Royal Museums Greenwich appoints China Travel Outbound to handle Chinese promotional campaign

Following a competitive pitch, Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG) has appointed specialist Chinese travel PR and representation agency, China Travel Outbound, to deliver its first ever promotional programme in China.

Chinese tourists already account for 4% of visits to the Royal Observatory, making China one of the key international markets for the museum. China Travel Outbound has been tasked with driving significant growth in Chinese visitors to the Royal Observatory and with developing stories and key selling points to build Chinese visitation to the other three museums within RMG; the National Maritime Museum, the Queen’s House and the Cutty Sark.

The Chinese campaign will include a sales mission to visit key Chinese travel agents and tour operators, trade communications, and a Public Relations campaign in mainland China. Promotional literature and visitor information will also be translated into Mandarin Chinese.

Helena Beard, Managing Director, China Travel Outbound, said,

The Royal Museums of Greenwich are prestigious London attractions and we are delighted to be working with these world-famous brands. With the right promotional support, we believe there is a great opportunity for RMG to grow its Chinese visitor figures significantly across the museum portfolio.’

Amy O’Donovan, Travel Trade Marketing Manager, Royal Museums Greenwich said,

‘We were looking for an agency with the skills, experience and contacts to help us enter this complicated market. China Travel Outbound fully understood our needs and offered an insight-driven, realistic and sustainable plan of work which we can put into action simply and immediately.’

For further information about China Travel Outbound, please visit www.chinatraveloutbound.com

For further information about Royal Museums Greenwich, please visit www.rmg.co.uk

 

5 ways to attract more Chinese shoppers

Recent research showed that the Chinese make up one third of all global tax-free shopping spend, and the Chinese tourist’s average holiday spending budget is ¥16.702 (£1,900). These figures once again remind travel and tourism businesses that the Chinese constitute an extremely lucrative market for retail. And it’s also a market which is predicted to grow to 200 million by 2020.

In 2014 the total overseas spend by Chinese tourists was over ¥1 trillion (£100 billion). The key factors driving Chinese overseas purchases, which we looked at in Part 1 of this blog, are a history of fakes and poor quality goods, a limited range and much higher prices. This trend shows no signs of slowing. Here’s the 5 ways to make your how retail offering Chinese-friendly and attract this cash-splashing segment.

Make sure you’re big in Beijing (and Shanghai, and Chengdu, and Guangzhou …)

81% of all Chinese overseas tourists plan to shop in their destination and they’re researching their options before they travel, so it’s essential to promote your brand in China. There are various routes to attracting the interest of Chinese tourists before departure, and they’re best used in combination to maximise your impact. PR to key consumer and trade media is essential, and inviting bloggers to visit can garner good coverage too.

Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and celebrities are very influential in China and an endorsement, or ideally a visit, can place your offering into the social media streams of millions of Chinese. And choosing the right KOL is essential. While The Plough at Cadsden in Buckinghamshire can hardly find space for its Chinese visitors thanks to President Li Xinping and David Cameron’s beer and fish & chips pitstop last year, most brands are going to have to work a lot harder to raise their profile in China. The rise of internet celebrities such as Ling Ling, who by some accounts earns more than top Chinese actor Fan Bingbing, is just one aspect of a complex market for the unaware. There are even internet celebrity incubators. A specialist agency is vital to identify the KOL who will fit your brand and appeal to your target market; we knew Chinese rock band Miserable Faith were the right celebrities to promote our client Hard Rock Cafe – a simple lunch resulted in postings on Weibo which reached over 3 million.

So make sure you’ve done extensive research – or work with an expert agency – to find the right celebrity or KOL for your brand, use PR to consumer and trade media, and cultivate relevant Chinese bloggers.

Cash isn’t king

The Chinese don’t have access to Visa and Mastercard credit cards and have tended to pay in cash overseas – a natural spend inhibitor given concerns about the safety of carrying too much money in a foreign land. Hence the need for merchants to accept payment by China Union Pay, the bank card most widely used by the Chinese, is well-established. If you want to be included on a Chinese itinerary, you really ought to accept China Union Pay; Harrods has over 100 Union Pay terminals throughout the store.

The need to accept Union Pay is so well-established, in fact, that the world of Chinese payments is moving on. 99% of all Chinese online shoppers use mobile payment apps. In China these days even small retailers such as food stalls accept payment by mobile app. And Chinese outbound tourists increasingly wish to use the same payment methods overseas as they do at home.

The spread of Alibaba’s payments platform Alipay into Europe is designed to do just that; allow Chinese tourists to pay overseas using a familiar payment method. Alipay is increasingly available at European airports, luxury retailers and other places with high visitation by Chinese tourists. Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) recently signed a global partnership deal to accept payment by Alipay at all its hotels and through all digital and offline channels – not surprising when you realise that China is now IHG’s 2nd largest market globally. WeChat Pay is smaller than Alipay but still widely-trusted and used, and both payment channels are already spreading into Japan.

So make payment easy for the Chinese by accepting China Union Pay, and if you’re a big retail outlet, think about Alipay and WeChat Pay too. Making this change could give you a valuable return. The first US shopping complex to accept China Union Pay soon became the site of Union Pay’s single largest transaction ever. Which was a 6 figure sum.

Welcome the Chinese in Chinese

Making the Chinese feel welcome could bring great rewards. If your destination or tourist attraction is Chinese-friendly, it’s far more likely to feature in a group itinerary, make it into the Chinese media, or appear in an independent traveller’s plans. Communications and signage in Chinese and a dual language website – not just translated but localised so it makes cultural sense to the Chinese – will all contribute to raising brand awareness and making Chinese visitors feel welcome. And Mandarin onsite signage is vital for that all-important selfie.

Cultural training will help your onsite team welcome the Chinese and help them make the most of their visit. One of our services, GREAT China Welcome training, backed by Visit Britain, takes just one day and will equip your team to better serve the Chinese, even if becoming fluent in Mandarin takes just a little bit longer. Could you answer a question in Mandarin? If the answer is no, consider having a few key points about your most expensive items available to read in Mandarin. That could clinch a sale which would otherwise walk away to the next store.

Get yourself onto Chinese group itineraries

Legend has it that there was once a time when Chinese tour guides could be encouraged to visit particular places on receipt of a small monetary reward. No more. President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption crackdown has reached into tourism and legitimate methods are required to get your offering onto Chinese group itineraries. And sadly this is not just a matter of meeting a few Chinese tour operators, liaising by email, agreeing rates et voilà, behold the arrival of many Chinese tour groups.

China’s time-honoured social hierarchy and cultural norms around trust impede speedy relationship-building. The Chinese favour long-term connections and these can’t be developed over just a couple of meetings. Expect to undertake repeated visits to meet your prospective partners or work with a local intermediary who can use their established connections to benefit your business. And don’t forget that ‘yes’ can mean ‘no’. British-Chinese cultural differences are multiple and challenging.

Tailor your brands to the Chinese

Chinese tourists are still eager to snap up luxury fashion in the form of clothes, handbags, sunglasses, watches and jewellery.

Bicester Village’s mix of designer and mid-market shops has proved a hit with the Chinese for whom it is reputedly the 2nd most visited destination in the UK after Buckingham Palace. A mix of high-end designer shops and mid-market brands is a great combination. And there’s a growing segment of Chinese visitors keen to seek out more quirky or original fashion too. New shopping app New Arrival is designed to bring independent overseas designers to the attention of Chinese fashionistas, highlighting shops in popular city destinations within and outside China as well as facilitating in-app purchases. Millennials in particular are making more self-focused decisions than older generations, opening up opportunities for the right smaller or niche brands.

Cosmetics and skincare, cheaper than in China and perfectly portable, are also a popular purchase for Chinese tourists in the UK. Gift purchases are common too, so consider offering bulk discounts and having traditional Chinese red gift envelopes available.

And make sure you offer heritage and quintessentially British and regional goods too. Tell the story of the brand and focus on its heritage, authenticity and quality to boost its appeal to Chinese tourists. For example, traditionally Scottish products such as tartan, whisky and cashmere are popular with Chinese tourists in Edinburgh. For authenticity’s sake, products should ideally be stamped Made in the UK – and certainly not Made in China.

Are you doing enough to attract Chinese shoppers?

So – are you doing enough to get your share of Chinese shoppers’ holiday spending? Are you promoting your offering in China; accepting China Union Pay; welcoming the Chinese in Mandarin; building relationships with the Chinese travel trade; and tailoring your retail offering to Chinese tourists? It might seem like a lot of work but it’s worth it; the Chinese are now in the top 10 inbound markets to the UK by value and their total visits to the UK were up +46% yr/yr to 2015.

To find out more about how you can make your retail outlet more attractive to the Chinese, contact us now for a no obligation chat.

For more news and views on the Chinese tourism scene, please read our other articles and sign up below to receive our newsletters.

 

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Hard Rock Cafe appoints China Travel Outbound

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We are delighted to announce that Hard Rock Cafe has appointed us to represent the brand in the Chinese travel market. We will be promoting the global franchise to Chinese tour operators, travel agents, OTAs and the Chinese travel media.

Work on the account has already started. Our Chinese team attended IT&CM China (Incentives, Travel & Conventions, Meetings) last month in Shanghai with the Hard Rock team. IT&CM is the leading international MICE event in China and includes a MICE exhibition, destination presentations, networking opportunities and business appointments. We held 24 business meetings and will be building further on these relationships in the coming months.

We look forward to many more successful shows, meetings and media campaigns with Hard Rock Cafe in the future.

Free market consultations for applicants to the Discover England Fund

 

China Travel Outbound is offering FREE market consultations to destinations and tourism businesses planning to apply for financing through the recently-opened Discover England Fund.  The 3-year, £40 million fund seeks to finance initiatives which will deliver bookable product that appeals to international visitors.  To help access the Chinese outbound market, predicted to total 220 million by 2025, China Travel Outbound will give you a free bespoke consultation to aid your bid.

We’ll take you through research opportunities to understand the Chinese market, the travel industry landscape and Chinese consumers, from group to independent travellers and from familes to millenials.  We will share our approach to product testing and validation and we can help you put together a Chinese marketing and/or digital development plan to support your application.

The Discover England fund is designed to support the growth of inbound tourism, one of England’s most successful export industries.  In Year One the fund’s focus is upon “quick-win projects and pilots that meet customer demand and test new product or new ways of joining up and distributing existing product” and “research to build understanding of customers, markets and product gaps”. This is a great opportunity to gain your share of the enormous Chinese market while first-mover advantage is (just) still possible.

Free consultations are subject to availability and spaces are limited.  As soon as you have decided to apply for funding, please get in touch by emailing [email protected]. Consultations will be through conference facilitated telephone calls lasting up to 30 minutes.

Find out more about the Discover England Fund Criteria and process for application here. The first round of consideration of bids starts from 31 May 16 and Visit Britain is encouraging applicants to submit bids as soon as possible.

Funding of up to £250,000 is available for 10-15 applicants with projects which can be delivered by 31 March 2017. Expressions of interest for longer term projects will be sought between July and October 2016.

Good luck!

 

Photographic credit : John Stee

China Travel Outbound wins prestigious business award for entrepreneurship

We are ecstatic to share that, last night, China Travel Outbound scooped first prize in the Entrepreneurial Spark GoDoAcceler8 Awards in Brighton, taking home a cheque for £3,000.

We were recognized for the entrepreneurial attitude of our Founder, Helena Beard, and the fast growth of the business since entering the Entrepreneurial Spark scheme in August last year. In the past six months, China Travel Outbound has won five new travel and tourism clients and quadrupled our annual turnover.

The Entrepreneurial Spark Scheme is sponsored by NatWest/Royal Bank of Scotland and supported by KPMG. As an E-Spark business, China Travel Outbound benefits from access to free collaborative office space in a ‘Hatchery’ in Brighton, and the support of over 50 business mentors and enablers, plus access to training, workshops and peer to peer coaching. There are 80 start up and high growth businesses in the Hatchery, across a wide range of different industries.

Helena Beard, Founder and Managing Director, China Travel Outbound said,

 ‘Entrepreneurial Spark is an adventure. The scheme pushes you to examine and validate your business ideas, and to make the necessary, and often difficult, changes to ensure success. Our journey has been a rollercoaster but, with the support of a great team at Entrepreneurial Spark, KPMG and NatWest/RBS, we have had huge success and I am so delighted we have been recognised with this award.’

Jim Duffy, founder and Chief Executive Officer, Entrepreneurial Spark said,

‘#GoDoAcceler8 is an exciting stage in the Entrepreneurial Spark programme. The progress we see is incredible and it’s hugely rewarding to watch entrepreneurs who joined us three months ago often unable to clearly articulate their business idea stand up and deliver a winning pitch. Our Chiclets have raised more than £45million in investment to date, and #GoDoAcceler8 is an important stage in each business’ growth as they look to scale up and build incredible businesses.’

Top Five Challenges in Attracting Chinese Tourists to the UK

The benefits of doing business with China are plentiful and the opportunities for tourism vast. You will have heard the facts and figures about China being the largest travel source market in the world and the ever-expanding affluent middle class, hell-bent on having new experiences, visiting exciting destinations and spending their holiday money on posh perfume and desirable fashion labels. However, for many tourism brands, whilst the reasons to work with China are straightforward, the actual business of doing business can be complicated.

I recently attended the UK Inbound Annual Convention in Scotland where I met with dozens of sales and marketing  professionals who were interested in attracting more Chinese tourists to visit their attractions, hotels and destinations. We talked a lot about the opportunity, but also discussed the barriers to achieving their objectives. Not everyone said exactly the same, but, broadly speaking, these were the top five challenges being faced.

1. Generating Results with the Travel Trade

There are lots of excellent opportunities to meet with Chinese tour operators and agents (sales missions, Visit Britain initiatives etc). Meetings generally seem really positive but some people told me that, once they get back to the office and send off those follow-up emails, they are receiving very few responses and find it hard to identify tangible results for their investment of time and money.

Read more about how to generate results with the Chinese travel trade.

2. Language Barriers

Many Chinese business men and women have a good command of the English language and some don’t. But even when language is structurally sound, pronunciation can still be a big issue, especially on telephone calls. It can be difficult to concentrate on trying to build a relationship, whilst selling your product and trying to understand each other all at the same time. As only one person I spoke to actually spoke any Mandarin, we are relying on our Chinese counterparts to speak English in nearly all cases.

Read more about overcoming language barriers.

3. Where to start?

China is a very big country with different customer segments, unfamiliar travel distribution structures, state and private media, and different social media and digital platforms. Most of the people I met with had some degree of uncertainty about where to start trying to make an impact. There was a healthy fear that they might not have a big enough budget to achieve cut through and a concern about where they should spend the budget they do have.

Read more about where to start.

4. We’re not ready and we don’t have the right product

I also spoke with some brands which didn’t feel they were ready for China. That was either because they didn’t feel they had the necessary infrastructure in place, that their businesses and staff were not geared up to deal with Chinese visitors, or that they weren’t on the right ‘Chinese tourist track’ with what they considered to be a desirable product. Some also said that they didn’t yet have any of their international marketing budget allocated to the Chinese market.

5. We don’t have time to do it properly

This I heard a lot. Taking a trip to China is a big investment, not only in monetary terms but, perhaps more importantly, in time. And one trip, once a year, is not enough to build those all-important relationships with the Chinese travel trade. On top of that, people felt more nervous about the Chinese market than they did about other international markets and were keen not to make any cultural faux pas. This meant more time, attending workshops, training and events to learn more about how to do business successfully with the Chinese.

Over the next few weeks, we will be addressing each of these Top Five Challenges here on our blog, digging a little deeper into the issues and making some practical suggestions on how to overcome these obstacles to achieve success in the Chinese travel market.

 

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Social Media marketing in China – where to begin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Establishing a sales and marketing presence in China

A quick google search on the Chinese outbound traveller will produce a plethora of reports on the size and nature of this new emerging market.

The reason for this explosion of interest is not surprising. According to the UN World Tourism Organisation, the Chinese are now the world’s biggest spenders on international tourism, splashing out $102 billion in 2012—a 40% increase on the previous year.

Dig a little deeper and you will find some interesting myth busting facts too. Yes, the Chinese are big spenders. According to Visit Britain the Chinese are among the top three spenders when they visit Britain, spending an average of £405 per head. But did you know that Independent travel is more popular than group travel? According to Hotels.com’s second annual Chinese International Travel Monitor survey results suggests that 62% of Chinese travellers prefer to travel independently. This appears to be backed up by hoteliers who reported that 70% of their Chinese guests were not in groups, a 20% increase on the previous year.

So which ever report you read (and I warn you there are quite a few to choose from!) the evidence is clear. The challenge is how do you react to this rapidly emerging market? Perhaps you are wondering why your competitors appear to more effective than you in tapping into this market, there are 5 areas that I suggest you start to think about:

1. Is your website available in the Chinese language? Don’t worry about the difference
between Cantonese and Mandarin, the written form of Cantonese is based on Mandarin, so a Mandarin translation will suffice. It’s in audio where you will need to have a separate translation.

2. How is your website ranked on China’s premier search engine Baidu.com? If your website is only available in English, the answer is probably not very well.

3. What is your social media presence like in China? If you think Facebook and Twitter will do it for you, I am afraid you will need to think again…., these sites are heavily restricted in China.

4. Do you have a PR agency to ensure that the media, and in particular the travel trade media, are promoting your products and services into the Chinese market?

5. Do you have a sales representation team ready to promote you to the travel trade? There are 10 different travel trade shows in China alone. There is a very good chance your competitors are there, and if they’re not, there’s a great chance for you to steal a march on them.

Perhaps you have already thought about all the above (and could add a further five items to this list!) but you don’t know where to start. China Travel Outbound would love to help you.

 

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Tailored Luxury Sales Mission to China

I recently joined one of my clients on a sales mission to China to visit some potential tour operator partners who specialise in tailor-made itineraries for their wealthy Chinese customer base.  My client’s product is aimed at such individuals (though not yet in China) with a taste for accommodation outside the traditional luxury 5* hotel, usually involving a minimum of 3 nights.  The attraction of China is that, according to the Boston Consulting Group,  it had 2.4m millionaires in 2013, a rise of 81% on the previous year, and now places it second in the overall global league table of the mega wealthy.

But the rise of the independent Chinese traveller is still a relatively new phenomenon, so the purpose of the mission was to establish whether the Chinese market has matured to such an extent that there is appeal for such a product, and if so how it will need to be adapted to meet the needs of the Chinese market.

There is a danger in the west that we over generalise about the Chinese market.  China is about the size of Europe; we should regard the Chinese as similarly diverse across their 9.7m square kilometres.  We shouldn’t therefore have been surprised to find that the tour operators we visited represented a diverse customer base, despite the fact that they work with a universally rich customer base.

We visited eight tour operators over 3 days and we were universally welcomed with hospitality (and a glass of hotel water) by senior members of staff – usually 2 or 3 in number.  Of the 25 people we met, approximately half had good English. With the others, we were helped by the translation services of our Account Director who accompanied us on all our visits.

  • Of the 8 tour operators visited, only 2 felt that their customer base was so wedded to the top Western hotel brands, that there was no immediate opportunity for my client’s product.
  • All were fairly universal in their view that it is necessary to deploy Chinese support staff on the ground.
  • Similarly, deploying Chinese sales staff at reservation centres is also key.
  • Interestingly, most believed their sales team could cope with an English booking system, though a couple of demonstrations of the speed of access from a European hosted website illustrated that hosting your booking system in China is more critical. We had more success with a more basic, less dynamic website, but you may wish to consider including Chinese website-hosting in your budget if you are planning on entering the Chinese market.
  • Despite all the tour operators offering tailor made itineraries for their clients, some wanted my client, who only sells accommodation, to build product around the accommodation.

So, was the mission a success?   Undoubtedly yes! My client left China confident that there is demand for his product, but also clear that launching in China will require a commitment that goes well beyond paying my company a fee for a sales mission.  He recognises that he has just taken the first step and that ‘potential’ will not turn into ‘contracts’ without follow-up and important decisions on deployment of resource both at destination and in China.

China Travel Outbound can organise a similar tailored sales mission for you from £2,500.  We will create an itinerary for you over 3 days, making appointments with tour operators tailored to your product.  In addition, we’ll take care of the small detail that will help to make your sales mission a success, such as providing an introduction to your company in Chinese, and printing your business cards in Chinese, complete with your new Chinese name!  During your sales mission, you will be accompanied to all your meetings by one of our team from our Beijing office, who will also act as your guide and host during your trip.  Beijing isn’t the easiest city to navigate around, so we will arrange a private car to pick you up from your hotel each morning and drive you to all your meetings.  We will even pick you up and drop you off at the airport at the beginning and end of your trip.

For more information, please contact Helena Beard.

China Travel Outbound takes the stress out of sales missions for the travel industry

China Travel Outbound today announced a new initiative to help travel and tourism customers explore the potential in the outbound international Chinese market.

CTO is offering customers a 3 day exclusive sales mission to China this year, visiting up to six targeted tour operators and travel agents who have the potential to form partnerships with western travel and tourism businesses.

CTO will make appointments with hand-picked travel partners in China, carefully selected on the basis of their relevance and potential for the product in question.  We will take care of all mission logistics, including the provision of a Chinese travel industry expert, who will act as a translator and advisor for all meetings.  With business cards playing such an important role in Chinese business meeting etiquette, we will organise a complimentary print of business cards, with the customer’s name and title translated into Chinese.  In addition, CTO will provide customers with an overview of their product translated into Chinese, for the purpose of providing meeting leave-behind material.

Adrian Watts, Managing Director  and co-owner of China Travel Outbound commented: “Visiting China can feel a little daunting for the uninitiated, but our sales missions are designed to put customers completely at their ease.  We have thought about the small detail of such trips, from organising visa invitation letters, through to the printing of business cards and the transport arrangement between meetings.  Unlike more generic sales missions, our meetings will be an exclusive, one on one discussion with potential Chinese partners.  Using our excellent contacts within the Chinese travel industry we will source Chinese companies best suited to distribute the customer’s product.”

Sports packages specialist Champions Travel recently undertook such a sales mission to Beijing with CTO. Kevin Ward, Managing Director commented: “This was arranged from start to finish via China Travel Outbound.  The service was second to none and the staff were extremely helpful both in the UK and on the ground in Beijing. I cannot recommend enough how helpful and professional they both were leading up to and during the trip.  We hope to use the service again soon.”

 

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