Record breaking overseas travel during this year’s Chinese Spring Festival

Spring Festival, also known as Chinese New Year, is the biggest public holiday in China, lasting from the 1st to 15th day of the first lunar month. Whilst traditionally, this holiday is spent at home with closest family, recent years have shown a dramatic shift in the observance of this festival. Of the 300 million Chinese who travelled during the holiday (most migrating from China’s super-sized cities to the suburbs where their relatives live), a record six million travelled overseas, according to the nation’s largest online travel agency, Ctrip.com.

“Outbound tourism surged this Spring Festival and the number of outbound travellers that we handled tripled last year’s total” said Lui Qing, vice-president of Tongcheng Network Technology Co Ltd, China’s third largest online travel agency, based in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province.

Zhang Han, a 31 year old resident of Beijing who went to Thailand with his wife and parents over the holiday argues that outbound travel is the new Spring Festival tradition, claiming that his parents were surprisingly enthusiastic. His 56 year old father said “It’s a win-win plan for us since we can be with family and my son can travel.” This year’s top 10 destinations for Chinese outbound travel during Spring Festival were Thailand, Japan, South Korea, the United States, Indonesia, the Maldives, France, Italy, Vietnam and Singapore, according to China Daily.

 

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“Xin Nian Kuai Le” to all of our friends this Chinese New Year!

At China Travel Outbound would like to wish all our friends a “Xin Nian Kuai Le” (sing nee-ann koo-why ler), or Happy New Year and “Kung Hei Fat Choi” (kung-he fat choy) for a wealthy year!

spring-391225_960_720The Chinese New Year festival marks the start of the New Year in the Chinese calendar, beginning on the second new moon after the winter solstice and ending on the full moon fifteen days later. It is marked worldwide by spending time with family and friends, extravagant meals, gifts (usually money wrapped in a red envelope called a Hong Bao) and fireworks. The hallmark of this festival is an abundance of red lanterns and extravagant parades.

Those born in the (including 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004 and now 2016) are said to be witty, intelligent and have a magnetic personality… However, monkey folk are also known for their mischievousness, curiosity and naughtiness!

 

Here’s how cities near you are celebrating. 

Brighton

In China Travel Outbound’s home city, the theme of this year’s Chinese New Year celebration in Brighton was “Happier and Healthier— A Better Future for All”. Chinese festival food stalls, lion dance, singing, traditional instruments and dragon dancing through the streets marked the celebration!

Birmingham

Celebrations this year took place in the Arcadian Centre with free entertainment for thousands of visitors being provided by the city, including lion dancing and fireworks!

Glasgow

Glasgow Museum Resource Centre will celebrate Chinese New Year with a riot of games, drumming, dragon building, lantern making and fortune telling sticks, in the midst of warm Scottish hospitality! The UK’s third largest city’s celebrations will be on the 14th of February.

Leeds
Creds: Leeds Chinese Community Association
Creds: Leeds Chinese Community Association

This year Leeds Town Hall is hosting the Chinese New Year Festival all through early February, and is boasting a veritable extravaganza to welcome in “the Year of the Monkey”. The occasion promises to deliver a much wider Chinese experience than at previous events, as in addition to the usual theatre performances of Dancing, Music, Chinese Lion Dance, Chinese Calligraphy, Kung Fu and Tai Chi, there will also be trade stands offering a variety of Chinese Food, Crafts, Beauty and Face Painting.

London

London’s Chinese New Year celebrations are the largest outside Asia. Chinese New Year festivities in Central London take place in Trafalgar Square, Chinatown and Shaftesbury Avenue on the 14 February.

Manchester

Manchester provided thousands of lanterns, a giant golden dragon and a 3D light show for 2016’s Chinese New Year. The events took place across the entire city from the 4th-7th of February and will also include the usual live music, lion dancers and Dragon Parade!

 

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We asked our Director in Beijing, Vivienne Song about how she’ll celelebrating Chinese New Year!

With the Year of the Monkey around the corner, we wanted to find out how the people of Beijing would be gearing up for the festivities! We asked China Travel Outbound’s Vivienne Song, to tell us how she will be celebrating this year.

Hi Vivienne! How are you going to be celebrating Chinese New Year this year?

The 7 day long holiday allows us time to spend with our parents, as both my husband and I are not originally from Beijing and so our parents live in other cities.

How are your friends/ family celebrating?

Similarly to at Thanksgiving, most Chinese will return back to their hometown to celebrate the New Year with family. For married women, you would normally be expected to follow your husband to spend the holiday with his family.

Chinese New Year is really about family gathering, visiting relatives and having dinner together.  Before, there were many traditions, like lighting fireworks and making traditional delicacies, but now due to the air pollution many places are prohibiting fireworks, and more and more families are choosing to go restaurants instead of making dinner at home.

The kids definately have the most fun; they get dressed up in new clothes, and collect Hong Bao (red packets containing money) from relatives. Normally, the relatives who are already married give Hong Bao to the kids.

What sort of gifts are you buying your family this year?

Every year I buy different gifts for my parents and parents-in-law, something like jewellery or a new ipad. This year I bought them an air cleaner for both car and home use, as we had terrible air pollution this winter.

What is your favourite part of New Year’s celebrations in China?

The best thing about this week is doing nothing but being a kid again!

What sort of things go on in Beijing?

There is a temple fair of folk custom, a very old tradition in Beijing, where they sell all kinds of New Year stuff and local delicacies. It’s quite like a Christmas market.

What (if anything) makes celebrating ‘the Year of the Monkey’ different than in other years?

Well, there’s really no difference. Only the Year of the Dragon tends to be more of a topic in China, since we always call ourselves ‘the descendants of the Dragon’.

 

Thanks Vivienne!

Xin Nian Kuai Le sing nee-ann koo-why ler (Happy New Year) to all our Chinese friends

China celebrates the start of the "Year of the Monkey" toady!

Love is in the air…

With Valentine’s Day coming up, couples across the world will be celebrating by jetting off to exciting destinations.

But does who chooses the trip make a difference to Chinese outbound tourism?
Well, according to a recent study, gender may have some influence over Chinese travel trends.

The study found that 59 per cent of Chinese travellers in the first half of 2015 were women, with women overtaking men in tourism to cities in Japan and South Korea. These women tended to be between 36 and 45 years old with the individual monthly income of around 10,000-15,000 yuan (£1070-1700).

However, their male counterparts dominated long-haul tourism to cities in the US and Europe, possibly due to an average monthly income of over 15, 000 yuan (£1700). The average age of these visitors was also younger than that of the women, with males between 25-35 being the norm.

As well as Valentine’s Day, which is mainly celebrated in urban areas, the Chinese also look forward to the Spring Festival which is more widely celebrated, making this time of year one of the most popular for international travel. Regardless of gender, a joint report by Fung Business Intelligence Centre (FBIC) and China Luxury Advisers projects that total spending by outbound Chinese tourist-shoppers will jump 23 per cent to surpass $200 billion this year, and more than double within the next five years to $422 billion, so wherever the Chinese are going (and whoever is booking it), now is the time to bring the Chinese tourist onto your marketing radar!

 

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Should the travel industry be worried about the Chinese economy?

The Chinese economy has been all over the press recently, with the slowdown panicking some economists, who fear that the sharp fall in China’s stock prices last year could affect the global economy in 2016.

However, official figures suggest that economic growth may have stabilized at about 6.5 per cent during the end of 2015 – still nowhere near the double-digit norm prior to the crisis, but not the catastrophe predicted by some.

Let’s look at the figures. According to Forbes, the Chinese stocks rally started after the New Year holiday last year from a level of 3,229 in late February for the Shanghai Composite. After a concerning climb to almost 5,200 in June, the index was back to roughly where it started (3,209 on August 24) after six months. The Financial Times concurs. Last week, China revealed that December’s economic figures were better than expected, with fourth-quarter GDP growth marginally behind forecasts, at 6.8 per cent. The UNWTO does not expect the supposed slowdown in the Chinese economy to put a brake on the number of people looking to travel outside China.

“You need to put the slowdown in perspective, it’s a slowdown from 7 percent to 5 or 6 percent,” says John Kestor, the director of the tourist market trends program at UNWTO, adding it was a growth that many nations would be “very jealous” about.

Optimists also point to China’s affluent and expanding middle class, 136 million of whom are expected to fly internationally in 2016, and to the lucrative Chinese High Net Worth Individuals (who have investable finance of at least £650,000) who in 2015 named international travel as their most desired pursuit.

More importantly for the shift in economic structure, December retail sales growth was above the full-year trend!

All in all, the outlook is still good for Chinese outbound travel.

 

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Why China should be on your 2016 priority list.

With the sustainable growth of China’s economy, a gradually relaxing political climate, as well as the substantial increase in its people’s personal income, China’s tourism industry has seen unprecedented development in recent years.

Despite recent concerns over China’s economic situation, this year around 136 million international passenger journeys – the most in the world – are expected to originate in China, with an expected 234 million in 2020.

Brands are advised to revise their international marketing plans for Chinese tourists, who are projected to spend $229 billion (£156.13 billion) on retail overseas this year and $422 billion (£301.36 billion) by 2020.

“The Chinese consumer has emerged as the most powerful and motivated in the world, especially in the luxury sector,” reports Deborah Weinswig, head of the Global Retail and Technology team of Fung Business Intelligence Centre.

The typical Chinese traveller currently spends an average of $1,678 (£1,144) on retail purchases per overseas trip, the highest retail spend of any nationality. In the U.S, the average retail spend per Chinese traveller was around $2,555 (£1,741) for 2014, and in Europe was $2,548 (£1,737); significantly more than was spent in closer destinations within Asia.

Record visitors to Britain!

The number of Chinese visitors to Britain in the first half of 2015 reached a record 90,000, a 28 percent rise on the same period of 2014, figures from Visit Britainreveal.

Tourism officials are expecting the total number of Chinese visitors for this year to exceed 200,000, with that figure set to increase in subsequent years. Now is the time to invest in China!

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2016 Trends in outbound Chinese tourism

According to the China Tourism Research Institute, 2015 saw an incredible 61.90 million outbound visitors from China in just the first half of the year, that’s 12.1% more than during the same period in 2014.

And, surveys conducted by travel agencies all around China predict that outbound tourism is set to rise further still in 2016, despite fears of an economic crash. In fact, it is expected that outbound tourism will see a substantial increase as a result of circumstances effecting Chinese travel. To begin with, more convenient visa policies for Chinese nationals is set to have a huge impact. From this year, new visitor visas for tourists from China will be valid in the UK for two years, which is great news for both the British economy and tourism markets. source

The operation of mChina-e-passport_gallery_display-274x300ore international flights could also offer residents from smaller cities the chance to travel abroad conveniently. The Chinese middle class’s growing ability to afford international travel has seen an ever increasing number of flights leaving from 2nd and 3rd mainland cities. This year, American Airlines is launching a new flight from Xi’an to San Francisco, the first international flight to be launched from the city.

In addition, with the implement of “One Belt and One Road” strategy last year, China’s outbound tourism market is endowed with more opportunities. Proposed by the Chinese government, this strategy encourages connectivity and cooperation among primarily Eurasian countries consisting of the “Silk Road Economic Belt” including Central and Eastern Europe, and the “Maritime Silk Road”, a conduit for trade and cultural exchange between China’s south-eastern coastal areas and foreign countries. The strategy underlines China’s push to take a bigger role in global affairs, as opposed to the country’s long-held reputation as a parochial state.

All of these factors point towards 2016 being the best year yet for outbound Chinese tourism!

If you’d like some help with ideas for your 2016 China marketing strategy, we’re here to help. Contact Helena at [email protected]

 

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Is Christmas Celebrated in China?

We all know the importance of Chinese New Year but what happens in China at Christmas time?

Since the Christian population of mainland China is only 1%, you could be forgiven for assuming that Christmas goes largely unnoticed. However, that’s not entirely the case. Although Christmas Day is not a public or religious holiday in mainland China, in Chinese cities and urban populations there are signs of celebration. Shopping centres in particular are decorated with the usual Christmas lights and trees, while banks, offices and shops will often also get into the festive spirit with decorations. On Christmas Eve, it is not uncommon for friends to get together for a small celebration, perhaps a meal together. But given that offices and businesses are open the following day, these are generally low key. Gifts are rarely exchanged except among Christian families, although this practice is gradually becoming much more popular amongst younger Chinese people.

In the travel industry, the tour operators and travel agents will be open on Christmas Day and there are no public holidays during December. Christmas is not a peak period for outbound travel, although airfares are high as the hundreds of thousands of Chinese working or studying overseas in Europe and America return home, taking advantage of the Western holiday period.

Chinese New Year is a completely different story, and the peak booking period in China is the run-up to this national day and week of festivities, traditions, and gift-sharing. The Lunar New Year will be on Monday 8th February 2016 and we will be welcoming in the Year of the Monkey with a week-long celebration. This is China’s peak travel time (along with the summer holidays and Golden Week in October).

If you were hoping to visit any travel agents for meetings or sales missions in early 2016, we recommend you wait until Chinese New Year is well out of the way. The agents will not be open to meetings in the run up to Chinese New Year as they are too busy taking bookings, and too preoccupied planning their own celebrations.

China Travel Outbound will be running a series of sales missions in 2016. If you would like to register your interest in joining us, please contact us for details.

 

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“Xin Nian Kuai Le” to all of our friends this Chinese New Year!

Social Media marketing in China – where to begin

Where do you start?  Well, not with Facebook, Twitter or Youtube, which are all banned in China!  But before you remove   “write Chinese social media plan” from your ‘to do’ list, you might want to pause and read on a little; social media marketing is more critical in China than in any other market in the world. Here’s why:

1. Social media is huge in China!
China is the most active social media market in the world with over 500 million having a social media account (and the vast majority of these having more than one supplier).

2. Social media is a key source for decision making in China
In a market where many are sceptical of institutional messages, peer-led social media comment is a huge opinion shaper. According to the German Consultancy company Z Punkt,  48% of Chinese consumers are using social media in their travel planning.  

3. Chinese actively use social media to ‘interact’ with brands
66% of Chinese social media “interact” with brands (Insites Consulting) and  61% of Chinese would write about positive experiences and 53% about negative  experiences; this compares with 36% and 29% with Americans (Edelman Digital).
social media in ChinaSo, with Facebook and Twitter out of the picture, just who are the social media players in China? Unlike the west,  China’s social-media sector is fragmented and regional.  All the key players share some characteristics of their western counterparts, though they are often hybrids of the same.
In microblogging (or weibo), for example,  Sina Weibo and Tencent Qzone are the closest equivalents to Twitter.  The instant messaging market is increasingly dominated by Wechat, who have rapidly grown in recent years at the expense of Renren.  However Renren continue to play a big role in the field of mobile communication and private social networking apps, particularly amongst the student population.  Finally, in the video sharing market, Youku and Tudou are the closest equivalent to YouTube.

Competition in this market is ferocious with the ground is constantly shifting. For marketeers, the fragmentation increases the complexity of the social media landscape, but the basic rules of social media marketing in the west hold true in China.  However, you will need partners on the ground in China to help guide you, and provide real time responses to your customers.

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Kathy, Vivienne and Lily from the CTO team in Beijing,

At China Travel Outbound, we can help you with your Chinese social media strategy and implement and manage your Chinese social media accounts on your behalf.  We will communicate in real time, in a tone appropriate both to your brand and to your customer base in China, with regular posts, tweets and updates.  We can provide you with recommendations on promotions and competitions, create video and write copy on your behalf.  At our monthly account management meetings, we will provide you with an overview of how your brand is performing in China as a result of our activity on your behalf.

 

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Five tips for using PR to build your travel brand in China

With a population of 1.3 billion, and a land mass approximately the size of Europe, marketing your travel brand efficiently in China can be a daunting task. This is where a targeted, well executed PR strategy as part of a wider marketing plan comes to the fore. At China Travel Outbound we would love to help you devise your PR strategy, but to kick things off, we have listed below four practical things you might like to think about, followed by a shameless plug!

1. Regional variations in the Chinese press
In Beijing, state owned media is very powerful, but outside the capital private media companies have an important voice. Make sure your PR strategy stretches across both different ownership models and takes into account the regional variations across Chinese ‘tier one’ cities. As in the west, there are different travel publications with journalists specialising in leisure, business, meetings and incentive travel; you, or your Chinese PR agency, should target relationships with travel journalists accordingly.

2. Think digital media
If you ride the Beijing subway, you will see very few commuters reading traditional print media, but you will see plenty of eyes glued to screens. Importantly this doesn’t just apply to newspapers but to magazines as well. The Chinese are more advanced than the west in their adoption of online media.

3. Integrate social media
Use Chinese social media (not Facebook or Twitter which are blocked) to provide a regular drip of newsworthy items to keep your brand top of mind. Social media plays a more important role in travel choice than in the west, with travellers very ready to follow recommendation from friends, family bloggers and other online influencers. Bragging rights are also an important dynamic which shouldn’t be ignored – particularly if your product has appeal to high net worth Chinese travellers. Speak to us about which are the right social media for your product.

4. The power of Chinese celebrity
If you have the budget, celebrity endorsement of your product is a great way to instantly get your brand profile. China Travel Outbound has a great network of Chinese movie stars and other celebrities and we would be delighted to talk to you about who might be a good match for your product.

5. The Shameless Plug!
As you might have guessed, we have PR travel specialists in China waiting to help you. Meet Kathy Chen, our Director of PR. Kathy is a former travel journalist, who also has ‘client side’ experience, having joined China Travel Outbound from Tourism Ireland. Kathy therefore has a wealth of knowledge on the Chinese travel PR scene and a smart phone brimming with contact details of Chinese travel journalists.

Kathy Chen, our PR Director - based in our Beijing office
Kathy Chen, our PR Director – based in our Beijing office

For more information of how China Travel Outbound can help you with your Chinese PR strategy (or any other marketing and representation matter), please contact [email protected]