries and enjoy all the tours as part of the job, but also work with people from different cultural backgrounds.

I’ve worked in many different positions in the tourism industry, from tour product sales for Star Cruises and account management for China Travel International’s MICE department, to wholesale product management and PR & media management for the Destination Tourism office. My last position before I joined CTO was at Mafengwo as BD Manager, which I enjoyed very much. Not only did the role improve my knowledge of online travel marketing, but I also made lots of friends there who are hardworking, fun people.

TL: Speaking of friends, can you talk a bit about your family?

VS: While my husband and I live in Beijing with our two cats, my parents and parents-in-law live in other Chinese cities. Unfortunately, we don’t visit our parents that often due to my very busy schedule, but I make it a routine to frequently phone my mum to catch up. Every year, I try to make a week free to go travelling with them. Last year, I took them to Chiang Mai in Thailand, and for the upcoming Chinese New Year in February, we are going to Chengdu to see the pandas.

TL: What is your apartment like in Beijing? Do you enjoy living there?

VS: Our apartment has two bedrooms and one large living room, perfect for hosting friends and family. Both my husband and I love to cook. We often invite our friends round for house parties to try our new dishes.

Everything happens so quickly in China. Many of us believe the country is still in a fast-growing phase, and we are lucky to be involved with such rapid changes. Beijing teaches you to quickly adapt to your environment and learn fast in order to catch up with the changing times. Life here is never short of challenges. I love the feeling of becoming a better version of myself with each passing day.

It’s very convenient living in China since everything is slowly but surely getting digitised – like payment systems. I have tried to avoid carrying cash when I go on business trips to other Chinese cities, since everything can be paid for through WeChat Pay or Alipay – from shops and restaurants, to hotels and taxis, and even some street vendors.

Buying items online for delivery is a service available throughout China, but unfortunately it is not free. You can order something at 11pm, and it will be with you by 7am the next day. Online supermarkets deliver within a maximum of 2 hours, and because my place is near the station, I always receive my order within 30 minutes. Sometimes it works out cheaper to get things delivered than to go to the supermarket.

The shared bike service is one of my favourite sharing economies. I love to cycle, but I couldn’t buy a bike, as I have nowhere to park it and it could get easily stolen, not to mention having to carry it up and down from the apartment! The shared bike service makes travelling to work so much easier and fun. The spring and autumn months in Beijing are gorgeous times to ride a bike – I often cycle through the old Hutong alleys during these months to see more scenic views of the city.

TL: To bring it back to social media, why are platforms like WeChat and Alipay so important to Chinese consumers?

VS: WeChat and Alipay are very important as they are with you throughout your everyday life. The conveniences they provide certainly make life easier overall, but at the same time, the command these two apps have over your life is quite frightening.

TL: Your role requires you to travel abroad occasionally for business meetings. What do you enjoy about the UK when you visit there?

VS: The UK has so many world-class museums that I can easily spend days exploring. The museum stores are perfect for souvenir shopping – you can always find perfect gifts for friends and colleagues there.

The other thing that impressed me on my last trip to the UK in November was the food. China’s impression of British food is basically just fish and chips. On a popular Chinese talk show I once watched, the host joked about how ‘Great Britain is one of the greatest and most powerful countries in the world, yet they don’t know how to cook’.

During my trip to the UK, I went to some restaurants which left no doubt in my mind about the slogan VisitBritain launched last year – the ‘Food is GREAT’! The ingredients are so fresh, and the dishes taste incredibly good.

-End of interview-

Many thanks to Vivienne for agreeing to the interview and providing most of the photos used in this article.

If you are interested in the benefits of attracting more Chinese visitors to your destination or attraction, please contact us for a chat.

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What will the EU-China Tourism Year bring?

How to set up a WeChat business account for your tourism brand

Explaining Chinese Payment Systems – What’s the fuss about?

Chinese mobile payment systems are more than just a modern convenience – they have a considerable impact on China’s travel and tourism industry.

As we know, Chinese travellers enjoy travelling as conveniently as possible, and they dislike being overwhelmed by a destination’s cultural difference.

One way a destination can demonstrate a strong “China Welcome” is by allowing visitors to purchase goods and services using popular Chinese payment systems – in particular WeChat Pay and Alipay. Destinations which accept these payment systems are a step ahead of the rest in streamlining the shopping experience for Chinese visitors travelling abroad.

This article aims to explain developments undergone by different Chinese payment systems, their similarities and differences, and their importance to marketing a destination or attraction in the Chinese market.

Mobile payment systems are in-demand…

In a recent interview with our Beijing Director Vivienne Song, I asked her why mobile payment systems are so important to Chinese consumers. Vivienne told me that, ultimately, it comes down to the convenience and ease-of-use they provide.

Recent research conducted by Nielsen in partnership with Alipay found that if given the option, 90% of Chinese tourists would use mobile payment systems overseas. Most glaringly, 91% of Chinese tourists indicated that the widespread availability of mobile payments abroad would encourage them to spend more. This is certainly something destinations and venues should keep in mind when marketing to the Chinese.

Chinese tourists love using mobile apps to make holidays more convenient. Mafengwo recently conducted a report asking 3,500 Chinese tourists how they use Chinese apps during their travels. According to results, over 85% of the subjects constantly use their phone while travelling, averaging out at six hours a day. If the Chinese are this attached to their mobile phones, why draw them away to make payments?

…But they are not yet widely accommodated

In 2017, mobile payments yielded an extraordinary total sum of $32 trillion USD, according to the People’s Bank of China. However, since mobile payments are not yet widely accepted outside China, the usage rate of mobile payments by Chinese outbound tourists abroad is currently lower than that of cash and bank card payments at 65%. This is still significantly higher than the usage rate among non-Chinese tourists, which stands at 11%. All in all, destinations should look to accommodate Chinese mobile payment apps to ensure the widespread availability of Chinese tourists’ preferred payment method.

WeChat Pay and Alipay – what’s the difference?

A relative latecomer to the mobile payments market when compared with Alibaba’s Alipay, Tencent’s WeChat Pay launched in 2013, came to Europe in 2017 with a number of approved merchants, and has rapidly grown since. The service aims to be as convenient as possible, allowing users to pay for an endless variety of goods and services both on and offline. WeChat Pay borrows Alipay’s model for offline purchasing by using system generated QR codes – it’s common to see codes for both platforms at points of sale.

Conversely, with around 520 million users, Alipay is China’s most popular mobile payment system. The service launched in 2004 as the Chinese alternative to PayPal, over a decade before WeChat Pay. Alipay allows its users to make payments on China’s largest e-commerce marketplaces, Taobao and Tmall, by linking their bank card to the app. It shares much of the same functionality with WeChat, enabling users to make payments using QR codes, and both services offer no transactions fees except for large withdrawals. Both WeChat and Alipay control over 90% of China’s $5.5 trillion mobile payment market.

WeChat Pay’s most notable feature is ‘red envelope’, which allows users to virtually send money to family and friends on special occasions. Reportedly, 768 million people sent out red envelopes in celebration of the Lunar New Year back in February 2018, 55% of China’s billion-plus population.

A huge difference between the two mobile payment systems is WeChat Pay’s integration into China’s most popular social media platform, WeChat, which recently passed one billion monthly active users. WeChat’s popularity is bolstered by how it comes pre-installed on 90% of Chinese smartphones, and every WeChat user has access to WeChat Pay as long as their account is linked with their bank. This has had an evident effect on Alipay’s growth – Alibaba’s market share fell by nearly half at the end of 2017, while Tencent witnessed growth of more than a third.

Alipay has a transaction limit in Europe of  40,000 euros, where WeChat Pay’s limit is 10,000. For most shopping transactions, that’s more than enough, but the big spenders may opt for Alipay.

So, in my opinion, the main reason WeChat Pay trumps Alipay is that people don’t want to leave the app they spend their life on, WeChat. They expect to do everything via WeChat – messaging, booking tickets, work communications, doctor appointments, and, of course, pay for things.

Similar developments

Some retailers have been adopting a variety of Chinese payment methods to ensure the needs of Chinese travellers are fully accommodated. Alongside their 200-plus Mandarin speaking staff, and the redevelopment of their jewellery department to align more with Chinese consumer interests, Harrods accepts both WeChat Pay and Alipay payments.

Furthermore, they both recently formed partnerships with tax refund companies, allowing for Chinese tourists to use either mobile payment method to receive rebates on their purchases. WeChat now offers instant tax refunds for Chinese tourists departing from Madrid airport, and Alipay introduced a similar service for Chinese tourists returning to Changi airport in Singapore.

Both payment methods have begun their expansion in Western markets. In 2017, WeChat Pay accounted for 29% of all Starbucks transactions, and back in November, Camden Market began to promote rollout of WeChat Pay across over 1,000 shops and restaurants to encourage Chinese shoppers. Following the successful integration of Alipay throughout Munich airport in 2016, WeChat Pay is now also accepted.

It was recently announced that the US hotel giant Marriott is preparing to accept Alipay mobile payments in around a quarter of its hotels globally. This complements their existing “Li Yu” loyalty initiative, which by introducing conveniences such as Mandarin speaking staff, hopes to make Chinese guests feel more comfortable staying in Marriott hotels.

More recently, Chinese visitors to the world’s largest shopping mall in Dubai can now use Alipay for their various shopping, dining, and leisure attractions. This development succeeds a continued effort by The Dubai Mall to accommodate the needs of Chinese visitors with Mandarin mall guides and Chinese helpdesk staff.

So… WeChat or Alipay?

Perhaps for some Western corporations, the fact WeChat Pay is fully integrated within one of the world’s most popular social media platforms has given it the edge over Alipay. It was recently announced that Walmart had dropped Alipay in favour of WeChat Pay for its 400-plus stores in western China. When asked to comment on the decision, Walmart simply remarked “WeChat Pay is widely accepted and trusted in China.”

By tapping into its social media influence, WeChat Pay is looking to rollout its platform internationally to feed the growing demand among Chinese outbound tourists. As Grace Yin, WeChat Pay Director for Overseas Operation, commented

“As mobile payment is increasingly welcomed by mainland Chinese outbound tourists, WeChat Pay plans to constantly invest in its cross-border business, with the aim of duplicating the domestic WeChat lifestyle overseas”.

This reinforcement of ‘domestic WeChat lifestyle overseas’ emphasises the urge among Chinese tourists to rely on familiar Chinese apps to help them vault over language and cultural barriers.

However, the decision is a bit like ‘should we take Visa or MasterCard’. The answer is that you should be taking both.

But we also have UnionPay – isn’t that enough?

UnionPay, the world’s largest bank card service, lags behind WeChat Pay and Alipay in terms of mobile payments, having first introduced their QR code-based payment method in 2017. While nowhere near as popular as WeChat Pay and Alipay, it still boasts a huge user base – in participating with 165 banks, every Chinese bank account is linked with UnionPay. UnionPay’s QR code-based payment method witnessed huge growth in volume over the Chinese New Year holiday period this year – specifically a 150% year-on-year increase.

UnionPay has issued over 5.4 billion credit or debit cards, however due to their magnetic strip and security pin system, they are considered less secure than WeChat Pay and Alipay. UnionPay is widely accepted internationally, from card purchases to ATM withdrawals, and it can process most world currencies.

However, at its heart, UnionPay is a credit card and the market has moved on to mobile payments, while UnionPay runs to keep up.

How does Apple Pay plan to compete?

While Apple’s products remain universally popular, its Apple Pay service, despite continued efforts, is having difficulties grabbing the attention of Chinese consumers. Due to WeChat Pay and Alipay’s market dominance, Apple Pay has seen limited success despite the estimated 243 million iPhone users in China. According to Bloomberg, a mere 1% of a Chinese bank’s 10 million online banking customers had the service activated.

Perhaps Chinese consumers are all too familiar with using WeChat Pay and Alipay’s QR code systems to consider other payment methods. To pay with Apple Pay, customers hold down their iPhone near a contactless reader and scan their fingerprint with Touch ID, which confirms the payment. This requires an expensive installation of a Near Field Communication (NFC) antenna – there is little incentive for Chinese shopfronts to install this when WeChat Pay and Alipay compatible QR codes can be cheaply displayed.

Submitting to the demand of Chinese payment systems, Apple recently rolled-out Alipay across mainland China’s 41 Apple retail stores, and WeChat Pay users can make purchases on Apple’s App Store.

Where does this leave us?

Mobile payment systems make the travel experience for Chinese outbound tourists far less daunting and more convenient. If widely implemented, they should result in increased revenue due to their ease-of-use and familiarity.

As China outbound tourism numbers continue to rise, displaying a “China Welcome” is becoming more important. A small merchant, restaurant or hotel accepting a Chinese payment method instantly gives the message that they welcome Chinese guests. For a small business, it’s a lot more realistic than employing Mandarin speaking staff. For larger retailers, there is the benefit of increase spend per transaction. The mobile payment apps show what the user is paying in RMB, and shoppers are more confident in spending more as they know exactly what they’ll be charged back home.

It’s also important to consider that technology like mobile payments can go out of date very quickly as the next best thing comes along. If you’re looking to enter this market, our advice is to find a middle man with an app that they will develop as things move along (so you don’t have to).

At China Travel Outbound, we like to make life easy so have teamed up with specialists, Globepay, to offer mobile payment solutions to our clients.  Their solutions include both Alipay AND WeChat Pay, so now there is no need to choose between the two.

If you are interested in Chinese mobile payment methods and how they could benefit your business, we would be more than happy to talk you through the process. Please feel free to contact us for advice.

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Photo by Jonas Leupe on Unsplash

The Curious Case of Press Releases

Press releases can be about anything that piques the interest of Chinese audiences, from quirky stories about a light show at Stonehenge, to the unique history of the UK’s most popular heritage sights.

We have recently delivered two very different kinds of press release for English Heritage – one about the flamboyant Kari Kola light show at Stonehenge, and the other about the tiny Myrtle flower and its royal history. The results have been exceptional for both stories.

Our “Stonehenge is illuminated to celebrate UNESCO World Heritage Day” press release detailed Kari Kola’s spectacular light show and its Impact with Light project, which aims to increase awareness of cultural history and global issues such as climate change. The release also gives Chinese audiences an overview of Stonehenge’s history and World Heritage status and offers advice on how to access the attraction.

We were extremely pleased with the coverage this press release received in Chinese media outlets; it featured in seven articles and posts with a total estimated media value of over £37,000. One particular article in Let’s Go Magazine showed the content of the press release in two beautiful double-page spreads – this magazine is distributed on Southern China’s trains and is read by approximately 5,000,000 people. This article’s media value is estimated at £12,000.

Chinese press release for English Heritage

Chinese press release for English Heritage2

Our press release for English Heritage for the Royal Wedding regarded “The mystery of Myrtle – a royal wedding tradition”, exploring the flower’s royal significance, having been introduced into royal wedding bouquets in 1858. The Myrtle itself comes from the gardens of Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. The release was sent out in May in time for the Royal Wedding, ensuring the best levels of coverage for the story.

The release gained significant traction in China, featuring in seven distinguished articles and posts on Chinese travel websites and influential social media accounts, with a total estimated media value of £15,900.

English Heritage press release report

Once the clippings are received, we compile screenshots of the articles and posts and media value figures into a report for our clients to evidence their success (see right).

Press releases are a great way to reach and grab the attention of Chinese audiences and help them understand your brand. When you are entering the Chinese market, releases can be a great way to show your commitment to China. They are also an effective channel as editorial coverage can be purchased for guaranteed space.

If you are interested in a press campaign in China, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us at: 01273 262700, or drop us an email at [email protected].

Introducing Kew Gardens to the Chinese Travel Trade

sales mission for kew gardenChina Travel Outbound’s sales missions are tailored to individual clients to ensure the meetings have the potential to encourage future sales calls, and further develop the client’s presence in the Chinese travel and tourism market. Our clients are privately transported and accompanied to each pre-qualified meeting by our Beijing team, who also provide English interpretation and translation throughout the visit.

We work with our clients throughout the entire process to ensure their visit is convenient and hassle-free. From assisting them with their letter of introduction needed to obtain a Chinese visa, to translating sales presentations and printing Chinese business cards, our Beijing team go the extra mile to make sure our clients get the most out of their visit.sales mission for kew garden

It was our pleasure to host Daryl Bennett from Kew Gardens on a sales mission to Beijing in March 2018. We organised a number of meetings with key tour operators with potential to sell the Kew Gardens product, including Caissa Touristic, Ctrip, and Sparkle Tour (see above).

“The trip was great and Vivienne couldn’t have been more helpful” – Daryl Bennett, Travel Trade Sales and Marketing Manager

Following the mission, Kew Gardens received a full report with contact details and learnings from each meeting, and action points for follow-up.

The client praised the help he received from our Beijing team, led by Vivienne Song, in making the sales mission beneficial and valuable. As a result of the meetings, Kew Gardens gained more of an idea of the events and attractions that are of most interest to the Chinese tourism market, and the different kinds of promotional images to use to maximise publicity.

If you would like to find out more about sales missions and how they could help your organisation develop within the Chinese market, please contact us for a chat.

Seven UKinbound members collaborate successfully on Chinese press trip

UKinbound member, China Travel Outbound, has successfully collaborated on a major Chinese press trip with six other members of the association. In early 2018, we started conversations with our contacts at National Geographic Traveller Magazine China about visiting the UK to write a 14-page feature to coincide with the forthcoming Royal Wedding.

The senior writer at Nat Geo is Mr Han, a fan of art history and of the UK. We embarked on a project to bring Mr Han, a videographer, and photographer, and Sarah our Chinese PR Director, over to England to write a feature about Royal Britain.

The team went on from London to Dover to see the grandiose White Cliffs and Dover Castle, England’s largest castle. The trip concluded with three nights in Brighton, organised in collaboration with VisitBrighton. Here, they visited the party palace of another prince – the Royal Pavilion, went to a pub, saw the Seven Sisters, and even stayed out til the wee hours at the student night at one of the seafront clubs.

We organised exclusive interviews with the museum curators, directors and historical experts to ensure that the resulting feature was full of colour and engaging stories about Britain’s royal heritage.

National Geo magazine press article

Results

The article hit the newsstands before the Royal Wedding and the associated social media was released on the happy day. With so many partners involved, this was a complex press trip to organise, but the results made it all worthwhile. The feature ran to 22 pages with an overall value of £737,000.

The magazine receives a circulation of 977,000 copies per month, and has a readership of 2,931,000.

Social Media

National Geo magazine press trip Weibo post

The trip received fantastic coverage on National Geographic Traveler China’s official WeChat and Weibo accounts. WeChat has over 1 billion active monthly users, and at the time of writing, the National Geographic Traveler Weibo account has 630,000+ followers. Evidently, these posts had huge potential reach.

Video Coverage

The videographer’s beautiful work is showcased in a video of the trip, which featured on various mainstream Chinese video websites under official National Geographic Traveler accounts, including Tencent, Tudou, and Youku.

See the video below:

We were delighted with the results of this project, and it was great to see it all come together to promote Britain in such a prestigious title.

Click here to view the National Geographic Traveler Magazine China Royal Britain feature.

A Guide to Chinese students studying abroad in Europe

Over the past few years, there has been significant growth in the number of Chinese students living and studying abroad, and this is expected to increase in the next five years.

Yu Minhong, founder and CEO of the New Oriental Education and Technology Group, estimates that the number of Chinese students studying abroad is approximately 800,000 per annum. One of the most popular destinations for Chinese students to study is Europe and the UK –  the latter being the second most popular host country for international students from the Asia-Pacific region, after the U.S. In this article, we look at some of the reasons why Chinese families choose to send their children to Europe to study.

Career Prospects

Any international student that plans on moving to Europe to study is taking a step in the right direction. While studying in Europe, students will gain transferrable skills and knowledge that are valuable to future employers, receive world-class education from the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world, and experience attractive and exciting student cities.

Top Cities and Universities

For Chinese students, moving abroad to study is a very exciting time in their lives and, of course, they want to make the most of their time. While you may think London is the top destination for Chinese students, North West England is actually the leader in recruiting Chinese students to their universities, with the top universities in that area being Manchester and Liverpool with approximately 7,000 Chinese students.

Between China Daily’s list of top ten UK Universities, US news’s list of the best Global European universities, and the UK’s Council for International Students’ top universities for recruiting international students, we can say that the top three universities and cities for Chinese students are:

1. University of Manchester (Manchester)

2. Pierre and Marie Curie University (France)

3. University College London (London)

Chinese Student Societies

China has the largest number of international students in Europe compared with any other country. Most universities in Europe have societies – groups of like-minded people who share common interests, whether it be religion, country of origin, art and culture, science, etc. Societies allow students to meet new people, learn new skills, and most importantly have fun.

Most universities have a Chinese or Asian society that students can join at the beginning of their first year. Here, they meet new friends and travel around Europe together. Chinese students are usually comfortable with other Chinese students, therefore you would usually see them travelling together in groups. Once or twice a year, we plan a student VIP trip where we contact the Presidents of Chinese Societies from different universities, asking them if they’d like to embark on a trip highlighting different attractions, hotels, and restaurants in Europe. This is a great marketing initiative, since Chinese Student Societies have their own social media groups and platforms where information is seen and shared.

Minor Challenges

Like any other international destination, there are some hurdles. Some of these are:

1. Visa requirements – Chinese students are required to apply for a student visa/ temporary residency in Europe in order to be registered as a student.

2. English language requirement – In order to be granted a student visa, it is required of the student to pass an English test.

3. Cultural difference – this can be both a positive and negative aspect of your studying experience, but for some, adapting to a new culture and its people, food, and lifestyle, can be rewarding and eye-opening.

Though it might be challenging to be away from family and friends for so long, Chinese students should really immerse themselves in the experience of being away from home. Taking advantage of the networking opportunities that are offered is key. Universities often promote many different networking opportunities, such as work placements, volunteer work, and even roles in clubs and societies.

For instance, Sara, our Travel Trade Manager, was on a work placement with us – a requirement from her university at the time. Sara did an exceptional job in her role, and kept in contact with us. Upon the completion of her studies, we just so happened to need a Travel Trade Manager at our Beijing office, and Sara was the perfect person for the role, especially since she was already familiar with the company and the work required.

Employability Rate

There is still an element of uncertainty with whether studying abroad will benefit one’s career, and if the experience of studying abroad will boost their employability rate. However, we would say the experience is overwhelmingly positive. Research was conducted on the link between employability and international students, showing that almost 60% of students find full-time jobs after studying abroad. Similarly, recent research was done by Ka Ho Mok and Han Xio on Chinese students’ experience in Europe and their chances of employability after studying. The study showed that Chinese students’ employability rate is good, with nearly 59% being able to find a job within three months, and 32% had secured jobs within 6 months of their studies.

Other Tourism Opportunities

Chinese students bring many tourism and business opportunities to Europe. Some opportunities to keep in mind are:

1. The Chinese student market is quite large. More Chinese students study abroad than any other country, and Europe is one of the top destinations for these students.

2. Chinese students are already in Europe – this is much easier than attracting Chinese students from China. Take advantage of the fact that they are already here and ready to travel and spend.

3. Chinese students are loaded! Over the past few years, Chinese students have had the reputation of being luxurious spenders. Our intern Claudio, who works at a fancy restaurant, says they enjoy fine dining – “nothing but oysters and lobsters.”

4. If they are already spending a lot, imagine when their parents come to visit! Parents and grandparents usually visit their children while they are studying abroad, and they won’t be able to resist not having the best of times while they are there.

5. They are ready to travel Europe for new experiences. Europe is relatively small compared to China, and it is far from home, so they plan on making the best of their time here.

6. Chinese students are social media friendly, regularly sharing their experiences with others. Their main social media platforms are WeChat and Weibo (check out our previous blog on these).

If you are interested in the benefits of attracting more Chinese visitors, please contact us for a chat.

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Virgin Trains East Coast appoints China Travel Outbound to deliver China campaign

Following a competitive pitch, specialist travel PR agency, China Travel Outbound, has been appointed by Virgin Trains East Coast to develop a PR and marketing campaign aimed at growing its Chinese customer base.

The campaign, which will be delivered both in the UK and in China, will maximise the opportunity offered by the huge growth in Chinese travellers to the UK, and the large number of Chinese people living and studying in the cities served by Virgin Trains East Coast.

Activity will include working with Chinese travel bloggers and student influencers, the launch of a Weibo social media account, PR campaigns in conjunction with destination partners, content creation and placement on key Chinese channels, and travel trade representation through China Travel Outbound’s office in Beijing.

Laetitia Beneteau, Business Development Manager, Virgin Trains East coast said,

‘Today, China is becoming a focus for VTEC and it was very important for us to find a partner who understood not only the Chinese market, but also the ambitions and values of our brand. The team at China Travel Outbound presented us with an exciting plan which meets our needs, and their connections with many of our tourism partners made them the perfect choice.’

Helena Beard, Managing Director, China Travel Outbound, said,

‘Chinese UK tourist and student numbers continue to boom, with the fastest growth coming from the independent travel segment. By promoting Virgin Trains East Coast as the best choice for visiting popular cities like London, Edinburgh, York and Newcastle, we hope to encourage our Chinese visitors to explore more of the UK by rail.’