As Chinese outbound tourists travel further and more frequently, competition to attract these high-spending visitors intensifies. From the China-Australia Tourism Year to Mandarin-speaking wine educators in California’s Napa Valley, sometimes it seems as if every destination, visitor attraction and hotel chain is targeting Chinese tourists.
And yet the number of destinations which truly excel in appealing to the Chinese is small. That means there’s a great opportunity for savvy destinations to sneak ahead of their competitors in the Chinese tourism stakes. There is still time to make your destination Chinese-friendly and to make it known amongst this most valuable of target markets.
Here are China Travel Outbound’s top tips for making your destination appealing to the Chinese.
Make yourself attractive to the Chinese before departure
The average Chinese tourist plans and researches their trip almost 3 months in advance, with 43% consulting travel, shopping and fashion websites and 38% using brand channels on social media. To get in front of this audience, you must have some kind of presence on WeChat and Weibo, indispensable social media platforms for the Chinese. You can do this via your own social media accounts, or by using someone else’s and tapping into their influence and their friends and fans. The digital space is great for promoting your destination; use rich video showcasing its experiential offer or get the support of a Chinese vlogger or KOL.
Make sure the Chinese travel trade know you are there
The vast majority of bookings overseas from China are still made via travel agents and tour operators, so even if you are targeting the FITs, you still need the Chinese travel trade to sell your destination. Connect with them through trade shows, via DMCs, trade PR or using the services of an in-market representative. Or, ideally, all of the above.
Welcome your Chinese visitors in Mandarin
You don’t have to undertake extensive cultural training to make your Chinese guests feel welcome. Just learning a few key phrases in Mandarin and understanding frequent requests is useful. All the better if you have fluent Mandarin speakers to say ‘ni hao’ to your Chinese arrivals.
Flights to Las Vegas from Hainan are greeted by bilingual ‘ambassadors’ who welcome travellers and help with directions. Tourism Tasmania has started hiring bilingual guides at its most popular national parks. If your Chinese visitor numbers are still small, signage (when used well) and literature can provide a practical and affordable alternative. When China Southern introduced direct flights between Guangzhou and Adelaide, Adelaide rolled out directional signage in Chinese.
Make it easy for your tourism businesses to be Chinese-friendly
Work with your tourism businesses to create a fully Chinese-friendly destination. Chinese tourism has brought £43m to Scotland over the last 3 years and Edinburgh’s Tourism Action Group offers comprehensive support, advice and training to help its tourism businesses to attract, and welcome, Chinese visitors. Work with your service providers to implement some entry-level Chinese-friendly innovations, such as signage in Mandarin and a simplified, translated menu at restaurants, and build your Chinese offering from there. We offer China Ready Training through our partners at Capela China. One day workshops for up to 10 people can get your business ready to accept and welcome Chinese guests and help you navigate the cultural challenges of working with China.
Rice and the new wave of Chinese food tourism
Chinese restaurants continue to be attractive to Chinese tourists but those offering other cuisines stand a better chance of attracting the new wave of Chinese food tourists if there’s upfront information in Chinese. Offering rice as an accompaniment to any cuisine will make the Chinese feel ‘at home’ too. The big sellers at the seafood restaurants in Brighton we work with are the risottos, the seafood spaghettis, oysters, and the huge, shareable, seafood platters including lobster, crab and other shellfish. Sharing is the norm and, as a rule, hot food trumps cold.
Communal dining is important to the Chinese, and deft cultural touches such as according the highest respect to the oldest person in the party – which might seem counter-intuitive when the most fluent English speaker is younger – is the kind of attention to detail which garners positive reviews on Chinese social media sites.
It’s easier for the Chinese to shop if they can pay
The Chinese don’t use Western credit cards and don’t want to carry large amounts of cash, so try to offer the most popular Chinese payment options: China Union Pay, Alipay and WeChat Wallet. These online payment platforms are ubiquitous in China and savvy overseas destinations and retailers, including Harrods and Body Shop in London, are reaping the rewards of early adoption.
Adapt to changing Chinese tourism trends
It’s not just one big group market. Independent travel is on the rise and self-drive, Airbnb and caravanning are seeing increasing take-up too. Chinese millennials are a force to be reckoned with and this group of digital natives, in particular, are self-assured and confident about making their own travel arrangements.
Make sure your website and destination information is available to the Chinese – and not just in straight translation but in formats, design and wording which meet Chinese needs. Destination websites should also be hosted in Hong Kong or mainland China so they can be viewed in China. Remember that Google is banned in China, so if your website is packed with Google features, such as Google maps, it won’t upload easily in China. These functions need to be stripped out.
Experiential travel is on the up for Chinese tourists, with heritage products and experiences finding favour for their novelty as well as their WOW factor for social media. Some of Washington State’s most popular products are rural experiences including fishing and spending time in nature, and visitors to Japan are shunning shopping in favour of hot springs and sand baths. What authentic heritage experiences and products can you highlight to the Chinese?
Make it easy for the Chinese to recommend you
Make WiFi as widely available as possible so that your Chinese visitors can share their experiences in real time on social media. And make sure you monitor and respond to comments on social media review sites such as Mafengwo and DaoDao. This will give you invaluable insight into what the Chinese like and don’t like about your destination and its hotels, attractions and restaurants.
Lobby for easy access to your country
Make visas easy to buy and widely available in China to individual travellers. Better still, make visas purchasable on arrival, or allow accredited tour companies to process visa applications in advance for group travellers. Precisely this change last year saw South Africa grow its Chinese visitors by +53%.
Introduce a multi-year, multiple entry visa. Australia is trailing a 10-year multiple entry visa for Chinese visitors as part of a package of China-Australia Tourism Year initiatives in 2017. Don’t get left behind; if it’s difficult for the Chinese to enter your country, lobby your government for easier access. The sheer size of the Chinese tourism opportunity is reason enough for more open entrance policies.
Don’t forget the Chinese who are already here
The Chinese value overseas education highly and, in particular, the USA and the UK. There are over 130,000 Chinese students studying in the UK, all of whom see this experience as an investment in their future and are keen to explore. They also have access to important social networks both in the UK and back home in China. To tap into these networks, China Travel Outbound has launched a new Student VIP Travel programme, making connections with the Presidents of the Chinese Student Societies of the UK’s universities and inviting these important influencers to experience our clients’ products.
Put Chinese-friendliness at the heart of your strategy
Don’t be half-hearted about attracting the Chinese market. It’s the biggest outbound tourism market in the world and it’s growing the fastest too. But you need to invest and be committed to get a return – and it requires special, expert attention from professionals with thorough knowledge of China and its travel market.
The rewards are considerable. By marketing differently to the Chinese, Las Vegas has grown a whole new audience of Chinese millennials not interested in casinos, benefiting other tourist attractions as Chinese visitors spend on dining, shopping and leisure activities instead. High-end Chinese tourists visiting Perth in Western Australia are spending up to AU$10,000 on a week’s luxury travel in the state.
Are you ready to start your journey to attract the Chinese to your destination?
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