Are Chinese tourists becoming more responsible travellers?

Throughout 2019, the outbound Chinese tourism industry continued to prosper and expand, with an increasing number of worldwide travel destinations breaking into this incredibly lucrative market, offering many more reasons to fly. According to data from the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute, in 2008 there were 43.8 million overseas trips made by Chinese tourists, just ten years later in 2018 this number had skyrocketed to 149.7 million and, it is estimated that the Chinese outbound tourist market will be worth $270 billion by 2025. In addition to this, President Xi has expressed great ambitions to open the skies and promote more flights to and from China. In September 2019 he announced the much-anticipated opening of Beijing’s Daxing International Airport. This new airport will be the key to enabling international inbound and outbound travel, acting as a pivotal air traffic hub. Already, it operates over 100 routes and connects to around 112 destinations worldwide. However, in the wake of the climate movement, this ever-growing outflux of Chinese tourism has caused some concern. Not only because of the flight emissions, but also because of some assumptions that the Chinese are less concerned than some other nations about their impact on the environment. 

China has struggled with pollution in the past, but arguably the extent of this pollution has been exaggerated by the media in other parts of the world. For example, images of a heavily polluted Beijing that were shared extensively via the media throughout the earlier part of last decade. Famously, in 2014 The Daily Mail published an article claiming that the pollution in Beijing was so bad that people were having to watch the sunrise on a giant LED screen in the middle of Tiananmen Square. This article was accompanied with a grainy image of a dystopian, smog-soaked Beijing where a handful of people were watching the virtual sunrise emerge. The article went viral, and a number of other prominent news outlets including Time, CBS News, and the Huffington Post published the same story. A week later technology news website, Tech in Asia, furiously disproved this story, explaining that the sunrise was actually part of an advert for tourism in China’s Shandong Province, and had nothing to do with pollution.  

Similarly, when some media outlets have written about Chinese tourists, their environmental impact has also been a point of focus and concern, with Chinese tourists sometimes being portrayed as irresponsible. For example, there have been tales of excessive waste, with viral stories of tourist groups overfilling plates at all -you- can-eat buffets and then leaving piles of uneaten food. Other articles have complained that Chinese tourists act in an uncivilized manner and disrespect the environments that they visit. For example, there was the famous incident in 2013 of Chinese teenager, Ding Jinhao, defacing an ancient Egyptian temple, sparking outrage and a backlash against Chinese tourists for their misbehaviour abroad. Despite the fact that isolated incidents such as this do not reflect Chinese tourists as a whole, if you Google ‘Chinese tourists’ you will be met with numerous articles and videos which name Chinese tourists as ‘rude’ or ‘unruly’.

It seems the singling out of Chinese tourists by some media outlets has, at times, created an unflattering and negative stereotype of the Chinese traveller, and this includes their impact on and regard for the environment. 

In a recent Oliver Wyman survey entitled, ‘The Changing Face of the Chinese Traveller’ the author lists four common beliefs about Chinese tourists which include ‘They spend indiscriminately’ and ‘They are always in groups’. These beliefs have ignited concerns around over tourism and over-consumption. However, there is evidence to disprove these images of the Chinese traveller. In recent years the Chinese have expressed their desire to improve sustainability and reduce their impact on the planet both at home and overseas, and action is being taken in order to make these desires a reality.  

Increasing demand for sustainable tourism 

In November 2019, Gillian Tans, the chairwoman of Booking.com reported to CNBC that the demand for sustainable tourism and responsible travel alternatives was drastically increasing amongst Chinese tourists. A study conducted by Booking.com found that 79% of Chinese customers would be happy to change their selected holiday destination if they were offered an alternative that was better for the environment. Furthermore, Tans expressed how Chinese tourists are beginning to opt for alternative and more sustainable accommodation choices such as home sharing, which now accounts for 20% of Booking.com’s overall revenues. This kind of accommodation is more flexible as well as environmentally friendly, Chinese travellers can cook their own food, which will subsequently produce less waste. It also allows them share in large groups for a cheaper price, an arrangement which suits large multi generation family travel groups. These kinds of choices made by cost aware and progressively savvy Chinese travellers are setting new trends for future Chinese tourists. Furthermore, these statistics show that a growing number of tourists are veering towards making sustainable decisions when travelling. 

Shopping locally and travelling small

For a long time, the Chinese have been known for their love of shopping, with discounted fashion destinations such as Bicester Village considered to be a prime UK destination spot. In 2018 alone, the global spend by Chinese tourists came to $277.3bn, the highest in the world. However, over the past couple of years there has been a shift in terms of what Chinese tourists want to spend their money on.  Gillian Tans highlighted the growing trend amongst Chinese tourists for shopping locally and eating locally produced foods when abroad, she explained that these decisions are made as a way of knowing what kind of impact they are having on the destinations that they travel to.

This desire to ensure that they are making a positive impact on tourism in the local market reflects how travelling and shopping habits amongst some Chinese tourists are changing and becoming more environmentally motivated.

In addition to this, many young affluent Chinese travellers are now favouring other activities besides retail. There are more Free Independent Travellers (FITS) than ever before, and this category of traveller favours cultural experiences and private personalised tours that they can share across their personal social media platforms i.e. WeChat and Weibo. As a result of this, the traditional tour style of travelling in large groups on a hop on hop off tour bus trip complete with extensive shopping excursions are declining in market share. Instead, many Chinese travellers prefer tours at cultural hotpots in smaller, more intimate groups. This is highly beneficial for popular wildlife destinations such as Scotland, which is known and favourited by the Chinese for its natural beauty, as it will prevent these areas becoming too overwhelmed by large groups of tourists. Furthermore, the decrease of interest in material goods is positive in terms of reducing the carbon footprint of Chinese tourists. 

Awareness and protection of wildlife

The Chinese are quickly becoming more concerned about protecting animals and wildlife, both at home and overseas.  In 2015, Northwest China’s Qinghai Province was given approval to build the Sanjiangyuan National Park, it was one of the first provinces in China to trial the national park system. In August 2019, the first forum on national parks was held in Xining and 450 representatives from regulatory agencies, experts and scholars from China and overseas attended. They discussed topics such as construction and management of nature reserves, biodiversity protection, and the future of natural heritage sites. The aim of this is to attract people from all over the world to come and see China’s national parks in order to learn about its wildlife and experience its natural beauty in a way that will still protect biodiversity. 

There are also cultural shifts occurring in light of the actions taken by conservationists to protect wildlife. Shark fin soup, once one of the most famous Chinese delicacies, is now becoming frowned upon by many due to its wastefulness and impact on shark species. For some time, sales of shark fin soup have been decreasing, back in 2014 the Guardian had already reported a 70% drop in sales. The dish, which was often consumed during special occasions such as weddings and high-class events, was banned by the government from being served at state events in 2012 as part of an austerity campaign. Since then, a number of other factors have contributed to the reduction of this once highly successful business. For example, the awareness created by conservationists that 100 million sharks were being killed each year, leading to the decline in some shark populations by as much as 98%. Additionally, high profile celebrities have spoken out against the shark fin business, most notably former basketball star Yao Ming, whose awareness campaign on the impact of the shark fin industry has greatly influenced the decrease in consumption of this dish. Celebrity influence is China is strong, and it is very positive that high profile Chinese celebrities like Ming are using their status to influence the minds of the Chinese people, who frequently respect the celebrity opinion above others.

Overseas, a portion of Chinese tourists are beginning to take their impact on nature into consideration when making holiday decisions. Between 2016 and 2019, there was a 13 percent and 26 percent reduction in elephant rides taken and shows watched by Chinese tourists across destinations in Thailand, respectively. This was discovered by a survey conducted by the World Animal Protection (WAP) in August 2019. The survey also revealed that 77% of Chinese tourists interviewed from 15 main tourist counties in Thailand said they would rather see animals in the wild, and 84% said wild animals should live in the wild rather than in captivity. This data reflects how wildlife friendly tours are steadily becoming more favoured by Chinese tourists which is an environmentally positive development in Chinese outbound tourism. According to China Daily, WAP released survey results in May 2019 showing that more than 90% of Chinese travellers participating in overseas wildlife tours said they would reject activities that could be harmful to wildlife. Again, celebrity influence and the media are highly accountable for driving these decisions forward. The 2017 documentary, Black Elephant, by Shanghai director Zhang Chaodao has now been viewed millions of times, the film exposes the brutal cruelty and mistreatment of elephants in Thailand for the sake of tourist entertainment, and has played a role in the decline of this activity. 

The newfound interest in Antarctic vacations amongst affluent Chinese tourists in 2019 was also accompanied with awareness around the impacts of tourism on even the most remote of environments. An article published by Lifestyle Inquirer in November 2019 followed the experience of a Chinese traveller, Yu Tong, on her trip to Antarctica for her 30th birthday. Throughout the trip, the tour guides made everyone aware of the wildlife and all visitors had to disinfect their shoes and stay at least five metres away from any animals. Yu Tong came away from this adventure with more awareness and understanding of environmental protection, and consequently applied this to her day to day life. For example, she began taking public transport more often and buying less luxurious products. This kind of media angle is becoming more frequent in terms of encouraging more awareness amongst Chinese tourists regarding sustainable travel.

The positive lifestyle changes taken by Yu Tong after her trip reflect how with the right kind of education and approach from the media, Chinese tourists can share this knowledge and inspire others to make environmentally conscious decisions. 

Conclusion 

These outcomes show how progress is being made and actions are being taken amongst the Chinese to improve sustainability and reduce their carbon footprint. We know that the initiative and willingness to make a difference is already there but there are certainly improvements to be made, so how can we also help to influence further change? For certain, China is a collective society and following the lead of influencers is a huge part of Chinese consumer behaviour. Celebrities and Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) can make a difference to trends, opinions and ultimately, action. A prime example of this is Chinese superstar, model and actress, Angelababy, who has been speaking out against the excessive trafficking and killing of Pangolins across Vietnam and China. For a long time, Pangolin meat was considered a delicacy in China and their scales were used as a medicine for chronic conditions such as cancer. Around 100,000 Pangolins are poached each year. Since 2016, Angelababy has been an ambassador for WildAid and has used her celebrity influence to put a stop to this cruel trade and raise awareness of its consequences. With a Weibo account of over 60 million followers, she is China’s equivalent to the Kardashians in terms of her status. This means that her ability to influence is extremely powerful. Since 2017, all Pangolins have been fully protected from cross-border commercial trade under international law. This would not have been achieved without the influence of Angelababy and shows how involving a high-profile celebrity in animal and environmental protection campaigns can cause a great impact and bring about drastic changes in attitude. Whilst government initiatives will always be the best way to enforce change, involving celebrity faces in future campaigns to promote sustainability will result in further positive changes in consumer attitudes and actions.

For more information about China Travel Outbound, please visit www.chinatraveloutbound.com or contact us. 

Chinese Tourism Leaders’ Dinner 2019

The third annual Chinese Tourism Leaders’ Dinner, held on the eve of World Travel Market London 2019, was a huge success. Hosted by China Travel Outbound and Capela China, the event marks the beginning of the international travel event and brings together all the movers and shakers of the British tourism industry who are making a difference to growing the inbound market of Chinese visitors to the UK.

We were extremely proud to welcome our clients, London North Eastern Railway (LNER), as our sponsor for the event this year. Laetitia Beneteau, the Leisure Sales and Distribution Manager at LNER, provided our guests with a fascinating insight into how LNER has been working closely with the China Travel Outbound team to bring high profile Chinese Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) to experience the wonderful train journey up the East Coast from London to Scotland over the past 18 months. 

We were also joined by senior representatives from the travel companies, attractions and destinations who are leading the way in promoting Britain to the Chinese. Some of these very special guests included VisitScotland, Visit York, City Cruises, Gatwick Airport, Royal Museums Greenwich and English Heritage. We were absolutely thrilled that everyone could come together and celebrate the future of Chinese tourism in the UK. Of course, we celebrated in the most appropriate fashion – over a delicious Chinese feast at a restaurant in London’s Chinatown, London. Everyone had a wonderful evening, and we cannot wait to host this event again next year. 

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Top 7 Apps Chinese Outbound Tourists Use Overseas – Part 2: Discovery

Chinese KOL visiting Brighton Pavilion

Chinese tourists don’t just use their smartphone apps to plan and book trips overseas, they also rely on these applications when they arrive at their destination. 85% of Chinese millennials use their mobile phone while travelling overseas to further research the destination’s best tourism hotspots, help make their travel experience in an unfamiliar destination more comfortable and convenient, and keep in touch with family and friends back home.

If you’re familiar with the China market, you may know that Facebook, Twitter, and even Google Maps are banned in China. China have their own alternative apps that functionally serve similar purposes, but have interesting and different features to their Western counterparts that help facilitate ease of travel for Chinese tourists in overseas destinations.

So, what are the top mobile apps Chinese tourists use when travelling overseas that we should be paying close attention to? And, most importantly, how do they help Chinese travellers? With the recent four-day Labour Day holiday expected to produce over 160 million Chinese travellers, we thought this to be the ideal time to explore this trend to highlight the importance of mobile apps in shaping the Chinese outbound travel experience.

In the second part of this series of articles, we explore the key apps Chinese tourists use to share travel recommendations with one another, both prior to a trip and once they have arrived, and the different kinds of recommendations they receive from Chinese and Western platforms.

If you haven’t done so already, read the first part here about the apps Chinese tourists use overseas to interact with and navigate around their destination of choice.

Chinese review sites – Mafengwo, Qyer, and Ctrip

Mafengwo logo

Before travelling overseas, Chinese tourists will research destinations, attractions restaurants, hotels and shops using China’s premier review site platforms – Mafengwo, Qyer and Ctrip. Similar to TripAdvisor, international destinations have pages on these sites that list in-depth travel information, rankings of popular sights and recommended itineraries for short and long stays.

Qyer logo

The three platforms mentioned above also showcase travelogues posted by influential Chinese Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs/bloggers). The majority of these blogs are focused on a specific destination and a specific theme, such as travelling from London to Scotland by rail, and they provide a personal and honest account of the KOLs’ travel experience. KOLs’ opinions are highly valued by Chinese tourists researching their next trip abroad – when a KOL validates their experiences, this shows they are equally suitable for any Chinese traveller.

Ctrip logo

Chinese travellers can also use these platforms casually to post updates about their overseas trip for their followers to see, and write reviews of points of interest they’ve visited. These platforms provide the Chinese perspective of overseas destinations and travel experiences, but they may want to find out what the locals think…

TripAdvisor – for local recommendations

tripadviosor logo

TripAdvisor is not blocked in China, and is a useful resource for Chinese travellers to get an idea of the local opinion of restaurants, hotels, shops and attractions they plan on visiting. Interestingly, TripAdvisor has a Chinese website which is near identical to the English version. On both versions, user reviews can be filtered by language to read comments left by travellers across the globe. By default, only reviews written in the website’s native language will appear, meaning if users wants a ‘global perspective’ of where they’re visiting, they’ll need to manually filter the reviews to show ‘All languages’.

User reviews of Brighton Pavilion on TripAdvisor.cn.com (left) and TripAdvisor.co.uk (right)

The different tastes and opinions of Chinese travellers to Western travellers are evident when review site platforms like TripAdvisor and China’s Mafengwo are compared. On TripAdvisor, Elephant House café in Edinburgh, where J.K. Rowling famously wrote the first Harry Potter book, is ranked around 1,400 of the 2,200 best places to eat in the city. However, as a result of the feverish popularity of Harry Potter in China, the café is the top rated restaurant in the city on Mafengwo, and the second top rated attraction.

Since Mafengwo, Qyer and Ctrip present a Chinese perspective of restaurants, shops and hotels, Chinese outbound travellers may use TripAdvisor to discover places unfamiliar to Chinese tourists, recommended by locals and other global tourists.

Little Red Book – Easy content sharing

red book logo

Xiaohongshu, or ‘Little Red Book’ in English, is an up-and-coming social media and content sharing platform encouraging users to share travel articles and reviews of popular products, and post short videos and photos of their travel experiences. Little Red Book has over 200 million registered users as of January 2019, and around 90% of its users are female.

Similar to Weibo, users can follower influencers whose recommendations they trust, and like Mafengwo and Qyer, content can be saved for future reference. Rather than letting users post anonymous reviews, the platform encourages users to post in-depth reviews including a combination of written content, videos and photos, which are known as ‘Notes’. Other users can comment on ‘Notes’ to exchange information and share their own tips. Chinese travellers may be inspired to visit places overseas based on content a Little Red Book influencer has posted, and being able to save posts means travellers can refer back to them once they’ve arrived.

In terms of providing travel recommendations, the platform is not yet as influential as Mafengwo, Weibo or WeChat as its content primarily focuses on luxury brands and shopping. However, it is rapidly growing in popularity and has the potential to become a influential source of travel tips for Chinese outbound travellers.

Dianping – The Chinese Yelp

dinning logo

If you’re wondering what the Chinese equivalent of Yelp is, that would be Dianping. This travel advice platform lists of shops, restaurants, pubs and bars, cinemas and other venues located in destinations both in China and abroad. Over 4.4 million merchants across nearly 200 countries are listed on Dianping, making it a useful travel resource similar to TripAdvisor. However, Chinese travellers will mainly use Dianping to narrow down popular dining choices. Dianping users can not only leave reviews, but they can filter restaurants by cuisine and popular food items, find out the average price per head, and view a score breakdown of restaurants’ ‘Taste’, ‘Environment’ and ‘Service’. Many commenters also post pictures of their bill to advise other users how much they should expect to spend.

Like TripAdvisor, the more reviews a user posts, the more they are valued by the community and begin to build an influence on the platform. A positive review of your restaurant by a highly regarded reviewer can be very valuable promotion in helping to attract more Chinese guests. 

While functionally similar to TripAdvisor, Dianping provides a more in-depth breakdown of a restaurant’s quality, and is another platform Chinese travellers can consult if they seek a different perspective of the restaurants, hotels and shops in their destination of choice.  

The world in your pocket

Whether Chinese travellers use mobile phone apps to research their destination before or during their trip, mobile apps have had a considerable influence in shaping the travel experience for Chinese outbound tourists. The destinations, attractions, shops and restaurants Chinese travellers visit, and hotels they stay at, are increasingly being dictated by their popularity on these platforms and positive reviews left by influential users. When a fellow Chinese traveller posts a positive comment about their trip overseas, this shows other Chinese tourists that they can also enjoy this experience and feel comfortable doing so.

If you are a destination, attraction, hotel, or restaurant looking to reach the China market, you will be invisible to the Chinese traveller unless you establish a presence on any of these platforms. We provide an online reputation management service to audit and improve your business’s online profiles in China, to ensure Chinese tourists are receiving the most accurate and up-to-date information about you. If you are interested in finding out more about this service, please feel free to contact us for a chat.

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London North Eastern Railway wins CTW Chinese Tourist Welcome Award

LNER CTW Award

We are delighted that our clients and friends over at London North Eastern Railway (LNER) won a CTW Chinese Tourist Welcome Award at ITB China in Shanghai this week for their hard work in the China market.

Tourist Welcome Award

LNER was awarded the Bronze Welcome Award in the Marketing category. The award was presented by COTRI and the Ctrip Institute for Tourism Studies, and handed to LNER’s representative, our PR and Media Manager Angel Deng, by Professor Dr. Wolfgang Arlt.

LNER has undertaken many activities in the past year to boost their presence in the China market. Since setting up its official Weibo account in early 2018, the account has built a following of 40,000 genuine Chinese followers enthusiastic about UK travel and the train company’s high-quality service for its passengers. This was all achieved through organically generated content and joint promotions with partners.

LNER launched promotional campaigns with Beijing Capital Airlines and Hainan Group to find the perfect Chinese KOL to travel up the East Coast of the UK with LNER, as well as Visit Scotland to encourage Chinese tourists to travel up to Scotland with LNER to celebrate Burns Night.

In December 2018, LNER collaborated with influential KOL, Liu Huan (Queenio), on a blogger trip highlighting the many fascinating UK cities along the East Coast to Scotland – including Lincoln, Leeds, York, Harrogate, Durham, Edinburgh and Inverness. The trip received widespread coverage in Queenio’s in-depth travelogue posted to China’s premier review site platforms.

LNER held their successful “Taste of the Train Tour” media workshop in Beijing in March 2019, attended by 40 representatives from Chinese travel agents, operators and travel media.

Considered the most prestigious prize in the Chinese outbound tourism market, COTRI has held the CTW Chinese Tourist Welcome Awards annually since 2004. In that time, it has awarded over 100 tourism service providers for their dedication to the China market. Award winners gain widespread exposure each year in international printed and digital publications, and are also published on COTRI’s website and across their digital channels. 

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Top 7 Apps Chinese Outbound Tourists Use Overseas – Part 1: Getting Around

Bon Voyage! Chinese tourists are setting sail

Top 7 Apps Chinese Outbound Tourists Use Overseas – Part 1: Getting Around

Chinese travellers taking selfie

Chinese tourists don’t just use their smartphone apps to plan and book trips overseas, they also rely on these applications when they arrive at their destination. 85% of Chinese millennials use their mobile phone while travelling overseas to further research the destination’s best tourism hotspots, help make their travel experience in an unfamiliar destination more comfortable and convenient, and keep in touch with family and friends back home.

If you’re familiar with the China market, you may know that Facebook, Twitter, and even Google Maps are banned in China. China have their own alternative apps that functionally serve similar purposes, but have interesting and different features to their Western counterparts that help facilitate ease of travel for Chinese tourists in overseas destinations.

So, what are the top mobile apps Chinese tourists use when travelling overseas that we should be paying close attention to? And, most importantly, how do they help Chinese travellers? With the recent four-day Labour Day holiday expected to produce over 160 million Chinese travellers, we thought this to be the ideal time to explore this trend to highlight the importance of mobile apps in shaping the Chinese outbound travel experience.

In the first part of this article, we explore the most popular apps that help Chinese tourists navigate around and interact with the destinations they’re visiting.

There’s WeChat, but also its Mini Programs

WeChat app logo

You may know that Tencent’s messaging platform, WeChat, is China’s most popular social media app, having achieved an unprecedented 1 billion daily active users at the end of 2018. While primarily used to communicate with friends, family and colleagues, it’s so much more than a messenger app. From scheduling doctors’ appointments, playing games and booking taxis, WeChat has in many ways become a fundamental part of the lives of Chinese citizens.

Before travelling, Chinese tourists use WeChat to seek inspiration for their travels, sharing ideas with friends in group messages and researching official accounts of hotels, retailers and attractions to weigh up their options on where to stay and visit. When WeChat users follow a travel brand’s official account, they receive push notifications when an update is posted to the account. This allows travel brands to communicate directly with and demonstrate their China Welcome to potential Chinese travellers through marketing material – a powerful tool to show Chinese tourists why you’re worth their time.

WeChat mini programs

Further developing its ecosystem, in 2017 WeChat introduced its ‘Mini Programs’, applications that can be accessed through WeChat without the need to install them separately. Every day, 230 million of the platform’s daily active users use one of WeChat’s 2.3 million Mini Programs. Many popular Chinese travel apps such as Mafengwo and Qyer (more on them in part 2) have Mini Programs, but in recent years, travel brands have observed an opportunity to improve the visitor experience of their destination or attraction for Chinese tourists by developing their own Mini Program.

Recently, the world’s tallest building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, launched their own Mini Program, allowing WeChat users to book tickets to the building’s observation decks and access audio content in Mandarin explaining key information about the sight. The building also launched its own WeChat mini game, the first attraction to do so outside China, all to enhance the experience for its Chinese guests.

Destinations throughout the world are catching on to the benefit of Mini Programs. Sweden, whose popularity among Chinese tourists has been lagging behind many of its Scandinavian neighbours, hopes to remedy this with the launch of their Mini Program “Explore Stockholm”. The program is an in-depth Mandarin guide of the city, providing information on its top hotels and shopping destinations and recommending 24-hour and 48-hour itineraries for short-stay travellers. Furthermore, VisitScotland’s Mini Program aims to show Chinese travellers that there’s so much more to see than just Edinburgh. The program makes it easier for Chinese travellers to discover Scotland’s unique culture and immersive outdoor experiences, and includes an interactive map highlighting the breadth of key points of interest across the county.

Creating your own Mini Program not only goes a long way to improving your China Welcome, but it’s also of great benefit to potential Chinese visitors. For Chinese travellers, being able to access detailed travel information about destinations and attractions through only a single application, content also created solely with a Chinese audience in mind, means WeChat’s Mini Programs are extremely valuable tools in helping Chinese travellers discover a destination’s unique sights.

WeChat Pay and Alipay – The rise of the digital wallet

WeChat pay

It’s no secret that Chinese tourists love to spend their hard-earned cash overseas, and they prefer to do so through mobile payments. WeChat Pay and Alipay, the two major payment platforms vying for market dominance, allow users to pay for goods and services using their digital wallet. In the eyes of many Chinese travellers, mobile payment apps are safer and more convenient to use overseas as they don’t need to worry about carrying foreign currency on-hand or fiddling around in their wallets to find a credit card. In 2018, Chinese outbound tourists paid for 32% of their transactions using mobile payments, surpassing cash payments, and 60% of Chinese visitors to Europe identify mobile payments as their preferred payment method.

Efforts to rollout acceptance of Chinese mobile payments on a global scale are being undertaken. According to WeChat Pay itself, the payment method is now accepted in 49 markets outside of mainland China and supports transactions in 16 currencies. And in 2018, the number of merchants accepting WeChat Pay increased 700% year-on-year, which demonstrates a global interest in taking the extra steps necessary to accommodate the China market. 

Alipay logo

Furthermore, 500 restaurants across Australia recently partnered with a new Alipay platform which will allow Chinese customers to scan in-restaurant QR codes, order from digital menus translated into Mandarin, and pay for meals using their phone. This is a dedicated effort that understands the value of convenience for the Chinese traveller. In addition, Chinese tourists may also be enticed to spend more with a merchant if their favourite payment method is accepted – the average budget for Chinese outbound tourists increased to 6,026 USD per person in 2018.

China’s enthusiasm for the digital wallet is transforming the way tourists are expecting to pay for goods and services overseas. When merchants accept WeChat Pay and Alipay payments, they are also demonstrating a willingness to welcome Chinese customers. Speak to us about how your business can start to accept WeChat Pay and Alipay.

Baidu Maps – Alternative to Google Maps

Baidu map

Since Google Maps is blocked in China, Baidu Maps is the app Chinese residents rely on throughout their daily lives for directions and up-to-date travel information. Baidu Maps has a few features Google Maps lacks, such 3D maps search, which lets you easily find the location of venues above ground level. You can also use Baidu Maps to book tickets to see a film showing at a cinema located near you.

In recent years, Baidu Maps has been rolling out its service across 150 countries and hopes that, by 2020, 50% of its users will be located outside of China. As a result, many businesses are beginning to recognise the importance of establishing a solid presence on the app. Yext, a brand management platform, recently integrated Baidu Maps to enable its partner businesses to provide Chinese outbound travellers with accurate and up-to-date information when using the app overseas. In addition, Sydney Airport became the first organisation outside of China to introduce indoor Baidu Maps when it did so in 2017, allowing users to see gates, check-in counters and retailers through the app.

Having accurate and up-to-date information about attractions, hotels, shops and restaurants on Baidu Maps will help encourage Chinese travellers discover more of what your destination has to offer. 

Next week, the second part of this series of articles will explore the key apps Chinese tourists use to plan and research their destination, both prior to travel and once they’ve arrived, and how they use these apps to discover different perspectives on the best places to shop, eat, stay and visit.

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Photo by Tri Hua from Pexels

Integrated Chinese trade and media campaign for London North Eastern Railway

You may remember the incredibly talented KOL and illustrator, Liu Huan (pen name Queenio), from one of our articles last year about her trip to the UK. We were so impressed with her unique travel blogs which are brought to life by her vibrant illustrative style that we invited her to collaborate on a new campaign with London North Eastern Railway (LNER).

The purpose of the project was to highlight to Chinese tourists planning their next trip abroad that there is more to the UK than its iconic capital – our country boasts many fascinating destinations up the East Coast to Scotland, all with their unique charm and history, and the best way to visit them is by train. Huan landed in London and journeyed up the country in first-class luxury, stopping at Lincoln, Leeds, York, Harrogate, Durham, Edinburgh and Inverness, experiencing their essential sights and attractions. She even made it to the Isle of Skye.

The Trip

In addition to LNER, we worked with twelve partners to craft an exciting and eventful nine-day itinerary for Huan, including the tourist boards Visit Lincoln, Visit Leeds, Visit York, Visit Harrogate, Visit County Durham, and Visit Scotland, City Cruises, The London Eye, Holiday Inn Stratford City, Westfield Shopping Centre, Rabbie’s Tours and RHS Harlow Carr Gardens.

During the trip, Huan took hundreds of photographs showcasing each city’s sights and attractions. She adds vivacity to her favourite photographs by illustrating her cartoon persona within the frame, interacting with the environment around her. Cartoon Huan can be seen perched atop the balcony of Leeds Grand Theatre playfully re-enacting ‘The Nutcracker’ performance with her dolls, embracing her inner wizard at Platform 9 ¾, and enjoying the tranquillity of Harrogate’s Turkish Baths.

Following the trip, Huan produced an in-depth travelogue documenting her train journey with LNER and the destinations visited, which is now live on China’s key travel review sites. The blog is brimming with high-quality writing and photography showcasing to Chinese internet users the appeal of the UK’s beautiful countryside and historic cities.

Results

The travelogue, which has been published on Mafengwo, Ctrip, Qyer and Tuniu, has so far received a total of 45,000 views across the four platforms. It has over 650 likes and 470 saves, demonstrating the keen interest among Chinese travellers for UK themed content. Tuniu and Qyer Forum (where Qyer’s travel articles are published) promoted the travelogue to their front pages which greatly increased its exposure, and Qyer tagged the piece as ‘Essential’, recommending it to Chinese internet users as a high-quality article about UK travel. We are expecting the travelogue to continue gaining traction on these platforms as it grows to become a popular and reliable source of information about travel to the UK.

Furthermore, Huan shared her travel experience across 19 social media posts published on her personal WeChat and Weibo accounts where she has 50,000 followers. Many of these posts have received great engagement among Chinese internet users.

The Brochure

Upon her return to China, Huan produced a 24-page Chinese brochure for LNER promoting the services of the train operator and all the destinations and attractions she visited on the trip. This will be distributed at sales calls with media and travel trade in China and at promotional events and trade shows throughout 2019, further expanding the promotion of LNER and its destinations and demonstrating the company’s commitment to the China market. We are also planning to provide the brochure to Chinese tour operators launching LNER products in the future.

Travel Trade and Media Workshop

The brochure was also given to attendees of an LNER workshop held in Beijing and entitled “Taste of the Train Tour”. 30 selected travel agents and operators, and 10 travel media attended the event, held in a trendy café venue in central Beijing. Companies represented included media outlets National Geographic Traveller, Sina.com.cn and Time Out Beijing and tour operators Ctrip, Youpu Travel and GoEuro. Laetitia Beneteau, LNER’s Business Development Manager, introduced LNER’s services to the representatives, and Liu Huan herself came along to deliver a presentation about her experience travelling from London to Scotland. The representatives also enjoyed immersing themselves in the UK by experiencing the scents of different UK’s cities, produced by renowned perfume brand, Charm Kaiser.

Output from the event included 10 pieces of editorial about LNER and its new Azuma trains, which are coming on line this year. Laetitia maximised her time in Beijing on a tailormade sales mission and she was escorted to meetings at the offices of travel trade partners by China Travel Outbound’s team.

The campaign has been posted on LNER’s Weibo account which now boasts over 35,000 followers.

A Child’s Guide to Chinese New Year Traditions

China’s biggest holiday of the year, Chinese New Year (Monday 4th – Sunday 10th February) is just around the corner, and many Chinese tourists will take the week-long break as an opportunity to travel abroad with friends and family. According to Ctrip, over 400 million Chinese people will travel during the holiday, and 7 million of them will travel abroad. The OTA estimates that, during the holiday, Chinese outbound tourists will travel to over 900 destinations in 96 countries worldwide. Popular non-Asian destinations this year include Australia, Italy, the UAE, New Zealand, the UK, and Spain.

Our Travel Trade Manager, Maria Wang, was asked by one of our clients to compile some information for her young daughter about how Chinese people celebrate Chinese New Year. Maria’s response was so sweet and insightful that we thought we would share it here.

How the Chinese celebrate the new year

Chinese New Year

All Chinese students enjoy the Spring Festival as part of their winter vacation, which lasts approximately one month, usually from the middle of January to mid-February. Students in colleges enjoy a longer vacation than others, who stay out of school for, on average, almost a month and a half.

The Spring Festival is the most important festival in China; it marks the beginning of a new year in the China Lunar Calendar, which has about a one month gap with the regular calendar. It also means the coming of the next Zodiac sign, which consists of 11 different animals and a dragon. For instance, right now we are in the year of dog, after the spring festival of 2019,  we’ll be in the year of the pig.

The image below shows the animals and their respective Zodiac sign. They are: Mouse/ 鼠(Shǔ), Ox / 牛(Niú), Tiger/ 虎(Hǔ), Rabbit/ 兔(Tù), Dragon/ 龙(Lónɡ), Snake / 蛇(Shé), Horse/ 马(Mǎ), Sheep/羊(Yánɡ), Monkey/ 猴(Hóu), Rooster / 鸡(Jī), Dog / 狗(Gǒu), and Pig / 猪(Zhū).

Traditions

Chinese New Year

There are various traditions in the celebration of the Spring Festival. Different areas and religions have different traditions, even several traditions have been introduced in the last decade or century. I can describe several traditions we have in Beijing at the moment.

Some of us, especially the elderly, start their celebrations from the 23rd day of December in Lunar calendar. We call this day “小年” (xiǎo nián), which means “little year”. From this day to Chinese New Year’s Eve, we make different preparations for the celebration every day, including cleaning rooms, make stew, etc. One of them is to change a New Year picture (年画nián huà). We patch this on the door to ward the house from evil things.

We put this on the window, which means 年年有余(nián nián yǒu yú). 有means ‘to have’, 余means ‘abundance’ or ‘prosperity’. It is pronounced similarly to 鱼(fish). The image below says ‘may you have more prosperity year after year’.

Chinese New Year

New Year’s Eve

At Chinese New Year’s Eve, almost all the family enjoy a family time together; this is what we call “大年”(dà nián), meaning “big year”. YEAR, in the Chinese character (年nián) is actually a monster in Chinese myth, and the celebration of the Spring Festival is also called “pass(过) the year (年)”. The family stay together to enjoy food and watch TV until the eve of 12 o’clock, which means we have successfully defeated the monster.

At midnight, we would eat Chinese dumplings together too. If you can speak Chinese, you will understand the obvious reason. Dumplings (饺子jiǎo zi) has the similar pronounciation and tone as Jiaozi (交子jiāo zǐ), which is the time of midnight we used in the past.

Red envelope (红包hóng bāo) is another tradition in the Spring Festival, whereby the elderly usually give their children and grandchildren red envelopes with money in. We call the money 压岁钱(yā suì qián), 压means press, 岁means age, and 钱means money, and you can see this from its literal meaning that giving money is a kind of wish. In the past, the younger generation gave red envelopes with money to their parents and grandparents, so as to press the age from growing older. Nobody knows when this tradition reversed.

Before giving the red envelope, the young generation need to kowtow to the elderly, and say something wishful. We call it 磕头(kē tóu) – the word “kowtow” may come from it.

Chinese New Year

For adults, the Spring Festival lasts 7 days, from Chinese New Year’s Eve to the 6th day of January of the Lunar calendar. We could go visit for Temple Fairs (庙会miào huì) which are held across different parks, to enjoy food and play games. We could celebrate this festival until the 15th day as traditions say. We call this day 正月十五 (zhēng yuè shíwǔ) – 正月(zhēng yuè) means the first year in the Lunar calendar, and十五(shíwǔ) means 15. The northern part of China has the tradition to eat 元宵(yuán xiāo), and the southerners eat 汤圆(tāng yuán).

A list of new year greetings:

Happy New Year and all the best: 恭贺新禧,万事如意。(gōng hè xīn xǐ ,wàn shì rú yì)

Happy New Year: 恭贺新年。(gōng hè xīn nián)

Wishing you prosperity: 恭喜发财。(gōng xǐ fā cái)

Peace all year round: 岁岁平安。(suì suì píng ān)

May all your wishes come true: 心想事成。(xīn xiǎng shì chéng)

Everything goes well:吉祥如意。(jí xiáng rú yì)

Wishing you every success: 一帆风顺。(yī fān fēng shùn)

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2019 Guide to Chinese National Holidays and Trade Shows

2019 is shaping up to be another fantastic year for Chinese outbound tourism, but which are the key dates you need to know for next year’s diary?

We’ve listed some of the most important dates in the Chinese calendar, including (in red) the public holidays.

If you are promoting your travel brand in the China market, you can also find below a list of China’s most important trade shows for 2019 and details about each event. We hope you find it useful!

2019 Chinese National Holidays:

Sunday 30th December 18 to Tuesday 1st January 19: New Year Holiday

Monday 4th February to Sunday 10th February: Chinese New Year Holiday/ Spring Festival

Chinese New Year is on Tuesday 5th February

Friday 8th March: International Women’s Day – Half-day off for women

Friday 5th April to Sunday 7th April: Ching Ming Festival

Monday 29th April to Wednesday 1st May: Labour Day Holiday

Saturday 4th May: Youth Day

Saturday 1st June: Children’s Day

Friday 7th June to Sunday 9th June: Dragon Boat Festival

Thursday 1st August: Army Day

Friday 13th September to Sunday 15th September: Mid-Autumn Festival

Tuesday 1st October to Monday 7th October: National Day Holiday

2019 Trade shows in China:

Guangzhou International Trade Fair

Dates: Thursday 21st to Saturday 23rd February

Location: China Import & Export Fair Pazhou Complex, Guangzhou, China

Description: This trade show, considered one of the most important B2B and B2C annual travel fairs in the Asia-Pacific region, focuses on outbound and inbound travel as well as MICE. In the past, the event has accommodated over 980 exhibitors and 140,000 visitors.

China Outbound Travel & Tourism Market

Dates: Monday 15th to Wednesday 17th April

Location: New Hall, National Agricultural Exhibition Center, Beijing

Description: This trade show has been held since 2004 and remains the only business event focusing solely on the Chinese outbound tourism market. The event welcomes over 4,000 Chinese trade buyers and new destinations exhibit every year, with Poland, Romania, and Qatar among those involved in the 2018 show. Find out more at: http://www.cottm.com

ITB China 2019

Dates: Wednesday 15th to Friday 17th April

Location: Shanghai World Expo Exhibition & Convention Center, Shanghai

Description: ITB China started in 2017 and has since grown to become one of the most essential travel fairs to attend in China. The fair is a three-day B2B travel exhibition focusing on the Chinese travel market, inviting over 850 buyers from Greater China and industry professionals worldwide. Find out more here: http://www.itb-china.com

Shanghai World Travel Fair

Dates: Thursday 18th to Sunday 21st April

Location: Shanghai Exhibition Center, Shanghai

Description: Over 750 exhibitors and 62,000 trade and public visitors attend this show to be informed of the latest developments in the tourism industry and network with industry professionals. Find out more at: http://www.worldtravelfair.com.cn/en/

Beijing International Travel Expo (BITE)

Dates: Friday 10th to Sunday 12th May

Location: China National Convention Center, Beijing

Description: BITE has been operating since 2004 and welcomes thousands of participating exhibitors from over 80 countries and 30 Chinese provinces. It has become a world-renowned platform for information exchange, trade and exhibition in the China tourism industry. Find out more at: http://www.bjbite.com/index.php?m=about&a=index&qh=1&cid=1&aid=2

IBTM China

Dates: Wednesday 28th to Thursday 29th August

Location: China National Convention Center, Beijing

Description: This is an important travel fair for business meetings, conventions and incentive travel, attracting over 5,000 industry professionals representing hotels, event agencies, convention centers, and event companies worldwide. https://www.cibtm.com

Beijing International Travel Market (BITM)

Dates: Wednesday 4th September to Thursday 5th September

Location: China International Exhibition Center, Beijing

Description: This premier travel fair presents a great opportunity for destinations, attractions, tour operators and airlines to established relationships with Chinese businesses and promote their services. A great event to attend for organisations looking to enter the Chinese travel market.

Travel Trade Market (TTM)

Dates: Tuesday 10th to Thursday 12th September

Location: Century City New International Convention & Exhibition Center, Chengdu

Description: First launched this year, Travel Trade Market will return in 2019 to bring together over 300 buyers and 150 exhibitors from China and worldwide to network and create business opportunities. The tradeshow specialises in inbound and outbound travel of China and seeks to establish a presence for international exhibitions in the Chinese tourism market. Find out more here: http://www.ttmchina.com.cn

Chengdu International Tourism Expo (CITE)

Dates: TBC – likely November or December 2019

Location: TBC

Description: CITE is the leading tourism exhibition in Chengdu for tourism industry professionals promoting travel packages, destinations, products and services. The platform seeks to provide a one-stop platform for industry professionals to establish business relations and explore new opportunities while expanding their existing professional network. Find out more here: https://www.citechina.asia

Destination Britain China

Dates: TBC – likely November 2019

Location: TBC

Description: This is a fantastic event for UK-based tourism businesses looking to conduct business with China and Hong Kong’s top tour operators. Find out more here: https://trade.visitbritain.com/destination-britain-china/

Key Findings from the Chinese Tourism Leaders’ Dinner 2018

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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Join our Chinese Media Hospitality List

We have launched a new opportunity for British hotels and restaurants to host visiting Chinese media, travel bloggers and Key Opinion Leaders. Our Chinese Media Hospitality List will include a maximum of five hotels in each town or city to be contacted with opportunities to host Chinese media and VIPs visiting the UK.

There will be no charge to join the list, but participating hotels must be of a standard equivalent to 4 star or above, and be able to deliver against certain criteria including the provision of a free full breakfast option and at least two nights’ free of charge accommodation per trip (subject to availability).

Restaurants are also invited to sign up. Restaurants are required to deliver free of charge meals including wine and soft drinks. The restaurant list will have no maximum but opportunities to host will be determined by itineraries.

Across the spring and summer of 2018, we organised trips for 14 KOLs and media to the UK on behalf of their tourism clients, with still more planned. Each hosting hotel received the benefit of exposure in top magazines and websites, such as National Geographic Traveler, Mafengwo and Qyer. In many cases, hotels and restaurants also featured within posts on the Chinese social media platforms, WeChat and Weibo.

Car rental companies, rail providers, domestic airlines, Mandarin-speaking tour operators, and private transfer providers are also invited to get in touch to register their interest in supporting future trips.

If you are interested in joining the Chinese Media Hospitality List, please download and complete the contact form and email it across to [email protected]