Video interview: ‘Chinese PR tips with Vivienne Song’

Effective PR is essential in order to be successful in the outbound Chinese tourism market. 

Forming great working relationships with the Chinese media and Chinese KOLs is a complete game changer in terms of promoting a destination to the outbound Chinese tourist market. Both the Chinese media and KOLs have the power to connect with a wider Chinese audience in order to market a destination so that the appeal of that destination will grow significantly. 

But how do you really work with the Chinese media? And who are the main media outlets in China for travel?

In this video Vivienne Song, the Manager of our Beijing office, sits down to discuss some top tips on Chinese PR and working effectively with the Chinese travel media.  

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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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Five tips for establishing your museum in the Chinese tourism market

The Chinese love museums. Art galleries and historical exhibitions continue to grow in popularity for Chinese tourists seeking a more cultural and educational experience in their overseas travels. As a result, many international museums have established themselves on the itineraries of organised tour groups and FIT travellers. The Chinese market is one of the fastest growing tourism industries in the world, and asserting your museum’s brand in the orbit of Chinese tourists is fundamental for success in this valuable market.

So how do you go about increasing your museum’s presence in China?

Here are China Travel Outbound’s top five tips for promoting your museum to the Chinese traveller.

Find out what they’re saying about you

Any attraction worth its salt keeps a firm eye on its TripAdvisor review, however, that’s not going to mean too much in the Chinese market. Although there is a Chinese TripAdvisor, China has its own ecosystem of social media platforms and travel sites which you need to explore to find out what people are saying about your museum.

China’s review sites are extremely influential. C-TripMafengwo and Qyer are among the top three options with a collective unique monthly visitor rate of over 300,000,000! Mafengwo, in particular, is extremely influential with the FITs, and you need your museum to a) be listed as a Place of Interest and b) to be receiving some positive reviews on Mafengwo and its ilk. This is such a vital factor for Chinese promotion which many museums are missing out on; either with no profile on these sites or profiles with incorrect names, opening times, location information or very poor images. PR companies are able to audit these sites for you and make recommendations for improving your profiles and generating more reviews. At China Travel Outbound, we have good relationships with the platforms and are able to ask them to take down misleading imagery or incorrect information and replace it. It is not in the interest of the sites to be inaccurate, so they are happy to work with us, although there are certain verifications we have to go through. 

Once you’ve got your listing looking great, you can get to work on building those positive reviews.

Find the influencers

Chinese Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) are exceptionally important in a country where people have a collective culture and like to follow trends and advice from those they trust.

A visit from the right KOL, even to the smallest museum, can change its fortunes.

If your museum piques the interest of one of these influencers, you may end up with coverage and recommendations for your museum to their fan base which can sometimes reach into the millions! 

KOL coverage comes in various forms. The more common is a blog about the KOL’s personal trip experiences. However, Chinese influencers don’t run their own websites. They post their blogs on third party platforms (such as Mafengwo, CTrip and Qyer) and the blogs run to several thousand words and contain many professionally shot images. What is also important is that the website itself will be offering the reader the opportunity to book tickets for the trip alongside the blog. So your coverage is supported by a direct distribution channel.

KOLs also post about their experiences on personal Chinese social media, for example, on Weibo and WeChat. These posts tend to be more immediate, although it is not unusual for a KOL to spend some time manipulating the images to make sure the posts are beautifully constructed to show your museum in its best light.

Livestreams – Occasionally, influencers will livestream their visit to your museum with viewership levels that can hold hundreds of thousands of users. Livestreams allow audiences to experience your museum as close to first-hand as possible when living on the other side of the world. Influencers can interact directly with their audience, discuss and outline the various attractions of your museum and offer their immediate impressions and recommendations while still onsite. The authenticity of livestreaming appeals greatly to a population subjected to so many copies and fake products.

Get social

Museums with a commitment to the Chinese market should definitely consider investing in their own social media platform. Weibo and WeChat are the most popular choices. A recent survey found that Weibo had the strongest influence in the trip planning of FIT millennial travellers. WeChat is another of the largest social platforms in China and one which already sees many international museums’ profiles well established on the site. Check out JingTravel’s museum index to gain an insight into which museums have most effectively capitalised on the exposure provided by a WeChat profile. 

For more information about WeChat and Weibo, please read our article.

Remember the Chinese Travel Trade

The lion’s share of Chinese bookings comes via the Travel Trade. If your museum is large and well established in the market, you may want to consider working directly with the Chinese travel trade and signing contracts directly with operators. Alternatively, you may wish to work via Destination Management Companies (DMCs) based in your own country. Either way, you are going to need to promote your museum to the Chinese travel trade to encourage them to accept its inclusion within itineraries, or to push it themselves to their customers. 

You can approach this in a number of ways. Going out to China on a sales mission to meet operators is effective for finding a few key contacts to build on. Attending trade shows can also work but you’ll need to go frequently and build relationships as it is quite hard to get stand out, unless your brand is already a very famous one. However, whatever you do, you need to carefully consider your long term strategy, as building relationships in China takes a long time and a lot of effort. A more effective and sustainable approach is to work with a representative based in China to help you deliver your messages, train agents about your museum, and follow up on all meetings to ensure points have been actioned. 

With itineraries tailored to families, students, business large groups and many more; positioning your museum strongly within the Travel Trade could be the most effective way to boost inbound Chinese tourism in the direction of your business.

The number of Chinese tourists visiting the UK has never been higher so now is the time to work on ensuring your museum is featured on itineraries. Don’t be dismayed, however, if you are just one of the options listed for, say, a free afternoon in London. That in itself can deliver profile. And once your museum starts to be listed by one Chinese operator, the others will start to take you seriously. Remember, copying is a fundamental aspect of Chinese business! 

Open your museum shop on Tmall

Once you have followed the previous three steps and are more established in the Chinese market, another way to increase exposure and generate profit is to offer some of your products online. The Chinese have a lot of interest in these kinds of high quality museum-branded products and making these items available yields great potential for success; as the British Museum had discovered when doing exactly that and continues to do so to this day.

Sites such as Tmall and Taobao would be recommended to offer this service and it provides yet another means of cementing your position in the Chinese tourism market, as it increases brand awareness and draws more traffic to your travel and social platforms.

China Travel Outbound is experienced in working with European museums and we can help promote your museum to the Chinese. If you would like to find out more about how Chinese representation, marketing and PR can help you promote your museum brand to the Chinese market, please get in touch with us for a chat.

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Bob and Jonny’s culinary adventure with LNER

Chinese KOL standing with a chef

CTO has been hard at work organising an array of media trips for Chinese journalists, travel bloggers and online influencers. These trips deliver valuable promotion for our clients in some of the most powerful Chinese travel platforms, such as Mafengwo, Qyer and C Trip, and content is widely shared through social media channels such as WeChat and Weibo. This summer, we have explored a slightly different angle for LNER, to promote their exciting on-board menus and the gastronomic delights of London, York, Edinburgh and Moray Speyside in collaboration with popular Chinese ‘foodies’, Bob and Jonny.

Bob and Johnny on LNER train

Bob & Jonny are food, restaurant and hotel reviewers. They have profiles on most of the travel review sites and social media platforms in China and have more than 750,000 combined followers on WeChat and Weibo. With Jonny’s photographic skills and Bob’s in-depth culinary analysis, they are a perfect team, producing high quality, professional content and social posts. A positive review from these two would work wonders for a company investing in the Chinese market. Their target audience are young, middle class individuals who love travelling and trying diverse, international dishes.

KOL Bob visiting the UK

Starting from London, the two bloggers have made the journey all the way up to Scotland, frequently stopping at points of interest along the route and documenting their activities as they go. Some of their stops include: Bottomless brunches in London, Chocolate stories and fine dining in York, Distillery tours and whiskey sampling in Moray Speyside, wandering through the V&A museum in Dundee and returning to London for scrumptious afternoon tea at Royal Museums of Greenwich’s Cutty Sark, one of London’s top historic landmarks, and an educational insight into the Houses of Parliament.

Royal Museum Greenwich Cutty Sark

If you would like to find out more about reaching out to Chinese bloggers and influencers. Please get in touch and we’ll be happy to discuss this with you further.

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*Images from Bob and Jonny’s Weibo account


Why are the Chinese going Nordic?

Norway, china, tourism, nordic, PR

Why the Nordic region?

From the fresh air, fjords and fish platters to the endless summer days and early winter nights; this intriguing northern culture continues to entice Chinese travellers from all over the country to satiate their curiosities and embrace the welcome culture shock that awaits them in the land of the Vikings.

Although Scandinavia may not currently sit at pole position on their general holiday wish list, the number of Chinese tourists flocking to the wintery north is on the rise. According to Ctrip, China’s number 1 travel booking agency, the number of Chinese tourists who booked trips to Nordic countries through its website soared by 82 pct in 2018. Naturally, due to its colder climate, Northern Europe will experience its high season between May and September when the weather is warmer. However, this is not to say that winter is an unpopular season, as many Chinese tourists visit at this time to experience the snow, the skiing and of course, the breath-taking Aurora Borealis (Northern lights).

This escalation of Chinese attention hasn’t gone unnoticed in the Nordic lands as the Scandinavian peninsula recognises the prosperity that the Chinese market would bring. Recently, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden jointly kicked off a tourism campaign to offer more distinctive travel experiences to Chinese visitors. They’ve collectively invested time and resources into discovering how to cater to the Chinese tourist and develop and formulate more appetizing and accessible travel experiences to this prosperous market. This is a tactic that is evidently paying off.

In this blog series, we will investigate each of the five Nordic countries, some of their most popular tourist destinations and consider what makes them so desirable to the Chinese tourist.

Velkommen til Norge!

Image of a small Nordic village backed by a mountain range

As one of the three member countries collectively referred to as ‘Scandinavia’, Norway charmingly merges elegant, urban modernity with its rustic, rural culture. The country boasts a sparkling winter wonder with its diverse, emphatic landscape whose lengthy terrain reaches far into the Arctic circle.

As more of Europe is opening up for China, Norway is now more accessible for Chinese tourists than it has ever been before. Not only does China have an efficient transit to the country through Helsinki, but now Hainan airlines has made available a direct flight route between Beijing and Oslo, the first direct route between the two countries.

The Chinese marvel at how the awe-inspiring scenery fits synonymously with a local culture that is filled to the brim with history and tradition; a culture which owes much to the landscape it originates from. Norway is certainly not lacking on reasons for its touristic appeal; whether it’s to bear witness to a natural environment which seems almost fictional with its beauty, to experiencing the modernised food, shopping and efficiency that Scandinavians are so proud of, or even to visit the sites of the many films that were shot or based there, such as Disney’s Frozenthe highest grossing animated film of all time and one which brought in just under $50,000,000 in its first year in China. 

Whatever the reason for visiting, inbound tourism is unquestionably on the rise for the Norwegians and in recent times, the Chinese have found themselves on the growing list of countries exporting thousands of travellers there each year. According to Bente Bratland Holm, travel director for ‘Innovation Norge’, “The Asian market is growing the most… Norway now has the most overnight stays by Chinese tourists in Scandinavia.”

Norway clearly has a wide variety of cities and sites that draw in a large number of visitors each year, so let’s have a look at five of Chinese tourists’ favourite Norwegian locations and reflect on what each one offers that makes them such must-see destinations.

Five of Norway’s top tourist destinations

5. Lofoten

Icy mountains over a frozen lake

Whenever you see an aesthetic poster or wallpaper of the magical, endless Norwegian fjords and mountains, wondering whether such a mysterious and ethereal environment could possibly exist … there’s a very strong likelihood that that photograph was taken somewhere on the Lofoten islands. 

Lofoten may not necessarily be the biggest hub for tourism in Norway, it is certainly accessible and the Chinese travellers who do make the northern trip to the islands will be incontestably glad that they did. Most tourists will opt for the aerial route due to its speed and convenience; flights will typically connect through Oslo to either Bodø or Svolvær airports and will need a subsequent, short transfer over to the islands. Many other Chinese tourists may prefer a longer and more scenic route and the marathon train journey between Oslo and Bodø rewards the traveller with a window view of all the sights and sounds that the Norwegian terrain has to offer. Despite its more remote location, tourists of the world are still willing to spend the extra time and money to pay this wonderland a visit and the Chinese are no exception to this. 

So how can the Lofoten islands cater to the Chinese tourist industry? Contrast to its relatively small population, Lofoten provides a hugely diverse range of activities and experiences that interlace wonderfully with its environment. The islands are filled with local fishing villages that allow tourists the opportunity to venture out onto their own fishing expeditions as well as producing some of the freshest seafood dishes in the country. Those looking for a more educational visit will appreciate the historic background of the islands and will surely visit the Lofotr Viking Museum and other Viking exhibitions; the Chinese love museums so this will be a key tourist hub for Lofoten. For the more adventurous traveller, the Chinese tourist will seek the many tours on offer, ranging from kayaking or horseback riding down the fjords or hiking trips through the mountains to bathe in the summer’s midnight sun or be awestruck by winter’s northern lights.

The Chinese tourist market is vast and expansive, naturally this results in many different travellers with many different tastes. Lofoten has made sure it will always have exciting adventures available for whoever visits its islands.

4. Geirangerfjord

River down a steep valley

With its long, winding river path sandwiched between the imposing, vertical cliff faces that may have been carved out by the Aesir themselves; The Geirangerfjord sees countless Chinese adventurers sailing down its banks each year. Featuring tours, caves, hikes, hill tribes and a commitment to cultural and environmental preservation; Geirangerfjord has truly earned its place as a UNESCO world heritage site.

There are two primary means in which Chinese tourists come to visit this world-famous fjord. Frequent flights operate to Ålesund airport followed by a transfer to Geiranger, along with trains departing from both Oslo and Trondheim bound for Åndalsnes and connections to either Ålesund or Geiranger. The most popular option of travel, however, is by sea. Many cruise operators take tourists up to and into the fjords in the summer months, transforming the transportation element into the destination itself.

The Chinese love cruises, in fact, China is facing the potential to become the largest cruise market in the world. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that cruise liners are the most favourable method of exploring this Asgardian landscape. Cruises allow tourists to leisurely drift down the stream of the fjord, entirely immersed in the natural marvel that surrounds them on all sides. Additionally, cruises make numerous stops at various key sites and villages, encouraging tourists to step out and discover the local crafts, trade and cuisine. With such a keen love of photography and foreign culture, the Chinese will feel particularly enriched by this element of the fjords

Outside of cruising, the area of Geiranger provides travellers with an abundance of methods of experiencing the fjord’s beauty. From hikes, bike rides, picnics, kayaking and camping; Geirangerfjord maintains its capacity to cater to all shapes and forms of Chinese tourism and its diverse demands, now it just needs the right promotion in China to continue to do this.

3. Tromsø

Icy city in a valley

Welcome to the Arctic circle. Tromsø is one of only a few large cities that sit within this polar region and notwithstanding its typically icy temperatures, it still manages to draw in a considerable level of inbound Chinese tourism each year. Tromsø doesn’t suffer from its arctic location; actually, it owes a lot of its touristic success to it, with many travellers looking to experience more sights and sounds that are off the beaten path in such a polar environment mixed with having access to the facilities and amenities one would expect from a modern and well-developed city.

Along with the arctic circle, Tromsø also falls within the cultural region of Sápmi, a territory that encompasses northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Sápmi is home to the Sámis; a traditional, remote people specialising in coastal fishing, fur trapping, sheep herding and most significantly, reindeer herding. The Sámis offer a deep insight and education into a whole new, foreign way of life and are a considerable factor in bringing culture-hungry tourists to Tromsø.

As one of Norway’s biggest cities, tourists will have no difficulty in making the journey up to Tromsø. There are many domestic flights to Tromsø airport each day, though flying internationally from China, travellers will typically have a transfer at Oslo before heading up. Several popular Scandinavian cruise tours will make stops at Tromsø, again giving Chinese holidaymakers a (somewhat brief) opportunity to meander through this snowy metropolis and contribute keenly to the city’s tourist income.

There is an abundance of options for new arrivals to Tromsø to pick from when it comes to tours, shopping and entertainment; though the number one activity on most people’s bucket list is to chase the Aurora Borealis. Tromsø is one of the best locations to see the Northern lights in the country and the locals know this; offering a plethora of different tours and guided routes to tourists and recognising the prosperity and profits that the Chinese market could bring them with the right targeted promotion.

Snowshoeing, dog sledding, fishing, whale watching and arctic buggy riding will also be on the peripherals of the adventurous traveller, while others may prefer the slower pace of the arctic museums, a warm drink at a kaffebutikk (coffee shop) or a visit to the extra-terrestrial looking Arctic Cathedral standing proud to the east of the city. 

The tourist infrastructure is definitely in place in Tromsø, therefore bringing in a further flux of Chinese tourism will continue to benefit the city long into the future.  

2. Bergen

Bayside village

Known as the ‘gateway to the fjords’, Norway’s second largest city is one of the most culturally diverse in the country. As a UNESCO world heritage city, Bergen acts as the meeting point of the new ways and the old and while it is large in scope, Chinese visitors will still find themselves succumbing to the small-town atmosphere and charm that the city emits. Tourists appreciate the blending of Oslo’s modernity with the historic value that one would expect from more rural locations, ensuring that all who step foot within the city of the seven mountains, young or old, active or laid-back, will find themselves at home in Bergen.

Having already referred to China’s love for cruises and tours, Bergen’s nickname does well to open itself to the Chinese market. A bounty of tours and voyages will set sail from the port and float down one of the many branching fjords nearby. Travellers also opt for the local-based tours that allow the pulsating colours of Bergen’s architecture to be taken in from the seas. Tours are not limited to the water and Ctrip (or Trip.com) offers a variety of walking tours to get up close and personal with some of Bergen’s top sites. 

China experiences a vast amount of inbound tourism searching for culinary exploration and foreign tastes, something which is mirrored by its outbound tourism too. Chinese ‘foodies’ will fail to miss the warm allure of the fresh Norwegian pastries lining the shelves of the local bakeries or the pungent musk of the stockfish, the traditional unsalted cod hanging from wooden racks and drying in the cold, Nordic air. Tourists love to book themselves onto food tours in which sightseeing, and food sampling are conveniently rolled into one.

The Chinese also love a photo opportunity and the mountains that encase the city provides a golden opportunity to do this. The cable cars running up the mountainside take tourists to a wonderous aerial location which perfectly frames all of Bergen’s best features into one image; an image that will likely find its way onto a Weibo post to induce envy onto all who see it.

1. Oslo

Oslo opera house

A nation’s capital should always be one of its most prized possessions. Oslo connects Norway to the rest of the world and connects the rest of the world to Norway. Wherever the final destination maybe be, there is a near certainty that a Chinese tourist visiting Norway will end up in Oslo at some point of their trip, subsequently meaning that the capital receives the most inbound tourism from China in the country each year.

Ease of access isn’t the only factor attributed to Oslo’s popularity; the city embodies everything one associates with Scandinavian elegance, design and progressiveness. Modern Norwegian and Nordic architecture is an area of fascination for the Chinese, in fact, they love it so much that they’ve recruited the Norwegian group, Snøhetta, the company behind the Oslo Opera House, to blueprint the designs for the Shanghai Grand opera house in China. Every element of the city centre has been intricately crafted and outlined to cater to visitors and locals alike. Oslo regards itself as a walking city, something which is favourable among Chinese tourists, though a frequent and convenient transportation network is also available for those in a rush and willing to spend a bit extra.

There aren’t many cities in Europe where you can thrive within a metropolitan hamper of museums, international food markets and high-class shopping brands in the morning and take a short train ride to the mountains for skiing and hiking in the afternoon. Oslo will never be short on options with regards to tourism and the city is the epicentre of Norway’s modern culture, something which the patriotic locals are always willing to demonstrate to visitors. Many of China’s favourite holiday pastimes can all be found in Oslo, meaning the capital could potentially stand to gain the most from establishing itself on popular Chinese travel sites.

Oslo benefits from being an all year destination; that is to say that the capital’s appeal is just as prominent in the winter as it is in summer. Its ‘low-season’ is far from being considered a low season. Such a consistent level of inbound tourism combined with the right promotion to the surging Chinese market will only continue to propel Oslo’s rapid development even further in the years to come.

Find out more:

Norway is certainly a hotbed for touristic attraction and has one of the highest potentials for expansion into the China market in Europe. If you would like to see how PR and promotion on Chinese platforms can boost tourism for your brand, please find our contact details here: https://www.chinatraveloutbound.com/contact/

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to look out for the next blog in the series: Why are the Chinese going Nordic? – Part 2: Finland (Coming soon)

Why not check out some of our other articles related to Chinese tourism?

Bon Voyage! Chinese tourists are setting sailhttps://www.chinatraveloutbound.com/chinese-tourists-are-setting-sail/

How do Chinese tourists choose their hotels?https://www.chinatraveloutbound.com/how-do-chinese-tourists-choose-their-hotels/

Top 7 Apps Chinese Outbound Tourists Use Overseas – Part 2: Discoveryhttps://www.chinatraveloutbound.com/top-7-apps-chinese-outbound-tourists-use-overseas-part-2/

Martinhal collaborates with Tribe Organic for ‘Children’s day’ event

Children’s Day’ is an annual holiday in China, as well as many other countries, celebrated on June 1st. While there are no specific traditions to be followed regarding the holiday, it is typically accepted as being a day for parents to spend time with their children and reflect on the impact they have on their lives; it is a day for ‘family time’. Many companies will award their staff a full or half day off in order to allow this unofficial custom to be followed, promoting positive mindfulness of loving, family relationships.

Commercial businesses also have the opportunity for involvement in the holiday, with numerous public services and tourist attractions allowing free admission to families and other companies holding specific ‘children’ themed events.

This was a perfect chance for Martinhal, a hotel chain based in Portugal who excel in ‘family-friendly’ holiday experiences, to express itself further in the Chinese market through its involvement in the holiday. With the help of China Travel Outbound’s Beijing office, Martinhal was able to collaborate with Tribe Organic, a Mediterranean-themed restaurant chain in Beijing and Shanghai, to establish a ‘Children’s day’ event to benefit all who were involved.

On the day of the celebration, Tribe held a child-friendly promotion at one of their restaurants which attracted a large quantity of families through the doors to enjoy a variety of games and activities. This allowed CTO to distribute information and summer offers from the Martinhal brand as a more efficient means of targeted marketing. The main attraction of the day was the raffle held in which certain families could win vouchers for a stay at one of Martinhal’s hotels in Portugal.

The event overall was an excellent demonstration of Martinhal’s good will and helped put the name of the brand in more mouths of potential Chinese tourists.


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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

How do Chinese tourists choose their hotels?

145 million Chinese tourists travelled overseas last year, but how did they make their hotel or accommodation choices?

The Chinese are quite cautious when selecting accommodation for their next overseas trip. Security is a top priority, and they also want to feel comfortable and welcomed in the accommodation they choose. Services like Mandarin staff, Chinese-language hotel information booklets and restaurant menus, and accepting Chinese payment apps go a long way to helping achieve this.

However, the Chinese hotel experience has evolved in the past few years, with increasingly more Chinese tourists choosing to stay in apartments or homestays rather than high-end hotels. Many high-end or luxury hotels are fighting back this trend by improving their hotel’s ‘China Welcome’ and image of offering of ‘a home away from home’ for Chinese tourists.

This article seeks to identify how hotels are adapting to the changing needs of Chinese overseas tourists, why different kinds of accommodation are popular among different demographics, and the importance of websites and applications Chinese tourists use to book their accommodation in informing their decisions.

Homestays provide a more authentic travel experience

The rising popularity of room and apartment rental booking platforms such as Airbnb and Xiaozhu in China have transformed the landscape of online accommodation booking. According to Nielsen’s 2017 Outbound Chinese Tourism and Consumption Trends Report, 53% of China’s post-90s generation tourists favour homestays, inns, and guesthouses over hotels due to their eagerness to throw themselves into unique and authentic experiences. For some destinations, these accomodation types have become their preferred choice — this is the case with Japan where 64% of Chinese tourists choose to stay in homestays.

Similar findings were exposed in Hotels.com’s recent Chinese International Travel Monitor, which published the results of interviews with over 3,000 Chinese residents, aged between 18 and 58, who travelled abroad between May 2017 and May 2018. The report found that throughout this period, 55% of travellers stayed at independent hotels compared to 49% who opted for international hotel chains, and 33% chose boutique hotels. Furthermore, 56% of travellers cited “living in atypical accommodation” as a great travel experience, which demonstrates that not only is their accommodation choice a significant part of their travel itinerary, but they see independent hotels as providing a gateway into what makes the destination unique and exciting to visit.

Chinese tourists value the security of staying with a recognisable hotel brand

This isn’t to say Chinese tourists disregard hotels entirely; in fact, many choose to stay at international hotel chains due to their universal standards and reliability. International hotel chains uphold a quality of service that is (usually) replicated by all of their hotels worldwide, so Chinese tourists not only know exactly what they’re paying for, but see their services as specifically catering to overseas travellers.

Hyatt, in particular, has caught a whiff of this as it plans to double-down on its presence in China by introducing 60 hotels and 22,000 more rooms in the next four years. This is presumably in the hopes that the Hyatt brand will become more familiar in the Chinese market and thus tourists will choose to stay with them over a lesser-known hotel.

Furthermore, some hotels brands have partnered with influential Chinese travel platforms to help with their brand promotion. Radisson Hotel Group and Ctrip announced a strategic partnership in October that aims to expand the hotel group’s properties to more destinations and to help develop China as the group’s key source market.

Following suit is NUO, a home-grown Chinese hotel brand that hopes to expand its locally recognisable hotels globally into cities including Rome, New York and London. NUO’s Director of Marketing Communications, Cindy Zhu, claims the company’s goal is to expand into “each major city around the world” to comfortably accommodate Chinese national leaders on overseas visits.

These points show the importance of making your hotel brand more recognisable in China, to demonstrate your commitment to providing a good ‘China Welcome’ and willingness to accommodate Chinese guests.

Acknowledge the differences in how Chinese guests interact with hotels

While many of us may just search for the best and most affordable places to stay in our chosen destination, there’s a lot more that Chinese tourists take into account when selecting their accommodation.

In speaking about how hotels can improve their communication with potential Chinese customers, Yearth Alliance founder and CEO, Joseph Xia, said due to Chinese guests’ reliance on technology and information easily accessible from their mobile device, the “digitisation of hotel’s content, promotions, [and] payment method would help guests save their time” when booking accommodation. This digisation is important to consider as, if given the option, over 90% of Chinese outbound tourists would use mobile payments overseas. By introducing mobile payments alone, your hotel will put it on the map to the large section of Chinese tourists who base their travel decisions on whether their destination of choice accepts these payment methods.

Marriott International is a huge player who seems to have acknowledged the benefits of digitising their content as, this June, they readied 1,500 of their hotels worldwide to begin accepting Alipay mobile payments. This coincided the brand’s redesigned storefront on the Chinese travel platform Fliggy (owned by Alibaba, same as Alipay) to showcase to Chinese travellers their 6,000 hotels across 30 global brands in a user-friendly and accessible manner. The global hotel brand also employs Mandarin-speaking staff and offers a range of tailored services to Chinese tourists as part of its “Li Yu” initiative to welcome them in open arms.

KOLs are key

Marketing your accommodation brand through Chinese travel KOLs is a fantastic way to increase your exposure on China’s premier travel review platforms. China’s most popular KOLs have built fanbases of millions of followers through their credibility in providing top-quality and trustworthy travel recommendations. Demonstrating that your hotel comfortably accommodates the savviest of Chinese travellers can result in extremely valuable promotion in the China market.

We have worked with a number of accommodation providers on Chinese KOL and media trips who recognise their value and have facilitated their stay with complimentary rooms, in return for exposure in travelogues published on platforms such as Mafengwo, Qyer and Ctrip. Native Places, who offer long and short stay serviced apartments in London and other UK cities, have worked with us on a number of trips, and the KOLs and media have detailed how personal and homely their spaces feel. Likewise, The Grand in York, the city’s most luxurious hotel, has successfully hosted a number of high-profile KOLs and media FAM trips over the years, showing their commitment to providing a positive ‘China Welcome’.

Independent hotels have a big opportunity

So, what about luxury independent hotels? Do they have a chance in this market? The answer is certainly yes.

If you combine the Chinese tourists’ quest for luxury with their quest for authenticity, the opportunities for success are huge. This is particularly true where hotels cater well for affluent, multi-generational Chinese families, travelling independently and seeking comfort for grandparents and new experiences for treasured children.

Admittedly, independent hotels are unlikely to have access to the marketing funds of a Marriott or Hilton, but a strong presence on China’s major review sites, press coverage, hosting KOLs and media, a WeChat or Weibo account, and engaging with the Chinese travel trade will all go a long way in attracting Chinese guests.

Where does this leave us?

Your Chinese guests have vastly different expectations and needs to your Western guests, so your accommodation brand will need to make the extra effort to show that you’re ‘China Ready’. The importance of introducing mobile payments, Mandarin-language services and hosting KOLs cannot be understated, but also making sure the Chinese market recognises your efforts in accommodating Chinese guests is paramount. As such, digitising your content especially for Chinese tourists, and ensuring you have active presence on China’s review site platforms, will help keep you in the minds of Chinese tourists when they plan their next trip abroad.

If you are interested in the benefits of attracting more Chinese visitors, please contact us for a chat.

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This will be our last article for 2018, so from all of us at China Travel Outbound’s Brighton and Beijing offices, thank you very much for reading and we hope you have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!