During this year’s World Travel Market, we hosted our annual Chinese Tourism Leader’s Dinner in collaboration with Capela China, welcoming an audience of senior travel and tourism professionals representing UK attractions and tourist boards to discuss recent market trends and share success stories about their marketing in China. Guests included representatives from Gatwick Airport, Lake District China Forum, Marketing Manchester, London North Eastern Railway, English Heritage and Experience Oxfordshire.
Once again, we were delighted to welcome Professor Dr Wolfgang Arlt, Director of the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRI), who delivered an insightful presentation on key trends to follow and traps to avoid in the Chinese tourism market. Marketing Manager for Royal Museums Greenwich, Amy O’Rourke, presented to guests about the four museums’ journey with the Chinese market and announced 15% of their visitors to the Royal Observatory are now Chinese FIT tourists, up from a figure of 4% when the brand started working with China Travel Outbound.
This article will identify key findings from the dinner that shed light on the emerging opportunities in the Chinese tourism market, and how businesses can take advantage of the market’s growth to attract more Chinese tourists to their destination or attraction.
Chinese border crossings are on the rise
COTRI found that from January-June 2018, 80 million border crossings have been made by Chinese tourists with more than 40 million tourists travelling beyond Greater China – this marks a year-on-year increase of 16%.
Chinese global arrivals will continue to increase rapidly
It is estimated that 160 million Chinese arrivals will be welcomed globally in 2018, with 85 million of these trips made to destinations outside Greater China.
COTRI forecasts by 2030, Chinese travellers will make 390 million outbound trips from Mainland China. This means, in the next decade, half of all additional outbound travellers will be Chinese.
The majority of Chinese people have yet to travel abroad
Since fewer than 10% of Chinese people have passports, the majority of China’s 1.4 billion population have yet to experience an outbound trip outside of China. For those that have travelled, 75% see it as vital to improving their overall happiness and quality of life.
Destinations should value quantity over quality
FIT travellers are becoming increasingly more important to destinations than package tour groups, even if they don’t realise it. While tour groups visit on mass, bringing many people to a destination and thus helping to increase overall visitor numbers, they receive merely a taster of the destination compared to FITs who want to stay longer and spend more to fully experience its authentic sights.
It’s easier than it’s ever been for Chinese tourists to travel abroad
Visa restrictions for Chinese tourists have relaxed in recent years, with most destinations catching on to recent market growth and welcoming them with open arms. Now, 27 destinations allow visa-free entry for Chinese citizens while 39 offer visas on arrival.
Don’t assume the needs of the Chinese tourism market are the same as other markets
It’s important to recognise how different Chinese tourists to other global travellers. Destinations or attractions shouldn’t assume that what works for their visitors coming from Europe, America or Africa, will work for their Chinese visitors. Florida, known for its world-class theme parks and family attractions, only welcomes 3% of the US’s Chinese arrivals.
Recognise the value of your destination
Chinese tourists love the bragging rights that come with visiting luxury destinations. However, these destinations are under pressure from Chinese tour operators who want to make them more accessible by lowering their prices, which can compromise what makes these destinations so attractive for Chinese tourists in the first place. This happened with the Maldives which welcomed 305,000 Chinese arrivals in 2017, down from 365,000 in 2015.
Advice for attractions – stick with the market and improve your ‘China Welcome’
With our guidance, Royal Museums Greenwich pursued a number of on-site activities to welcome more Chinese tourists to their attractions. These include the inclusion of the Mandarin audio guides at the Royal Observatory, which eliminates language barriers to allow Chinese visitors to enjoy one of the world’s top astronomy museums.
In 2016, RMG introduced UnionPay to its Royal Observatory shop to accept payments from Chinese visitors. UnionPay has now been overtaken by WeChat Pay and Alipay which the museum is in the process of adopting this year. Allowing Chinese visitors to pay using their own card, or via mobile payment apps, goes a long way in making an attraction more accessible.
Promoting yourself through a representative in China is vital, as is being patient with the market. Use social media and the power of influential KOLs to promote to the growing FIT consumer, and make sure your brand is properly represented online. Ms O’Rourke told the audience that the Chinese outbound tourism market is a slow one, but one that eventually pays off through dedication and a willingness to adapt your brand to its unique needs.
Thank you to all who attended the dinner and shared their insights on the market.
If you are interested in being involved in one of our Chinese KOL trips, please contact us for a chat.
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