China’s ski industry is taking off

The growing popularity of adventure tourism is among the factors influencing China’s recent nationwide passion for winter sports. China is due to host the Winter Olympics in Beijing in 2022, and as a result, Chinese President Xi Jinping is attempting to convert 300 million Chinese people to winter sports. The 2014/2015 winter season evidenced a 21% increase in the number of visitors to China’s ski resorts from the previous year, with around 12,500,000 skiers. Despite this, the Chinese ski market is currently an eighth of the size of the US’s, and one sixteenth of Europe’s. Evidently, China’s ski industry has a long way to go before measuring up with the high standard set by Europe, and a short time to achieve this.

However, as we know from other initiatives, such as football and Olympic sports, when the Chinese President gets behind tourism, you can expect great results.

Walking on thin ice

According to a study of the Chinese ski industry, showcased at the Asia Pacific Snow Conference during Beijing’s ISPO/ALPITEC exhibition, China now has around 568 ski resorts, with 108 of them having been built in 2015. However, only 122 of these have ski lifts.

With only five years until countries worldwide flock to China to compete in winter sports’ biggest event, the Chinese government is engaged in a mad rush to expand its domestic ski industry. Financial Times reports the Chinese government has invested $11 billion USD into the redevelopment of Chongli, a popular district for winter activities, in the hope of establishing it as the centre of the Chinese ski industry. Chongli’s Thaiwoo ski resort is receiving extensive redevelopment – by its completion, it aims to have 200 ski slopes, measuring 138km in length, 21 magic carpets, and 45 ski lifts. In addition, the Fulong Four Seasons Town, a massive complex encompassing a 750,000 square metre ski venue with a collection of hotels and shopping areas, opened in Chongli last December.

This massive scope extends beyond the upcoming Winter Olympics, as China aims to have 1,000 ski resorts by 2030, double the current number. This is considering China’s relatively weak snowfall compared to previous Winter Olympics hosts, with the government having to supply fake snow for its Zhangjiakou and Yanqing venues because they receive only 25cm of snow per year.

China’s lack of snowfall is considered a major issue going forward by Switzerland Global Enterprise, who claim international suppliers could benefit from the fact that, in 2015, China imported 3,500 of a total 4,000 sets of snow making machines.

With great powder comes great responsibility

As China develops new ski resorts nationwide and overseas, it has been witnessing a rise in the number of indoor skiing activities. Back in July, the world’s biggest indoor ski slope, which spans 800,000 square metres, opened at a Chinese ski resort in Harbin. In addition, in 2015, 3.2 million Chinese people went indoor skiing in their home country. This implies China is pushing for its people to have affordable and year-round access to skiing, attracting families as well as enthusiasts.

Skiing is on the up-and-up

The Chinese government has paid close attention to the rise of Chinese adventure tourism, demonstrated by recent developments such as the construction of a $14.7 million dollar visitors complex at the base of Nepal’s Mt. Everest. This will accommodate a hotel, a mountaineering museum, and shops to buy climbing supplies.

Fourteen ski resorts in Switzerland have begun capitalising on the prediction that China will become the largest winter sports market worldwide by offering ski lessons in Chinese. Switzerland Tourism, the country’s national marketing organisation, offers Chinese tourists ski trip packages which bundle together gear rental, tickets and lessons, making their travel experience more comfortable and convenient.

New Zealand is also broadening the international appeal of its adventure tourism activities. The country’s national tourism institution, Tourism New Zealand, recently partnered with Air China and Beijing Ski Association to push New Zealand as “the perfect counter season ski destination for Chinese skiers”. This promotional campaign prompted an increase in the number of Air China passengers travelling to New Zealand in 2017, from 3% in July, to 9% in August.

In addition, a 2017 Chinese Ski Insights Survey, conducted by Club Med and TripAdvisor, found that, out of 3,357 Chinese respondents, 37% had visited another Chinese city to ski, and 18% had travelled abroad to destinations including Japan, South Korea, and Switzerland.

While Chinese officials are doing all they can to increase visitors to Chinese ski resorts, international tourism operators are hoping the push for skiing domestically will lead to a rise in the numbers of Chinese tourists skiing in Europe and North America. Global ski resorts would do well to start preparing for this inevitable influx and get their destinations on the Chinese tourist map as soon as possible.

If you are involved in winter sports and you want to attract 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?

The business of sport in China

China’s footballing future: the rise of a new soccer superpower?

How to attract Chinese tourists to your destination

Thanks to our Account Director Vivienne Song for the wonderful photo of her and her friends at a ski resort.

What will the EU-China Tourism Year bring?

An exciting opportunity for European tour operators is on our doorstep. How should we prepare for Europe’s improved collaboration with the Chinese travel market?

It’s finally here, and it’s about time

There has been an Australia-China year of tourism, as well as a US-China year, but finally it is the turn of Europe. Are they just gimmicks, or do they make a real difference?

In what has been an eventful year for Chinese tourism, upcoming international partnerships, such as the EU-China Tourism Year, will help to further promote growth in Chinese outbound tourist numbers.

The EU-China Tourism Year is an official declaration given to the promotion of bilateral cooperation between European countries and China, which will occur throughout 2018. It presents an exciting opportunity for European tourism businesses and operators looking to expand their operations in the Chinese outbound travel market to promote their brand on a global scale and seek new partnerships. The first series of business-to-business talks brought about by the ECTY will take place at Beijing’s China Outbound Travel & Tourism Market in April 2018.

Reported figures vary, but the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRI) found that Chinese outbound tourism grew by 7% in the first half of 2017, from 64 million in 2016 to 69 million. This shows that Chinese tourists are travelling further afield. Indeed, while tourism to the Greater China region only grew by 1%, the rest of the world saw 14% more Chinese outbound travellers visiting their shores in the first half of 2017.

The potential benefits that the ECTY could bring to European travel and tourism companies complements the exciting predictions about the Chinese outbound travel market in 2018. COTRI estimates that the number of Chinese tourists travelling to destinations outside of Greater China will rise by 10% next year to 86 million. If correct, Chinese travel to destinations outside of Greater China will then hold the majority in the market, representing 56% of overall trips made.

As such, the ECTY seems to be happening at the right time. The Chinese outbound tourism market is increasingly becoming dominated by free and independent travellers (FITs), who are willing to forge their own adventures to discover authentic experiences, unlike their organised group travel equivalents. This has opened-up new opportunities in the market to appeal to this rising subsection of outbound travellers. Furthermore, relaxed visa restrictions, more direct flight connections, and the opening of visa application centres shows European countries are becoming flexible to deal with the expanding Chinese travel market.

Make the effort

Europe should grasp the opportunity to welcome more Chinese tourists with open arms. Driven by the rise of middle-class households, China has become the largest source of tourism expenditure, which is expected to grow by 10.9% from 2017 to 2022. A lot of their money is spent in duty-free shops. Recent figures show that 41% of Chinese travellers buy skincare-related products in duty-free and travel-retail, compared with 25% for the average global buyer.

Increased cooperation with China has already helped improve visitor rates at British attractions. In June, Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG) announced they received a 74% increase year-on-year in Chinese visitors. Following the efforts made in marketing their museums in China and improving their “China welcome”, RMG’s dedication to attracting the Chinese market was recognised at ITB China in Shanghai, where they were awarded a Chinese Tourist Welcome Award for Service Quality.

Be more like Switzerland

The ECTY won’t mark the first time Europe and China has formed an alliance to promote tourism. The ECTY will succeed 2017’s China-Switzerland Year of Tourism, which demonstrated an increased effort by both parties to further encourage overseas travel. Both countries encouraged bilateral communication and cooperation through exchange activities that enhanced mutual understanding of each country’s culture, economy, and trade.

In 2015, China became the fourth largest outbound tourist market for Switzerland, behind Germany, the US, and the UK. Switzerland’s Deputy Head of Mission Alain Gaschen suggests improved China outbound travel was due to relaxed visa restrictions, which encouraged the widespread issuing of long-term and multi-entry visas. Switzerland has also made it convenient for Chinese tourists to obtain visas, with a quick-visa approval process that takes only two days.

The China-Switzerland Year of Tourism recently held its closing ceremony in Lausanne, which is due to host the 2020 Youth Olympic Games. Since China will host the 2022 Winter Olympics, bilateral cooperation in the winter sports market was beneficial. As a result, the Swiss have been developing their ski resorts to become more accommodating of Chinese tourists by providing one-off experience days catered to beginners and lessons in Chinese.

This collaboration has delivered benefits for future EU-China cooperation. Reportedly, a Chinese tourism official claimed 2017 saw 1.2 million two-way visits between China and Switzerland, an increase of 12% from 2016. Air China recently launched a new service from Beijing to Zurich, which marks Air China’s first flight to the Swiss city since the service was initially discontinued in 1999. Likewise, the number of flights connecting China and Switzerland has increased to forty per week.

Early ECTY-related collaborations have begun between China and Italy, where the ECTY will hold its opening ceremony, in Venice, on the 19th of January. Italy’s Undersecretary of MiBACT Dorina Bianchi hopes this relationship will help promote not only Italy’s “cities of art”, but also the “historical heritage” of its villages. Italy is one of many European countries seeking more potential from the Chinese market, as in the first half of 2017, it evidenced a 15% increase in the number of Chinese visitors compared to 2016.

Put yourself out there

The UK should make the most of the ECTY by capitalising on its opportunities as soon as possible. This is especially considering recent developments which have made the UK more accessible for Chinese tourists.

The recent announcement of an open skies agreements between China and the UK aims to increase connecting flights by 50% to 150 flights per week. In addition, Britain’s north witnessed a 15% rise in Chinese arrival numbers than anticipated this year, with 90,000 passengers travelling from Beijing to Manchester. Chinese visitors are also spending more than ever, specifically an increase of 54% in 2017, largely due to the post-Brexit depreciation of the pound. These are promising developments for the UK inbound tourism market that demonstrate the appeal of attracting more Chinese visitors.

Why would Chinese tourists want to visit the UK?

Football crazy, football mad

The UK remains an appealing destination for Chinese travellers for a plethora of reasons, and sport is certainly a key factor. Alongside China’s desire to convert 300 million Chinese people to winter sports in anticipation of the upcoming 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, it is also pushing to become a world football superpower by 2050. It hopes to have 50 million football players by 2020, as well as 6,000 stadiums or pitches and 50,000 football schools within the next 10 years.

British football is internationally renowned for its world-class teams, and football is already hugely popular in China. More than 350 million Chinese fans watch Premier League games on dedicated football television channels. Indeed, football is Chinese President Xi Jinping’s favourite sport – in 2012, he demonstrated his skills during a state visit to Croke Park Stadium in Dublin, and he visited Manchester City during his last state visit to the UK in 2015. As the home of international football, Britain is an attractive destination for Chinese football enthusiasts.

Glued to the screen

Certain British television shows are hugely popular in China. Research into the influence of foreign entertainment on Chinese youth, conducted by Singapore Management University, found the majority of Chinese television viewers were in favour of a more authentic TV approach, compared to the “predictable plotlines” and “unambiguous characters” found in China’s TV shows.

As such, the hit BBC drama Sherlock was a phenomenon; in 2014, 5 million Chinese viewers watched the Season Three premiere within hours of being uploaded to video platform Youku, the Chinese alternative to YouTube. Furthermore, in 2016, Sherlock’s ‘Abominable Bride’ TV special was screened internationally across China, attracting 1.7 million cinemagoers to its premiere.

As Sherlock builds upon a “Chinese fondness for a storybook version of Britain”, it’s not a stretch to claim many enthusiastic Chinese fans may visit London to see famous landmarks featured on the show, such as the London Eye and St Paul’s Cathedral. St Paul’s provides Chinese visitors with multimedia guides in Mandarin, making this attraction highly accessible. There is also a Sherlock Holmes Museum in London’s Baker Street, which will be the main draw for many enthusiastic Chinese fans.

While an American production, many scenes in Game of Thrones are filmed in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is expecting over 2.3 million visitors next year due to the emerging Chinese market. The Giant’s Causeway welcomed 56,000 Chinese tourists in 2017, 22% more than previous years.

There are other cases where China’s appreciation of England’s cultural heritage shines through. Castle Howard, occasionally used as a setting for historical dramas, such as ITV’s Victoria, saw 250,000 visitors in 2016, and a 256% year-on-year increase of international visitors. Furthermore, the marriage between Taiwanese megastar Jay Chou and Australian model Hannah Quinlivan at Selby Abbey attracted “no fewer than 500 Asian visitors” in the ten days following the event.

Dover Castle has also appeared in a variety of high-profile Hollywood and television productions, from Disney’s fantasy musical Into the Woods, to the BBC’s historical drama Wolf Hall. According to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA), Dover Castle welcomed 333,289 visitors in 2016 – an increase over the previous year. It seems heritage sites featured in popular movies and TV shows remain motivators for Chinese travel to the UK.

The Royal Family is England’s crown jewel

Obviously, we can’t ignore that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Royal Wedding next May will bring an influx of international tourists to Windsor Castle, and the UK in particular. The UK witnessed a ‘tourism boom’ in 2011, welcoming 30.6 million overseas visitors, primarily thanks to the Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton. Reportedly, “almost half of the increase was accounted for by people from Asia, South America and Africa”, and visits from Chinese tourists to the UK rose by a third in 2011 compared to the previous year. As a result, Westminster Abbey saw a 36% increase in its visitor numbers in 2011 compared with 2010, with 1.9 million visits, which for the first time placed the Abbey in ALVA’s top 10 list of the most visited British attractions.

We could certainly expect a similar level of attention for Windsor Castle in the lead up to 2018’s Royal Wedding. Given Markle’s status as a famous American actress, having starred in the popular legal drama Suits, the international appeal of this Royal Wedding is staggering. In addition, like St Paul’s Cathedral, Windsor Castle provides Chinese visitors with a Mandarin multimedia guide, making a visit to the royal palace comfortable and convenient.

Shopping is still an incentive

While ‘authentic travel experiences’ are a huge incentive for Chinese outbound travel, shopping still remains a popular reason to travel abroad. Although the Chinese don’t choose to travel to the UK primarily for shops, they certainly do a lot of shopping while they are here.

Bicester Village, an outlet village based in Oxfordshire, attracts hundreds of thousands of Chinese tourists each year to its luxury brand stores. Reportedly, it rivals Buckingham Place as one of the UK’s most popular attractions, with eight out of ten Chinese tourists visiting the village during their trip. It’s only becoming more popular, as Chinese visitor numbers increased by 34% in 2016 compared to the year before. Chinese tourists visiting Bicester Village are guided by Mandarin signs installed at London’s Marylebone station, and many travel there by tour bus. The village itself targets Chinese consumers with Mandarin speakers, who make up the majority of the sales assistants.

In addition, a £185 million designer outlet village is being constructed in a complete circle around London’s O2 arena. The outlet village, expected to be around 204,000 square feet, will likely encompass over 100 shops and various restaurants. The impact of this new development is likely to be felt by the whole of London’s East and Southeast, and areas such as Greenwich and the Queen Elizabeth Park at Stratford are eagerly awaiting its launch.

Final thoughts

For our end-of-year article last year, our Managing Director, Helena Beard, had this to say about the state of Chinese tourism:

“China operates on a system of relationships and networks, collaboration and cooperation, loyalty to friends and partnerships with colleagues. The easier it is for the Chinese to visit and make these affiliations with the UK, the better our export prospects, the more students will come here to study, and the greater the economic benefits to our tourism industry.

Evidently, the UK and its European neighbours could only benefit from the improved collaboration and cooperation encouraged by the ECTY. This cross-cultural relationship will help develop Europe’s understanding of the Chinese outbound travel market, and the ways in which they could further adapt to accommodate their unique travel needs. This could only be fruitful going forward, and we at China Travel Outbound look forward to tracing the results of this relationship throughout the coming year.

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?

The business of sport in China

How to attract Chinese tourists to your destination

A Guide to Chinese National Holidays in 2018

Are you wondering what are the key times of year to expect an influx of Chinese tourists? Here is our helpful guide to Chinese National Holiday dates in 2018:

 

Saturday 30th December to Monday 1st January – New Year Holiday

Thursday 15th February to Wednesday 21st February – Chinese New Year Holiday/ Spring Festival 

Thursday 8th March – International Women’s Day

Thursday 5th April to 7th Saturday April – Ching Ming Festival

Sunday 29th April to Tuesday 1st May – Labour Day Holiday

Friday 4th May – Youth Day

Friday 1st June – Children’s Day

Saturday 16th June to Monday 18th June – Dragon Boat Festival

Wednesday 1st August – Army Day

Saturday 22nd September to Monday 24th September – Mid-Autumn Festival

Monday 1st October to Sunday 7th October – National Day Holiday (Golden Week) 

Wednesday 17th October – Chung Yeung Festival

 

Read other articles about the Chinese travel market:

Are Chinese tourists the new adventurers?

Harnessing the power of Chinese celebrity for the city of Bristol

Quality has become more important than quantity to Chinese tourists visiting the UK

Are Chinese tourists the new adventurers?

Chinese tourists are becoming more independent

In 2017, it is predicted 135 million Chinese tourists will travel abroad, making China the world’s largest outbound travel market. This has the potential to increase to an estimated 234 million Chinese overseas travellers by 2020. However, an ever-widening gap between Chinese tourists travelling abroad in groups, who are likely to be first-time overseas travellers opting for the comfort and convenience of organised group tours, and Chinese free and independent travellers (FITs), who are willing to venture off the beaten path to uncover unique and exciting experiences, is becoming more evident.

Reportedly, Chinese FITs make up most of the growth in Chinese outbound tourist numbers in 2017. 40% of these travellers are fully independent, another 40% are semi-independent, and the remaining 20% are tourists who rely on package holidays, but do not travel in big groups.

Switzerland is currently observing a rise in Chinese FITs. Data from Swiss Quality Hotels, Switzerland’s largest hotel chain, shows a 144.5% increase in the number of individual Chinese travellers who visited the country in January and February of 2017 compared with the same months in 2016. In addition, 12% of bookings for Swiss Quality Hotels were made on the same day of arrival, which indicates some Chinese FITs are willing to flavour their travel experience with spontaneity.

Earlier this year, Skift reported 70% of Chinese outbound travellers made their own travel arrangements or purchased travel packages for their first trip abroad, but became increasingly more confident to venture out independently for subsequent trips.

Different city, different people

As Chinese travellers become familiar with a foreign destination through multiple trips, and acclimatise to its cultural differences, they begin to venture outside the comfort zone of holiday packages and organised group travels.

This reveals the differences in travel behaviour between Chinese outbound travellers living in first-tier and second-tier cities. Residents of first-tier cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai are generally more experienced with independent travel than second-tier city residents.

China Luxury Advisors’ co-founder, Renee Hartmann, claims the majority of growth for Chinese overseas group travel comes from residents of second-tier cities, such as Chengdu and Wuhan, who are mainly first-time travellers. This is mainly due to the recent introduction of direct flights from these cities to overseas destinations. France is the most popular European destination among second-tier city residents, who account for 40% of all Chinese travellers visiting the country. Also, second-tier city residents typically spend more overseas than their first-city counterparts, showing that they take advantage of their first journey abroad.

Desire for ‘better travel experiences’

China’s perception of the importance of health and wellness is a significant factor in fuelling a desire to seek better travel experiences. According to Amrita Banta, the managing director of Shanghai-based Agility Research and Strategy, China’s affluent classes are becoming more adventurous as they increasingly adopt active and healthy lifestyles. A report conducted by the firm, which focuses on high-end consumers, found that China’s top earners ranked ‘travel experiences’ as the third-greatest incentive for travelling abroad, behind shopping for cosmetics and designer clothing.

Indeed, the lure of shopping as the primary motivator for Chinese outbound travel is diminishing in favour of unique and exciting travel experiences. Hotels.com and ISPO found the proportion of Chinese tourists who travelled for shopping decreased by two-thirds in 2016, and one-third in 2017. Instead, according to a Financial Times Confidential Research survey, the Chinese are spending more on dining, accommodation, and entertainment, a rise from 31% to 44% since 2013, to satisfy their desire to experience more from the countries they visit.

Adventure tourism is on the rise

It is estimated that over the next three years, Chinese overseas adventure, polar, and road trips will increase by 52%, 38%, and 75% respectively. New Zealand evidenced a 60% increase from 2013 to 2014 of visiting Chinese FITs, primarily for their leading skydive businesses and other renowned adventure activities. Reportedly, 14% to 19% of Chinese tourists planning on visiting New Zealand are doing so because of such extreme activities. Since New Zealand’s skydiving companies are struggling to reach the high demand, this had led to a shortage of licensed instructors. With the country’s unpredictable weather, Chinese travel agents ensure two bookings slots are made for skydives to reduce the risk of alienating Chinese visitors with sudden cancellations.

Tourism New Zealand found 71% of Chinese tourists would like to go hot air ballooning when in the country, among a list of other activities including abseiling, paragliding, and white-water rafting. This is due to younger Chinese travellers taking advantage of affordable flights and relaxed visa restrictions to experience activities which have little-to-no market in China.

Likewise, Morocco is witnessing a growth in Chinese FITs. According to the China Travel Academy, since the removal of visa restrictions last year, Morocco has attracted three-times as many Chinese tourists since May 2016.

Alaska’s vast wilderness and natural beauty has also become a popular tourist destination among young Chinese people travelling to the US for the second time, exceeding visits to Los Angeles and New York. This is emblematic of a recent surge in popularity for polar tourism among Chinese FITs. This year, Chinese tourists travelling to Antarctica accounted for 12% of an estimated 46,000 annual visitors. Father Christmas also saw a fair share of attention; Finland’s Lapland measured a 92% increase in overnight stays by Chinese visitors in 2016.

Keep it real

Evidently, Chinese FITs are clamouring for niche tourism experiences. In response, a leading Chinese tour operator has warned against attracting too many Chinese groups to overseas attractions, mainly to prevent overcrowding, but also to ensure an attraction’s authenticity is not compromised as a result.

One of the key appeals of overseas travel for Chinese tourists is the ability to share their unique experiences with friends and family back home through social media. The majority of Chinese FITs use social media and travel review sites, such as Ctrip and Mafengwo, for travel recommendations, and they depend upon user reviews to inform their own overseas travels. As a result, Chinese tourists are becoming increasingly enticed by attractions which appeal to fewer visitors than your typical tourist traps.

The Chinese outbound adventure tourism market is growing at a rapid rate. With China due to host the Winter Olympics in 2022, and with Chinese President Xi Jinping attempting to convert 300 million Chinese people to winter sports, the push for adventure tourism among Chinese travellers has never been more dramatic.

Professor Dr. Wolfgang Arlt, COTRI, told guests at the Chinese Tourism Leaders’ Dinner in London this month that the Chinese are looking for unique experiences that they cannot find in China, such as stargazing, mushroom and blueberry picking, and a slice of authentic daily life and culture. The passion among China’s FITs to seek out authentic experiences has certainly created exciting opportunities for international tour operators.

If you are involved in adventure tourism and you want to attract more Chinese visitors, please contact us for a chat.

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

How to attract Chinese tourists to your destination

Is the rise of Chinese travel to the UK unstoppable? 

The rise of the independent Chinese traveller 

Quality has become more important than quantity to Chinese tourists visiting the UK

For the growing number of Chinese FITs, quality and value for money has overtaken packed itineraries and cheap prices, according to Professor Dr. Wolfgang Arlt speaking at the inaugural Chinese Tourism Leaders’ Dinner. Professor Dr. Wolfgang Arlt went on to tell guests that the Chinese are looking for unique experiences that they cannot find in China: gazing at stars, breathing in fresh air, mushroom and blueberry picking, non-fake products and a slice of authentic daily life and culture.  75% of Chinese tourists now believe that travelling is a vital part of life, all of which is great news for UK destinations with a range of niche products.

Co-hosted by PR and representation agency China Travel Outbound and Capela China the event held on the eve of World Travel Market this year, celebrated the growth in Chinese tourism to the UK. The evening was attended by senior executives from key organisations working in the Chinese outbound tourism market, including The Lake District China Forum, VisitBritain, English Heritage, Marketing Manchester, Hainan Airlines and Royal Museums Greenwich.

For further information about China Travel Outbound please visit www.chinatraveloutbound.com

For more information about Capela China please visit www.capelachina.com

 

– ends –

 

Editors’ Notes:

China Travel Outbound is a specialist travel PR and Marketing agency with offices in Brighton and Beijing. The agency’s clients include VisitBrighton, Royal Museums of Greenwich, The Roman Baths, Houses of Parliament, and Hard Rock International. For more information, please contact Helena Beard at [email protected]

Capela China delivers training, certification and consultancy services to support UK tourism and retail businesses in the Chinese market. Please contact Gary Grieve at [email protected]

Photo from left to right: Robin Worsnop, Rabbie’s, Helena Beard, China Travel Outbound, Professor Dr Wolfgang Arlt, COTRI, Jennifer Cormack Winander Leisure and Gary Grieve, Capela China.

Inaugural Chinese Tourism Leaders’ Dinner to be held at World Travel Market 2017

The inaugural Chinese Tourism Leaders’ Dinner will be held on Sunday 5th November 2017. Hosted by specialist travel PR agency, China Travel Outbound, and China Welcome training experts, Capela China, the event will bring together those senior travel and tourism professionals who are driving the growth in Chinese tourism to the UK. Guests include representatives from VisitBritain, Royal Museums Greenwich, Blenheim Palace, Bicester Village and the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group.

The theme of this year’s event will be ‘The rise of the Chinese Independent Traveller’. We are delighted to welcome Europe’s most highly respected expert on Chinese tourism, Professor Dr Wolfgang Arlt, Director COTRI (China Outbound Tourism Research Institute), to present his thoughts on the changing landscape of the FIT market. China Travel Outbound’s Beijing Director, Vivienne Song, will then share her top tips with the audience on how best to engage with and market to this valuable and growing segment.

Attendance at the event is by invitation only. You can follow the event on Twitter @ChinaTravelOut or @CapelaChina #CTLDinner.

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

For those new to the Chinese market, WeChat might seem confusing. However with many Western social media platforms being inaccessible in China, WeChat takes centre stage. If you’re asking what WeChat is, what you can do on it, how big it is, look no further. We’ve put together a little introductory guide to WeChat for you.

WeChat explained

WeChat is a mobile text and voice messaging communication service. In just six short years since its release in 2011, it has become one of the largest standalone messaging apps in the world, rivalling Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. In the first quarter of 2017, WeChat had 938 million monthly active users, a 28% growth year-on-year. And according to China Skinny, “WeChat’s reach and influence is unrivalled in China’s online space”, perhaps because the app allows users to do so much more than just messaging.

‘Moments’ is the popular sharing function on WeChat, similar to Facebook updates. You can upload pictures, post updates and videos. WeChat’s blog, Chatterbox, is a good place for technical tips on using WeChat.

Users are also able to manage their lives through WeChat. It starts simply enough with playing games, catching up on current affairs, buying film tickets, ordering food and taxis. Then it steps up a gear with in-store payments and online shopping, paying bills, transferring money, and even booking flights. You name it, WeChat probably does it. The key to WeChat’s success may lie in its ability to attract millennials. In September 2015, 60% of users were 15-29 years old. Perhaps this young and dynamic following are the reason why WeChat offers so many different functions and, as a result, have nurtured WeChat’s capacity to innovate and grow. It’s no wonder that WeChat is a powerhouse. Having taken over China, its next step is to take over the world.

Using WeChat for work

Despite their best efforts, Facebook and LinkedIn have never quite been able to catch up with WeChat’s status in the business world. Yes – LinkedIn is specifically used to build professional networks but it hasn’t successfully managed to embed itself into the daily workflow in the same way, and WeChat is becoming an increasingly more common workplace tool. In fact, 87.7% of 20,000+ Chinese web users would place WeChat as their choice app for daily work communication, even beating phones and emails; a staggering number. At China Travel Outbound, we use WeChat to share documents, images and presentations and we abandoned Skype as a method to communicate with China long ago. Now all our team calls with Beijing are made on WeChat. It’s far more stable and the app makes it simple to operate group calls.

According to the Financial Times, “at almost every Chinese workplace, WeChat has become the primary means of communication”. For instance, 57% of new contacts that are added every month are work-related, with family and friends being next on the list at just over 20%. This is a huge difference and is evidence of WeChat’s power in the workplace, so much so that according to Xue Yu, a senior market analyst with IDC China, “WeChat is becoming WeWork”.

Not only that, but WeChat is also used for a myriad of other workplace functions. Coordinating and arranging tasks is top of the list with 50%; sending notifications, making transactions and arranging tasks are next on the list, whereas having meetings and conference calls and marketing purposes are lower down. Then again, it’s only a matter of time. WeChat’s next challenge? To go beyond being used only for workplace communication purposes and become an essential part of the daily workflow. And, perhaps, that will happen sooner rather than later. The majority of Chinese office workers have been said to find WeChat a helpful working tool, with nearly all of the 90% who are regular WeChat work users finding value in the platform.

Using WeChat to promote your European travel or tourism brand to the Chinese

This is where things get a bit more tricky. You have done your research and recognised the importance of WeChat, and you’ve decided you want to set up a WeChat account for your tourism attraction, tour operation or hotel. So you try to set up a WeChat business account. And there is your problem. You can’t set up a WeChat business account which can be accessed by mainland Chinese unless you have a Chinese business licence.

So what are your options?

Option One

Commit to a one-off spend on WeChat advertising of around €25,000. In return, WeChat’s head office will authorise your account.

Option Two

Find a Chinese third party agency which is willing to allow you to use one of its WeChat licences to host your account. They will charge you for the privilege but, more importantly, they will have control of your account. It is important you trust them, have an ongoing relationship with them and, preferably, some kind of written agreement which would deliver the account to you in the event of a split (although contracts in UK law are likely to be of limited use to you in the event of a breakdown in a relationship with a Chinese agency.)

It is worth noting, however, that there is a limit on the number of WeChat accounts that a Chinese business can own. And once one has been allocated to you, it can not be closed down and allocated to someone else. Also, if the third party agency  allows the client to post freely on the account, it is running a risk (albeit potentially a small one) that the client could post something controversial in the eyes of the Chinese government. Social media is tightly monitored in China and the wrong post on WeChat could, potentially, lead to the revocation of the Chinese agency’s business licence. That is why we, at China Travel Outbound, will only consider licensing a WeChat business account to retained clients with whom we have worked for a while, and whom we feel confident are committed to the market. We also insist on editorial control over content, just to keep an eye on things.

If a third party agency is managing your WeChat account, we urge you to double check what plans are in place should you (or the agency) decide you no longer wish to continue the arrangement.

Option Three

Use a personal WeChat account instead. This is not recommended for prestigious tourism brands as it does not give the right impression. The management information from it is also very limited, but at least you will be able to communicate with your customers and you will be able to have full control of your own account.

Option Four

Wait. WeChat is moving so quickly that the rules may change as it seeks to replicate its success in China throughout the world. Or hop over to Weibo.

One final point. Before you decide you need a WeChat account, do make sure it is the right thing to do. It takes time to build followers on WeChat and you might be better off, particularly in the medium term, to use PR, bloggers, and customer interactions to ‘piggyback’ onto the existing accounts of other influencers. It’s going to be far more beneficial for you if a Chinese celebrity endorses your brand to three hundred thousand followers, than if you post an article to three hundred.

If you would like to find out more about WeChat, please get in touch.

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Marketing your restaurant to Chinese tourists

In 2015, Chinese travellers spent a whopping £586 million in the UK with an average spend of £2,174 per person – that’s 3.5 times the average of the average tourist. And, according to Hotels.com, 59% of their budget goes on food and drink.

Food and drink is an important consideration when selecting a holiday destination; the a top three consideration in fact. Furthermore, dining out in restaurants tops the list of main activities for Chinese tourists with 56%. Still not convinced? Tourism Australia found that 46% of international Chinese travellers placed ‘good food, wine, local cuisine and produce as one of the most important factors when choosing a destination.

With food and drink experiences so highly prized by Chinese tourists, what can you do to attract this growing market of gastro-fans to your restaurant? Where a previous blog discussed food preferences, here are our top 6 sales and marketing tips.

1. Mandarin menus are a must-have

Your menu is your primary sales material for the passing hungry tourist. Although more and more Chinese are learning other languages, many still have limited foreign language skills. The Chinese are also very conscious of embarrassment and are fearful of ordering the wrong thing. So avoid confusion over food choices, and make your guests feel welcome with a Mandarin menu. And what would be even better? Include a section or a set menu recommending the dishes most popular with other Chinese guests.

Brighton’s highly popular,seafood restaurant, The Regency has gone one step further. Due to the restaurant’s vast number of Chinese guests, they have a Mandarin menu complete with comments about all the dishes other guests enjoy. It was translated by a Chinese student and is full of ‘in’ jokes, making the menu even more fun to read and shareable on social media.

2. ‘Ni Hao’: say hello to your Chinese guests

Not only will Mandarin menus go a long way in attracting Chinese travellers to your restaurant, but speaking Mandarin will too. If you have any Mandarin-speaking staff, that’s great – be sure to utilise them front of house. If not, why not start by learning a few simple key phrases yourself, then teach them to your team. It will show you’re actively making an effort to make your Chinese guests feel welcome and comfortable in your restaurant, and put you one step ahead of other businesses. It might help you garner positive online reviews too, a surefire way to put your restaurant on the map. It is widely known that Chinese tourists plan and research their trips months in advance and good reviews will do wonders for attracting more Chinese travellers to your restaurant. All it takes is a simple ‘ni hao’.

3. Accept Chinese payment methods

The Chinese do not like to carry money around with them, especially not large sums. In fact, in 2015, the combination of card and online payments accounted for nearly 60% of all retail transactions in China.You are far more likely to see people pulling their phone out to pay for their lunch in China, than their wallet. If you want to attract Chinese travellers to your restaurant, cater to their payment needs.

China UnionPay is found in more than 140 countries worldwide. Many companies have already recognised the power of UnionPay and rightly so – there are more issued UnionPay cards in China than there are Mastercards or Visas worldwide. One such example of this comes from Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG). When the Royal Observatory Greenwich received its highest ever number of Chinese visitors on record in Q1 2017, the shop also began accepting UnionPay. This is just one of the many reasons RMG won the CTW Chinese Tourism Welcome Award 2017.

If that doesn’t convince you to start accepting Chinese payment methods, maybe this will? The combination of payments from popular online methods, Alipay and WeChat Wallet, has flourished from less than $81 billion in 2012 to $2.9 trillion in 2016. Clearly the introduction of these payment methods can work wonders, so why not introduce them to your restaurant now?

4. Get online

With 721.4 million internet users, having an online presence in Chinese is fundamental. Chinese travellers like to plan in advance, reading information about where they’re going and planning each element, including their meals. They also look at photographs of the products you have to offer. Perhaps start by building a presence on WeChat. With 938 million active WeChat users, a presence on WeChat will help you reach high numbers of potential diners. Post relevant information, such as your address and opening times, your Mandarin menu, photographs of the foods and drinks on offer and anything else you think may be of interest to Chinese travellers. This will make it easier for users to find you online after reading about the experiences from their friends and family. Also high on their radar are online reviews. Positive reviews can go a long way in attracting Chinese visitors to your restaurant. After a rave review by a popular Chinese blogger, The Regency Restaurant, witnessed a very noticeable increase in the amount of Chinese visitors they received, and the Chinese now make up almost half of their clientele year-round.

If you want to attract Chinese diners and generate big business fast, get the help of a Key Opinion Leader. If you have the resources, utilising a KOL is a great way to gain publicity for your restaurant. Here at China Travel Outbound, we invited famous Chinese rock band, Miserable Faith, to lunch at Hard Rock’s original London Cafe. They enjoyed a meal, were given a VIP tour, had their pictures taken and given personalised gifts. The subsequent posts on Weibo reached nearly 3 million followers, giving Hard Rock Cafe great exposure to the Chinese market.

5. Photograph your food

Whilst a picture of your food is considered a sure sign of a downmarket joint in the UK, restaurants in China almost always publish pictures of their food. A picture takes away a lot of the stress of knowing what to order where language is a challenge. Again, it is vital to make your guests feel comfortable.

Food presentation is also important. With the rise of social media, making your dishes ‘WeChat-worthy’ will also help your online reputation. Appealing, well-presented food is great for your business when Chinese guests share their experiences on social media and review sites. Lots of small sharing dishes, presented on pretty crockery or with decorative garnishes, will encourage social shares.

6. Get friendly with your local tourist board

Let your local tourist board, or VisitBritain, know you are keen to host Chinese trade fams and media trips. All visitors need to be fed and this is a great way to start to make inroads to the influencers in the market. Or offer discounts and jobs to students at the local university, and open yourself up to the Chinese millennial market. They are brilliant at spreading the word as we found out during a recent VIP Student Fam Trip to Brighton.

With these six simple steps, attracting Chinese diners has never been easier. Contact us to find out more and put your restaurant on the map.

 

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Chinese media event for VisitBrighton

When we organise media events for our clients, our priority is to ensure that the events are memorable, enjoyable, informative and value for money. Instead of a presentation in a bland hotel room, we decided to take over a silversmith workshop in downtown Beijing for our latest event for our client, VisitBrighton.

Our guests included journalists from digital and offline travel and lifestyle media, including sina.com, Leisure + Travel, Travel Vivid, lvxingshe.com and Travel Weekly China, and editors from travel review site, mafengwo.com. We also invited two senior marketing managers from Hainan Airlines as we hope to collaborate with them this year on press trips to Brighton.

China Travel Outbound’s staff delivered a presentation about Brighton, with a focus on festivals, events and the key attractions to visit this summer. Following this, our media guests were invited to design and create a piece of silverware to represent their impressions of Brighton. These were taken away as mementoes of their day and reminders of Brighton. The fish and chips necklace was a particular favourite!

The coverage from the event delivered a media value of £31,500 across 10 articles, plus social shares by the journalists of their memorable day with Brighton in Beijing.

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Is the rise of Chinese travel to the UK unstoppable?

It’s hardly a secret that Chinese tourists stay longer (twice as long) and spend more (3½ times more) than the average visitor to the UK. This long-staying, high-spending market is moving up every tourism provider’s priority list as the value of China’s growing outbound travel market – which already stood at 120 million in 2016 – becomes abundantly clear.

Chinese tourism to the UK increased by +10% in Q4 2016 – and this after a record-breaking 2015. Early indications point to another very healthy year in 2017: May saw an increase of 31% of bookings by Chinese tour operators to London, while the capital’s luxury quarter saw a 39% increase in tax-free shopping for designer clothes, handbags and jewellery in the same period.

Is the rise of Chinese travel to the UK unstoppable? There are plenty of reasons to think so…

The Chinese are flush with hidden money and they’re ready to travel

It turns out that the Chinese travelling middle classes have even more money to spend than the headlines suggest. The government-backed Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing recently declared that that estimates of household income have undervalued real income by up to 20% through omitting to measure household investments. And we can expect plenty of that income to be spent on travel; a recent report by Sabre found that 90% of Chinese travellers expect to travel more often in the future.

Travel is increasingly the norm and an expected activity for Chinese, which means not just more Chinese travelling, but an increasingly independent, experience-seeking market in search of destinations, hotels, visitor attractions and activities which will genuinely differentiate their holiday from the norm.

The revolutionary rise in independent travel

As new waves of Chinese outbound tourists take to the skies, independent travel is taking off too, especially amongst Chinese millennials. By some measures, around 40% of Chinese outbound tourists travel independently. English-speaking countries are naturally-preferred long-haul destinations since they present fewer language challenges than other nations.

Self-drive tourism, camping & caravanning, and adventure travel are all trending travel segments in China, helping to distribute Chinese tourists and their largesse more widely in destination nations.

The Chinese love spending money in the UK

Chinese visitors to the UK spend £2,174 on average during their stay – more than 3 ½ times more than the average tourist. They spend twice as much time in the UK as the average tourist too – averaging 15 nights vs the average 8 nights.

Encouraging even more spend in the UK is the proliferation of Chinese payment options including UnionPay. The heavyweight retail early adopters long ago proved the value of accepting UnionPay. Harrods introduced 75 China UnionPay terminals in 2011 and has since seen an increase in sales to Chinese tourists of +40%; by 2015, Harrods took £1 for every £5 spent by Chinese tourists in the UK. In 2011, the Ritz became the first London hotel to install China UnionPay terminals, a pioneering move which paid off handsomely with a 17% increase in Chinese guests and 25% rise in spending.

The Royal Observatory Greenwich’s average sale in the shop via UnionPay is 3.7 times higher than the average.

Brexit and the increasing strength of the renminbi

Record numbers of overseas tourists visited the UK in April as the fall in sterling made the UK very good value – a positive Brexit side-effect for inbound tourism. The UK is already a particularly attractive destination for the Chinese to spend their holiday money; Chinese visitors to London spend twice as much time and twice as much money as they do in mainland Europe, greatly benefitting the capital’s luxury goods sellers. So continuing uncertainty surrounding Brexit may actually offer a continuing positive pull to Chinese tourists.

Even Brexit itself seems unlikely to be a deterrent to Chinese tourists visiting, with no new visa requirements since the UK is already outside the Schengen visa zone.

The powerful allure of the UK

VisitBritain has invested heavily in China over recent years. The GREAT names for GREAT Britain campaign in 2014 generated 30 million views of the campaign video and 2 million visits to the campaign website – as well as such memorable monikers as ‘Big White Streaker’ (for the Cerne Abbas Giant) and ‘The Strong-man Skirt Party’ (for the Highland Games). VisitBritain’s recent +56partnership with Alitrip, Alibaba Group’s tourism arm, has created a virtual British marketplace to showcase UK tourist offerings and great British experiences and destinations to Chinese consumers.

And VisitBritain is building on a very strong base of traveller interest. The Chinese rate “a rich and interesting heritage and history” very highly as a travel motivation and this is one of many areas in which the UK excels. “Romance” and “the beauty of the landscape” also feature highly both in Chinese motivations for travel and as qualities which the Chinese ascribe to the UK. And there are plenty of current British qualities are tempting the Chinese to these shores, from the Royal Family, Downton Abbey and Premier League football to designer shopping and Harry Potter. Not to mention the apparently irresistible charm of Curly Fu and Peanut.

The early, concerted and continuing promotion of the UK in China by VisitBritain has brilliantly built and consolidated the UK’s position as an aspirational destination for Chinese travellers.

Chinese friendliness is on the up in the UK

TripAdvisor China’s 2016 survey found that the UK was the most-researched European country. And the world’s most valuable tourists have plenty of reasons to make the UK their European destination of choice. Britain is increasingly welcoming to the Chinese, partly thanks to Visit Britain’s Great China Welcome initiative which has encouraged many UK destinations, hotels, visitor attractions and shops to adopt Chinese-friendly products and service.

Many London visitor attractions, including the Houses of Parliament, now offer audio guides in Mandarin, and Mandarin audio guides make up 50% of the total hired at the British Museum. Increasing numbers of Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking tour guides and shop assistants are evident, especially in London, and organisations from Great Western Railway to The Globe are undertaking Chinese-specific marketing and promotion initiatives to encourage visitors from the Middle Kingdom.

The future of Chinese travel to the UK

A progressively more Chinese-friendly UK with increasing recognition of the value of Chinese tourists is perfectly poised to keep a lion’s share of the world’s largest outbound market. And while recent terrorist incidents hardly provide the ideal backdrop for welcoming inbound tourists, even these gained favourable coverage in China, with Manchester’s homeless heroes garnering plaudits for their unselfish, typically British kind-yet-practical help.

So is the rise of Chinese tourism to the UK unstoppable? The indications are certainly pretty positive…

 

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