Will Greece be the 2020 European hotspot for Chinese tourists?

When our clients ask us how to influence Chinese tourists’ destination choice, we often recommend working with KOLs or Key Opinion Leaders. If they have bigger budgets, we suggest that they work with a celebrity ambassador. And sometimes we joke that, if they really want to put their destination on the map, perhaps they can persuade President Xi to come on a state visit.

This week, Greece did exactly that as the Chinese President touched down in Athens to discuss trade and investment with Greece’s Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis. 

Historically, destinations boom following a successful state visit. After President Xi drank a pint of beer with David Cameron in a British pub and had a selfie taken with Sergio Aguero at Manchester City in 2015, Chinese tourism to the UK really took off. We have seen state visits as a catalyst for tourism arrivals to many other countries too, such as Fiji and New Zealand in 2014. We can assume that the positive PR surrounding this visit to Greece, and the huge support for China-Greece relations expressed by Mitsotakis, will be well received in China, catapulting Greece into the consideration set for a summer holiday.

Once the keywords start being tapped into Mafengwo and Qyer, it won’t be long before aspirational Chinese FIT travellers realise that Greece has got it all.

From the ancient history of Athens, Olympia, and Delphi, to the stunning scenery of Meteora and the Mani to the crystal waters and sundrenched, whitewashed villages of the Greek islands, you have the perfect ingredients for a Chinese tourist’s dream; a multi-centre, experiential holiday, with history, beauty, and some very shareable back drops. Not to mention some of the most famous mythological stories and delicious dishes in Europe to feast upon.

But apart from the ensuing publicity generated by a state visit, improved air transport links are also a common result of such visits, and this one seems to be no different. 

The most important factor here is the opportunity presented by codesharing.  Greece has a unique geographical make up with a huge number of delightful islands, secondary towns and cities, and other areas of natural beauty and historical significance. In order to bring tourists and citizens to all corners of Greece, the country has a very large network of internal flights operated by Aegean Airlines. Once these domestic flights start to link up with international flights coming direct to Athens from Beijing (and potentially other airports in China), suddenly the whole of Greece becomes accessible to the Chinese tourist.  And that is what the two leaders’ Memorandum of Understanding will provide for. If all goes to plan, a codeshare agreement could be adopted between Air China and Aegean Airlines, meaning passengers from Beijing will be able to reach major Greek tourism destinations such as Crete, Rhodes, Mykonos, Corfu, and Halkidiki much more easily. 

The MOU will also allow for an increase in the number of flights between Greece and China. At present, there are only three direct flights per week from China into Athens, flying from Beijing on Air China, although up to 14 are permitted. Once the new agreement is implemented, airlines will be allowed to operate up to 35 flights per week. And, with the codeshares in place, there could be enough demand to justify the increases.

In the first nine months of 2018, Chinese arrivals to Greece grew by 22%, making China the fastest growing market for tourism to Greece. It is expected that similar growth will be seen once the summer figures emerge for 2019. Whilst reported numbers are still relatively small at around 200,000 per year, it is widely agreed that these figures are understated due to the large number of people entering Greece on a visa to another EU country as part of a multi-centre tour. 

The most famous island is the picturesque, romantic Santorini, widely photographed and admired by honeymooners and bloggers alike, but other islands such as nearby Mykonos and Greece’s largest island, Crete, are also popular and gaining traction on the major travel platforms and within itineraries. Of course, Athens and the wonderous Acropolis, will also feature on the itinerary. 

We expect to see a huge upturn in interest for Greece from China next year. Its popularity with honeymooners also provides an additional opportunity for Greece’s luxury resorts, as Chinese honeymooners are allowed to take a longer holiday, giving plenty of time to explore and stay. And the Chinese national holiday, Golden Week, in October also presents a great opportunity to extend the summer season, especially for those islands like Crete and Kos which remain sunny and warm well into mid-October. 

If you are interested in finding out how China Travel Outbound can help you promote your Greek region, resort, attraction or hotel to the Chinese, please do get in touch. We’d love to hear from you. 

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

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Why are the Chinese going Nordic?

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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?

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

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

Chinese KOL visiting Brighton Pavilion

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

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

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

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

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

Chinese review sites – Mafengwo, Qyer, and Ctrip

Mafengwo logo

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

Qyer logo

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

Ctrip logo

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

TripAdvisor – for local recommendations

tripadviosor logo

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

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

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

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

Little Red Book – Easy content sharing

red book logo

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

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

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

Dianping – The Chinese Yelp

dinning logo

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

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

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

The world in your pocket

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

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

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Get Ready for 7 Million Chinese Tourists

National Day Golden Week, celebrating China’s National Day, is one of the country’s longest national holidays, lasting from Monday 1st to Sunday 7th October this year. Similar to Chinese New Year, it is also an extremely popular time to travel for the Chinese, with many taking advantage of the rare week-long break to enjoy a relaxing vacation at home or abroad. But what evidence is there to suggest that this year’s Golden Week will be huge, and how can travel brands prepare for and take advantage of the potential influx of Chinese tourists?

What happened with Golden Week 2017?

The success of last year’s Golden Week put the national holiday on the global map and cemented its significance. 705 million domestic tourists travelled around China during the eight-day break in 2017, around half of China’s 1.4 billion population, and tourism income reached 583.6 billion yuan (£64.71 billion). These figures represented a year-on-year increase of 11.9% and 13.9% respectively – huge results for a rapidly growing tourism sector.

In terms of overseas travel, it was estimated that around 6 million Chinese tourists travelled abroad, visiting 1,155 cities in 88 countries or regions. One of the most popular destinations was Russia, as well as Southeast Asian destinations including Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia. Czech Republic and Hungary were also popular destinations, and on the whole, Belt and Road countries benefitted from the holiday.

During this holiday period, Chinese travellers abroad tended to travel independently rather than in group tours, and they were looking for unique experiences rather than luxury outlets to spend their cash with, perhaps making the most of their relatively short travel time to visit essential, authentic attractions. For example, In France Chinese visitors frequented idyllic villages and museums as opposed to the traditional tourist sites, and in the US, they mainly attended shows and basketball games.

That’s not to say they didn’t go shopping; data from WeChat found that over Golden Week 2017, 52% of outbound Chinese tourists shopped at duty free retailers. Restaurant and retail spending was also staggering, reaching 1.5 trillion yuan (£166 billion) over the holiday period. Chinese tourists who travelled to the UK for Golden Week spent £29 million with retailers and £11 million in London alone. Tourists were likely drawn to the UK for its cheap pound due to the previous year’s Brexit vote.

Figures concerning accommodation bookings made during this period also shed light on the holiday’s success. Airbnb recorded a 32% increase in overseas bookings during the period, and Tujia, a Chinese online vacation rental site targeting the country’s middle to high-end travellers, witnessed a 400% year-on-year increase in their bookings, and an average per room per night spend of 557 yuan (£61) during Golden Week.

Gear up for 7 million tourists

While that all sounds brilliant, what are the predictions for 2018’s Golden Week? We’re very fortunate that this year, Chinese citizens could potentially take sixteen-days’ worth of holiday, which is more than enough time to comfortably travel to and experience an international destination. This is because the Mid-Autumn Festival, the national holiday held on Monday 24th September, gives Chinese citizens a 3-day weekend, and if the rest of the week is taken off, it will roll into Golden Week commencing on 1st October. Is there a better time for Chinese tourists to travel abroad!?

Roughly 7 million Chinese tourists will travel internationally during Golden Week this year, accounting for approximately 5% of the year’s total number of Chinese outbound tourists. The top short-haul destinations are likely to be Japan, Korea, Thailand, while for long-haul, the US, Russia and the UK are expected to attract the bulk of international travellers.

It seems like Chinese tourists really want to make the most of this extended break; 30% more Chinese travellers than last year have decided to take off the last week of September. Furthermore, despite reports that outbound travel prices during National Day have risen up-to 30% year-on-year, Chinese travellers seem unfazed by this as almost all flights for the booking period have sold out, and only economy seats remain on available international flights.

We can expect great things from Russia this Golden Week – the country has recently attracted record numbers of Chinese tourists to their shores. From January to July 2018, Russia saw a 150% increase in Chinese visitors compared to the same period in 2017. Obviously, the FIFA World Cup was an influencing factor in this, having alone welcomed 50,000 Chinese tourists.

Likewise, the UK may be a popular destination of choice as it has seen significant growth in Chinese tourist numbers over the past few years. The country welcomed 337,000 Chinese tourists in 2017, a 29% increase from 2016, and spending was up 35% at £694 million. Furthermore, Chinese tourists spent $2707 (£2060) per arrival to Britain in 2017. This is more than the average spend of Chinese outbound travellers, which about 7,300 yuan (£810), and over three-times that of the average tourist visiting the UK.

There is some evidence suggesting the UK may have a great Golden Week this year. According to Ctrip, the average prices for UK packaged tours during Golden Week fell 20% year-over-year, and the majority of tours were fully booked a month before.

Other destinations are making a considerable effort to prepare for and reap the benefits of Golden Week. Tourism Toronto has launched a Golden Week campaign with Alipay allowing Chinese users to redeem special offers via the app for participating retailers and attractions in the Canadian city.

Surely, from these statistics, we can expect great things from Golden Week for these destinations. But only time will tell…

How to prepare for Golden Week

Golden Week is a fantastic opportunity to show how ‘China Ready’ your travel brand is, and your eagerness in accommodating the rapidly growing Chinese market. If you’re a retailer, Chinese tourists will expect to be able to pay for items abroad using mobile payment apps such as Alipay and WeChat Pay, so introducing these services may entice them to spend more with you. Mandarin shopping directories, Chinese-language restaurant menus, and Mandarin-speaking staff will go a long way to improving your ‘China Welcome’, and word will get around quickly on Chinese social media about your efforts to accommodate Chinese visitors.

With the pace Chinese global tourism has been growing recently, we can only hope for another thriving Golden Week!

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

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Chinese tourists and the Great Outdoors – let’s explore

Parks and gardens? Really? Surely it’s all about landmarks and outlet malls? Well, no. As it turns out, a mulberry tree can be just as appealing as a Mulberry handbag.

Venturing outdoors to the countryside, to see elegant botanical gardens and unrivalled displays of natural beauty, is becoming a very popular Chinese travel trend. It provides a change of scenery from world-famous landmarks that lure droves of tourists annually, while still allowing visitors to experience a country’s unique culture and natural environment.

This article aims to uncover the rising appeal of outdoor, rural, and natural spaces among Chinese travellers, exploring why it has become a trend, and highlighting the need for tour operators to introduce outdoor-themed itineraries.

Why is this a trend?

China’s air pollution is a growing concern

Many of China’s cities are notorious for being the most polluted spaces on our planet. Beijing is infamous for its air pollution – the thick smog poses long term health risks to its citizens, and data claimed breathing its air for a day was more harmful than smoking forty cigarettes a day.

When we ask our office in Beijing about the weather, the response often includes the ‘red light’ on the air quality monitors in everyone’s apartments. And it’s not just Beijing. Shanghai and Guangzhou, China’s trade and manufacturing hubs, have recently recorded higher levels of air pollution than the capital. This has prompted the Cordis Hongqiao, a newly opened luxury hotel in Shanghai, to boast its superior ‘air filtration’ system as a luxury feature. This is an attractive offering to its Chinese guests; each room is fitted with pollution monitors and sealed double-glazed windows to contain the fresh air indoors.

Rural tourism is on the rise

Perhaps this constant exposure to polluted air encourages citizens of Chinese cities to escape to the countryside when given the opportunity. Indeed, rural tourism has witnessed sharp growth in the past few years; around 2.1 billion trips were made to the Chinese countryside in 2016, creating jobs for 6.72 million rural people.

In 2017, China’s government invested $550 billion yuan into the development of rural tourism, as they expect it will help alleviate poverty and boost economic growth. This investment will provide better tourist services for travellers, but it will also consolidate rural tourism as a key preference for overseas travel.

Furthermore, China’s forest tourism industry has witnessed staggering growth in recent years. In 2017, around 1.39 billion trips were made to China’s forests and wetland parks, comprising of 28% of trips made in China that year. The industry, worth 61.8 billion in 2012, saw a rise in revenue to 140 billion in 2017. Clearly, more Chinese travellers are seeing the value in visiting areas of outstanding natural beauty.

Garden and flower tourism is b(l)ooming

One incentive for countryside escape is to see beautiful flowers. There are many ‘flower tours’ held throughout China every year, especially in the Yunnan, Guangdong, and Sichuan provinces. The idyllic countryside village of Huangling recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of its Flower Town program. This floral-themed experience, which provides visitors with scenic views of rapeseed flowers and peach blossoms, alongside flower tours and other cultural events, attracted 200,000 people globally in April and May 2017, an increase of 67% from the previous year. Evidently, escaping to the countryside is a popular travel trend.

The passion for the great outdoors among Chinese travellers extends beyond their own country, with many tourists travelling abroad to witness world-famous displays of natural beauty. Jing Travel recently interviewed Cai Wanza, a popular Chinese garden traveller who organises “world garden tours” and promotes “the garden lifestyle” in books and on social media. In 2018, Ms. Cai added routes covering California, France, Switzerland, New Zealand, and the Maldives to her garden tour themed itineraries.

Indeed, Ms. Cai’s garden tours give Chinese travellers the opportunity to see more of a destination they initially didn’t take seriously. While many Chinese travellers would stop off in Belgium for only a day or so before transferring, on Ms. Cai’s garden tour, the group spend fourteen days there since it has 200-plus private gardens.

Other Chinese social media influencers and KOLs have made their name through their enthusiasm for gardens and flowers. DACAI (@大菜微博), a popular food and floral travel blogger, has over 700,000 followers on Weibo, and according to Jing Travel, the second-most popular question posted on Mafengwo’s forum in 2017 was “What places in China can you recommend for roaming through a sea of flowers?”.

Chinese tourists are becoming more interested in travelling around Europe to see gardens and flowers. An article on the UK’s “most popular lavender fields” was recently published on Red Scarf (Honglingjin), a lifestyle website targeting young Chinese people living in the UK, and has over 180,000 views (as of June 2018). The article features lavender farms in Yorkshire, Somerset, and the Cotswolds – places renowned for their stunning natural beauty.

Isparta in western Turkey, known as the ‘Land of Roses’, welcomes thousands of tourists to its annual harvests. According to the Culture and Tourism Provincial Director, Osman Çot, the rose gardens have become an “attraction center” for tourists, with most of them coming from the Far East.

While flower and garden travel may not yet be as popular as sightseeing, it does support the narrative of Chinese travellers seeking unique experiences offered only by outbound destinations. Thus, tour operators should begin to have a more open mind and monitor developments in this trend to determine if it’s worthwhile introducing more garden product. As Ms. Cai said herself, “if tourism officials assume Chinese are not interested in their gardens, they miss a big opportunity”.

Outdoor attractions rank highly on Chinese review sites

Attractions in the great outdoors or in the countryside appear to rank highly on China’s influential review sites. Two of the top five attractions in the Netherlands, according to Mafengwo, are the historic neighbourhood of Zaanse Schans, known for its traditionally Dutch houses and windmills, and Keukenhof botanical gardens, among the world’s largest flower gardens. They respectively have 355 and 245 reviews on the platform.

Mafengwo’s listings for the most popular attractions in Germany also shed light on this trend. Ranked first is Neuschwanstein Castle, a 19th century palace overlooking vast areas of greenery and quaint Bavarian villages from its hilltop, which currently has 746 reviews. The runner-up is Königsee, an alpine lake in the heart of the countryside, with 288 reviews. Obviously, these destinations have had a huge impact on Chinese travellers, with many commenters describing the attraction for unassuming travellers, sharing advice on the best times to visit, and recommending other places to explore nearby.

Chinese travellers visit destinations purely for the countryside

Many destinations attracting Chinese tourists can attribute their success to the great outdoors. One such example is New Zealand – known for its vast landscapes of greenery, it has been attracting Chinese tourists for years to its outdoor adventure activities. The Antipodean Explorer, dubbed the “world’s best moving hotel”, is a new venture aiming to attract luxury-oriented Chinese travellers. It transports them between Auckland and Queenstown, past New Zealand’s beautiful landscapes.

Some destination marketing organisations are beginning to realise the potential of promoting the ‘escape to the countryside’ theme to Chinese tourists. Recently, a China Readiness workshop was hosted by I Love NY state tourism and the Sullivan Catskills Visitors Association (SCVA) to improve understanding of Chinese traveller’s needs to 50 representatives of local businesses. SCVA represents the Catskills Mountains, a scenic country getaway located 90 minutes from New York City. In delivering overviews of the difference between the domestic and Chinese tourism markets, and how to effectively use WeChat to market destinations to Chinese travellers, this workshop encouraged local businesses to embrace change and begin to “think globally”.

Speaking of ‘thinking globally’, we’ve done a fair amount of work to promote UK botanical gardens in the Chinese travel market. Back in March, we took Kew Gardens on a sales mission to Beijing, arranging meetings with key tour operators, including Ctrip and Caissa Touristic, to sell the Kew Gardens product. In May, we also arranged a visit to the beautiful RHS Wisley Garden for the influential Chinese travel blogger, Liu Huan (Queenio欢儿欢), who took stunning photographs of the gardens and displays for her followers to enjoy.

Listen up

It seems as if there is a subsection of Chinese tourists who travel both domestically and abroad to see the countryside, picturesque gardens, and rural towns. There is evident demand here, and since many tour operators assume Chinese tourists only want to see a country’s must-see attractions, the forward-thinking have an opportunity to step in and make some hay whilst the sun is shining.

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

Enjoyed this article? Then these may also be of interest to you:

Are Chinese tourists the new adventurers?

Watch and Go – How do TV and film influence Chinese travellers?

What will the EU-China Tourism Year bring?

Explaining Chinese Payment Systems – What’s the fuss about?

Photo – Ana Madeleine Uribe from Pexels (https://www.pexels.com/@bananamade)

A Day in the Life of Vivienne Song

Vivienne Song is China Travel Outbound’s Beijing Director. Her team of diligent, skilled, and young businesspeople collaborate closely with the Brighton team to ensure our clients receive the best possible promotion in China. Exceptionally hardworking, Vivienne is an essential member of our China Travel Outbound team.  

But what is her life in China like? Vivienne, her husband, and her two adorable cats live in Beijing, China’s capital city. Living and working in Beijing has its difficulties, but it also provides many modern conveniences un-afforded by other global cities. In this article, the Marketing Executive for our Brighton office Tom Luckin interviews Vivienne to reveal what an average day is like for a businesswoman living in this relentless city.

TL: What is it like being a working woman in China?

VS: For many years, the image of women in China was to look after the family and support the husband while he’s at work. Men are meant to be ‘out to hunt’ to support the whole family. Nowadays, women are standing out in business, and are starting to take the lead. We now do the same jobs as men, and sometimes make more money than they do, all the while looking after the family. It’s a tough role – but it shapes us to become stronger people.

From my circle of friends, I am seeing more and more women who are younger than me and are already very independent financially and emotionally.

TL: How do you travel to work every morning?

VS: Whenever the weather is lovely, I cycle to work. Beijing’s brilliant shared bike service means you can simply pick up and ride any shared bike on the street for as little as 1 RMB [about 11 pence] per hour. Travelling to work by bus is also handy, since they run fairly frequently and let you to sit back and relax.

The best contribution I have made to Beijing’s notorious traffic is by not driving myself. The traffic is bad enough as it is – we don’t need one more terrible driver to make it worse!

TL: What do you do on a typical working day?

VS: Monday and Tuesday will usually be office days for me and my team to schedule meetings for clients and review the work we did last week. As Beijing is extremely large, and has overwhelming traffic, travelling around efficiently really depends on luck. This is why we tend to organise one meeting in the morning, and two meetings in the afternoon.

Face-to-face meetings are very important. We always visit a tour operators’ office so that we can introduce our client in person and provide assistance to help develop and promote the tour products. Professional partnerships are very important to us, but so are our friendships with tour operators.

TL: Please can you talk about the people who make up your Beijing team?

VS: Sarah Cao is our PR & Media Manager. She studied in the US and majored in Tourism Management and Hospitality. After returning to China, she worked for a PR company in the media industry for two years.

I have known Ian King for ten years as he used to be my colleague in the MICE department of China Travel International, who I worked for shortly after moving to Beijing. He has experience in both the travel trade industry and brand marketing. He also used to look after high-profile clients such as P&G and Unilever. He also has very good connections in the entertainment industry.

TL: Sounds like a busy life you live! What do you do to relax?

VS: I really enjoy going to the gym to sweat away all the pressure. It’s the best way to stay fit, helping myself stay energetic and ready for work. Watching old movies is one of my other favourite things to do to relax at the weekend. Al Pacino is my all-time favourite actor.

TL: Who doesn’t love Al Pacino!? …Why did you decide to begin a career in the travel industry?

VS: There was a TV show on about 20 years ago called ‘The Wonderful World’, which was one of the first travel shows broadcast in China. It influenced a lot of people of my generation to think about beginning a career in the travel industry, but at the time, we did not know much about outbound travel. The show taught us a lot about other cultures around the world.

The female host of ‘The Wonderful World’, or ‘Guide’ as we called her, had one of the most admired jobs in China for quite some time. Since then, I decided to work in the travel industry as I naively thought the job was all about travelling for fun!

TL: What were the early days of your career like? Any highlights?

VS: I started my career with Star Cruises, which is an international cruise company based in Singapore. I was lucky to snatch a role in their Tourism Department where you not only travel to many different countries and enjoy all the tours as part of the job, but also work with people from different cultural backgrounds.

I’ve worked in many different positions in the tourism industry, from tour product sales for Star Cruises and account management for China Travel International’s MICE department, to wholesale product management and PR & media management for the Destination Tourism office. My last position before I joined CTO was at Mafengwo as BD Manager, which I enjoyed very much. Not only did the role improve my knowledge of online travel marketing, but I also made lots of friends there who are hardworking, fun people.

TL: Speaking of friends, can you talk a bit about your family?

VS: While my husband and I live in Beijing with our two cats, my parents and parents-in-law live in other Chinese cities. Unfortunately, we don’t visit our parents that often due to my very busy schedule, but I make it a routine to frequently phone my mum to catch up. Every year, I try to make a week free to go travelling with them. Last year, I took them to Chiang Mai in Thailand, and for the upcoming Chinese New Year in February, we are going to Chengdu to see the pandas.

TL: What is your apartment like in Beijing? Do you enjoy living there?

VS: Our apartment has two bedrooms and one large living room, perfect for hosting friends and family. Both my husband and I love to cook. We often invite our friends round for house parties to try our new dishes.

Everything happens so quickly in China. Many of us believe the country is still in a fast-growing phase, and we are lucky to be involved with such rapid changes. Beijing teaches you to quickly adapt to your environment and learn fast in order to catch up with the changing times. Life here is never short of challenges. I love the feeling of becoming a better version of myself with each passing day.

It’s very convenient living in China since everything is slowly but surely getting digitised – like payment systems. I have tried to avoid carrying cash when I go on business trips to other Chinese cities, since everything can be paid for through WeChat Pay or Alipay – from shops and restaurants, to hotels and taxis, and even some street vendors.

Buying items online for delivery is a service available throughout China, but unfortunately it is not free. You can order something at 11pm, and it will be with you by 7am the next day. Online supermarkets deliver within a maximum of 2 hours, and because my place is near the station, I always receive my order within 30 minutes. Sometimes it works out cheaper to get things delivered than to go to the supermarket.

The shared bike service is one of my favourite sharing economies. I love to cycle, but I couldn’t buy a bike, as I have nowhere to park it and it could get easily stolen, not to mention having to carry it up and down from the apartment! The shared bike service makes travelling to work so much easier and fun. The spring and autumn months in Beijing are gorgeous times to ride a bike – I often cycle through the old Hutong alleys during these months to see more scenic views of the city.

TL: To bring it back to social media, why are platforms like WeChat and Alipay so important to Chinese consumers?

VS: WeChat and Alipay are very important as they are with you throughout your everyday life. The conveniences they provide certainly make life easier overall, but at the same time, the command these two apps have over your life is quite frightening.

TL: Your role requires you to travel abroad occasionally for business meetings. What do you enjoy about the UK when you visit there?

VS: The UK has so many world-class museums that I can easily spend days exploring. The museum stores are perfect for souvenir shopping – you can always find perfect gifts for friends and colleagues there.

The other thing that impressed me on my last trip to the UK in November was the food. China’s impression of British food is basically just fish and chips. On a popular Chinese talk show I once watched, the host joked about how ‘Great Britain is one of the greatest and most powerful countries in the world, yet they don’t know how to cook’.

During my trip to the UK, I went to some restaurants which left no doubt in my mind about the slogan VisitBritain launched last year – the ‘Food is GREAT’! The ingredients are so fresh, and the dishes taste incredibly good.

-End of interview-

Many thanks to Vivienne for agreeing to the interview and providing most of the photos used in this article.

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

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Vivienne takes her parents to Chiang Mai and learns Thai Boxing

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Seven UKinbound members collaborate successfully on Chinese press trip

UKinbound member, China Travel Outbound, has successfully collaborated on a major Chinese press trip with six other members of the association. In early 2018, we started conversations with our contacts at National Geographic Traveller Magazine China about visiting the UK to write a 14-page feature to coincide with the forthcoming Royal Wedding.

The senior writer at Nat Geo is Mr Han, a fan of art history and of the UK. We embarked on a project to bring Mr Han, a videographer, and photographer, and Sarah our Chinese PR Director, over to England to write a feature about Royal Britain.

The team went on from London to Dover to see the grandiose White Cliffs and Dover Castle, England’s largest castle. The trip concluded with three nights in Brighton, organised in collaboration with VisitBrighton. Here, they visited the party palace of another prince – the Royal Pavilion, went to a pub, saw the Seven Sisters, and even stayed out til the wee hours at the student night at one of the seafront clubs.

We organised exclusive interviews with the museum curators, directors and historical experts to ensure that the resulting feature was full of colour and engaging stories about Britain’s royal heritage.

National Geo magazine press article

Results

The article hit the newsstands before the Royal Wedding and the associated social media was released on the happy day. With so many partners involved, this was a complex press trip to organise, but the results made it all worthwhile. The feature ran to 22 pages with an overall value of £737,000.

The magazine receives a circulation of 977,000 copies per month, and has a readership of 2,931,000.

Social Media

National Geo magazine press trip Weibo post

The trip received fantastic coverage on National Geographic Traveler China’s official WeChat and Weibo accounts. WeChat has over 1 billion active monthly users, and at the time of writing, the National Geographic Traveler Weibo account has 630,000+ followers. Evidently, these posts had huge potential reach.

Video Coverage

The videographer’s beautiful work is showcased in a video of the trip, which featured on various mainstream Chinese video websites under official National Geographic Traveler accounts, including Tencent, Tudou, and Youku.

See the video below:

We were delighted with the results of this project, and it was great to see it all come together to promote Britain in such a prestigious title.

Click here to view the National Geographic Traveler Magazine China Royal Britain feature.

A Guide to Chinese students studying abroad in Europe

Over the past few years, there has been significant growth in the number of Chinese students living and studying abroad, and this is expected to increase in the next five years.

Yu Minhong, founder and CEO of the New Oriental Education and Technology Group, estimates that the number of Chinese students studying abroad is approximately 800,000 per annum. One of the most popular destinations for Chinese students to study is Europe and the UK –  the latter being the second most popular host country for international students from the Asia-Pacific region, after the U.S. In this article, we look at some of the reasons why Chinese families choose to send their children to Europe to study.

Career Prospects

Any international student that plans on moving to Europe to study is taking a step in the right direction. While studying in Europe, students will gain transferrable skills and knowledge that are valuable to future employers, receive world-class education from the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world, and experience attractive and exciting student cities.

Top Cities and Universities

For Chinese students, moving abroad to study is a very exciting time in their lives and, of course, they want to make the most of their time. While you may think London is the top destination for Chinese students, North West England is actually the leader in recruiting Chinese students to their universities, with the top universities in that area being Manchester and Liverpool with approximately 7,000 Chinese students.

Between China Daily’s list of top ten UK Universities, US news’s list of the best Global European universities, and the UK’s Council for International Students’ top universities for recruiting international students, we can say that the top three universities and cities for Chinese students are:

1. University of Manchester (Manchester)

2. Pierre and Marie Curie University (France)

3. University College London (London)

Chinese Student Societies

China has the largest number of international students in Europe compared with any other country. Most universities in Europe have societies – groups of like-minded people who share common interests, whether it be religion, country of origin, art and culture, science, etc. Societies allow students to meet new people, learn new skills, and most importantly have fun.

Most universities have a Chinese or Asian society that students can join at the beginning of their first year. Here, they meet new friends and travel around Europe together. Chinese students are usually comfortable with other Chinese students, therefore you would usually see them travelling together in groups. Once or twice a year, we plan a student VIP trip where we contact the Presidents of Chinese Societies from different universities, asking them if they’d like to embark on a trip highlighting different attractions, hotels, and restaurants in Europe. This is a great marketing initiative, since Chinese Student Societies have their own social media groups and platforms where information is seen and shared.

Minor Challenges

Like any other international destination, there are some hurdles. Some of these are:

1. Visa requirements – Chinese students are required to apply for a student visa/ temporary residency in Europe in order to be registered as a student.

2. English language requirement – In order to be granted a student visa, it is required of the student to pass an English test.

3. Cultural difference – this can be both a positive and negative aspect of your studying experience, but for some, adapting to a new culture and its people, food, and lifestyle, can be rewarding and eye-opening.

Though it might be challenging to be away from family and friends for so long, Chinese students should really immerse themselves in the experience of being away from home. Taking advantage of the networking opportunities that are offered is key. Universities often promote many different networking opportunities, such as work placements, volunteer work, and even roles in clubs and societies.

For instance, Sara, our Travel Trade Manager, was on a work placement with us – a requirement from her university at the time. Sara did an exceptional job in her role, and kept in contact with us. Upon the completion of her studies, we just so happened to need a Travel Trade Manager at our Beijing office, and Sara was the perfect person for the role, especially since she was already familiar with the company and the work required.

Employability Rate

There is still an element of uncertainty with whether studying abroad will benefit one’s career, and if the experience of studying abroad will boost their employability rate. However, we would say the experience is overwhelmingly positive. Research was conducted on the link between employability and international students, showing that almost 60% of students find full-time jobs after studying abroad. Similarly, recent research was done by Ka Ho Mok and Han Xio on Chinese students’ experience in Europe and their chances of employability after studying. The study showed that Chinese students’ employability rate is good, with nearly 59% being able to find a job within three months, and 32% had secured jobs within 6 months of their studies.

Other Tourism Opportunities

Chinese students bring many tourism and business opportunities to Europe. Some opportunities to keep in mind are:

1. The Chinese student market is quite large. More Chinese students study abroad than any other country, and Europe is one of the top destinations for these students.

2. Chinese students are already in Europe – this is much easier than attracting Chinese students from China. Take advantage of the fact that they are already here and ready to travel and spend.

3. Chinese students are loaded! Over the past few years, Chinese students have had the reputation of being luxurious spenders. Our intern Claudio, who works at a fancy restaurant, says they enjoy fine dining – “nothing but oysters and lobsters.”

4. If they are already spending a lot, imagine when their parents come to visit! Parents and grandparents usually visit their children while they are studying abroad, and they won’t be able to resist not having the best of times while they are there.

5. They are ready to travel Europe for new experiences. Europe is relatively small compared to China, and it is far from home, so they plan on making the best of their time here.

6. Chinese students are social media friendly, regularly sharing their experiences with others. Their main social media platforms are WeChat and Weibo (check out our previous blog on these).

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

Enjoyed this article? Then these may also be of interest to you:

Watch and Go – How do TV and film influence Chinese travellers?

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What will the EU-China Tourism Year bring?

Are Chinese tourists the new adventurers?

What will the EU-China Tourism Year bring?

An exciting opportunity for European tour operators is on our doorstep. How should we prepare for Europe’s improved collaboration with the Chinese travel market?

It’s finally here, and it’s about time

There has been an Australia-China year of tourism, as well as a US-China year, but finally it is the turn of Europe. Are they just gimmicks, or do they make a real difference?

In what has been an eventful year for Chinese tourism, upcoming international partnerships, such as the EU-China Tourism Year, will help to further promote growth in Chinese outbound tourist numbers.

The EU-China Tourism Year is an official declaration given to the promotion of bilateral cooperation between European countries and China, which will occur throughout 2018. It presents an exciting opportunity for European tourism businesses and operators looking to expand their operations in the Chinese outbound travel market to promote their brand on a global scale and seek new partnerships. The first series of business-to-business talks brought about by the ECTY will take place at Beijing’s China Outbound Travel & Tourism Market in April 2018.

Reported figures vary, but the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRI) found that Chinese outbound tourism grew by 7% in the first half of 2017, from 64 million in 2016 to 69 million. This shows that Chinese tourists are travelling further afield. Indeed, while tourism to the Greater China region only grew by 1%, the rest of the world saw 14% more Chinese outbound travellers visiting their shores in the first half of 2017.

The potential benefits that the ECTY could bring to European travel and tourism companies complements the exciting predictions about the Chinese outbound travel market in 2018. COTRI estimates that the number of Chinese tourists travelling to destinations outside of Greater China will rise by 10% next year to 86 million. If correct, Chinese travel to destinations outside of Greater China will then hold the majority in the market, representing 56% of overall trips made.

As such, the ECTY seems to be happening at the right time. The Chinese outbound tourism market is increasingly becoming dominated by free and independent travellers (FITs), who are willing to forge their own adventures to discover authentic experiences, unlike their organised group travel equivalents. This has opened-up new opportunities in the market to appeal to this rising subsection of outbound travellers. Furthermore, relaxed visa restrictions, more direct flight connections, and the opening of visa application centres shows European countries are becoming flexible to deal with the expanding Chinese travel market.

Make the effort

Europe should grasp the opportunity to welcome more Chinese tourists with open arms. Driven by the rise of middle-class households, China has become the largest source of tourism expenditure, which is expected to grow by 10.9% from 2017 to 2022. A lot of their money is spent in duty-free shops. Recent figures show that 41% of Chinese travellers buy skincare-related products in duty-free and travel-retail, compared with 25% for the average global buyer.

Increased cooperation with China has already helped improve visitor rates at British attractions. In June, Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG) announced they received a 74% increase year-on-year in Chinese visitors. Following the efforts made in marketing their museums in China and improving their “China welcome”, RMG’s dedication to attracting the Chinese market was recognised at ITB China in Shanghai, where they were awarded a Chinese Tourist Welcome Award for Service Quality.

Be more like Switzerland

The ECTY won’t mark the first time Europe and China has formed an alliance to promote tourism. The ECTY will succeed 2017’s China-Switzerland Year of Tourism, which demonstrated an increased effort by both parties to further encourage overseas travel. Both countries encouraged bilateral communication and cooperation through exchange activities that enhanced mutual understanding of each country’s culture, economy, and trade.

In 2015, China became the fourth largest outbound tourist market for Switzerland, behind Germany, the US, and the UK. Switzerland’s Deputy Head of Mission Alain Gaschen suggests improved China outbound travel was due to relaxed visa restrictions, which encouraged the widespread issuing of long-term and multi-entry visas. Switzerland has also made it convenient for Chinese tourists to obtain visas, with a quick-visa approval process that takes only two days.

The China-Switzerland Year of Tourism recently held its closing ceremony in Lausanne, which is due to host the 2020 Youth Olympic Games. Since China will host the 2022 Winter Olympics, bilateral cooperation in the winter sports market was beneficial. As a result, the Swiss have been developing their ski resorts to become more accommodating of Chinese tourists by providing one-off experience days catered to beginners and lessons in Chinese.

This collaboration has delivered benefits for future EU-China cooperation. Reportedly, a Chinese tourism official claimed 2017 saw 1.2 million two-way visits between China and Switzerland, an increase of 12% from 2016. Air China recently launched a new service from Beijing to Zurich, which marks Air China’s first flight to the Swiss city since the service was initially discontinued in 1999. Likewise, the number of flights connecting China and Switzerland has increased to forty per week.

Early ECTY-related collaborations have begun between China and Italy, where the ECTY will hold its opening ceremony, in Venice, on the 19th of January. Italy’s Undersecretary of MiBACT Dorina Bianchi hopes this relationship will help promote not only Italy’s “cities of art”, but also the “historical heritage” of its villages. Italy is one of many European countries seeking more potential from the Chinese market, as in the first half of 2017, it evidenced a 15% increase in the number of Chinese visitors compared to 2016.

Put yourself out there

The UK should make the most of the ECTY by capitalising on its opportunities as soon as possible. This is especially considering recent developments which have made the UK more accessible for Chinese tourists.

The recent announcement of an open skies agreements between China and the UK aims to increase connecting flights by 50% to 150 flights per week. In addition, Britain’s north witnessed a 15% rise in Chinese arrival numbers than anticipated this year, with 90,000 passengers travelling from Beijing to Manchester. Chinese visitors are also spending more than ever, specifically an increase of 54% in 2017, largely due to the post-Brexit depreciation of the pound. These are promising developments for the UK inbound tourism market that demonstrate the appeal of attracting more Chinese visitors.

Why would Chinese tourists want to visit the UK?

Football crazy, football mad

The UK remains an appealing destination for Chinese travellers for a plethora of reasons, and sport is certainly a key factor. Alongside China’s desire to convert 300 million Chinese people to winter sports in anticipation of the upcoming 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, it is also pushing to become a world football superpower by 2050. It hopes to have 50 million football players by 2020, as well as 6,000 stadiums or pitches and 50,000 football schools within the next 10 years.

British football is internationally renowned for its world-class teams, and football is already hugely popular in China. More than 350 million Chinese fans watch Premier League games on dedicated football television channels. Indeed, football is Chinese President Xi Jinping’s favourite sport – in 2012, he demonstrated his skills during a state visit to Croke Park Stadium in Dublin, and he visited Manchester City during his last state visit to the UK in 2015. As the home of international football, Britain is an attractive destination for Chinese football enthusiasts.

Glued to the screen

Certain British television shows are hugely popular in China. Research into the influence of foreign entertainment on Chinese youth, conducted by Singapore Management University, found the majority of Chinese television viewers were in favour of a more authentic TV approach, compared to the “predictable plotlines” and “unambiguous characters” found in China’s TV shows.

As such, the hit BBC drama Sherlock was a phenomenon; in 2014, 5 million Chinese viewers watched the Season Three premiere within hours of being uploaded to video platform Youku, the Chinese alternative to YouTube. Furthermore, in 2016, Sherlock’s ‘Abominable Bride’ TV special was screened internationally across China, attracting 1.7 million cinemagoers to its premiere.

As Sherlock builds upon a “Chinese fondness for a storybook version of Britain”, it’s not a stretch to claim many enthusiastic Chinese fans may visit London to see famous landmarks featured on the show, such as the London Eye and St Paul’s Cathedral. St Paul’s provides Chinese visitors with multimedia guides in Mandarin, making this attraction highly accessible. There is also a Sherlock Holmes Museum in London’s Baker Street, which will be the main draw for many enthusiastic Chinese fans.

While an American production, many scenes in Game of Thrones are filmed in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is expecting over 2.3 million visitors next year due to the emerging Chinese market. The Giant’s Causeway welcomed 56,000 Chinese tourists in 2017, 22% more than previous years.

There are other cases where China’s appreciation of England’s cultural heritage shines through. Castle Howard, occasionally used as a setting for historical dramas, such as ITV’s Victoria, saw 250,000 visitors in 2016, and a 256% year-on-year increase of international visitors. Furthermore, the marriage between Taiwanese megastar Jay Chou and Australian model Hannah Quinlivan at Selby Abbey attracted “no fewer than 500 Asian visitors” in the ten days following the event.

Dover Castle has also appeared in a variety of high-profile Hollywood and television productions, from Disney’s fantasy musical Into the Woods, to the BBC’s historical drama Wolf Hall. According to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA), Dover Castle welcomed 333,289 visitors in 2016 – an increase over the previous year. It seems heritage sites featured in popular movies and TV shows remain motivators for Chinese travel to the UK.

The Royal Family is England’s crown jewel

Obviously, we can’t ignore that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Royal Wedding next May will bring an influx of international tourists to Windsor Castle, and the UK in particular. The UK witnessed a ‘tourism boom’ in 2011, welcoming 30.6 million overseas visitors, primarily thanks to the Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton. Reportedly, “almost half of the increase was accounted for by people from Asia, South America and Africa”, and visits from Chinese tourists to the UK rose by a third in 2011 compared to the previous year. As a result, Westminster Abbey saw a 36% increase in its visitor numbers in 2011 compared with 2010, with 1.9 million visits, which for the first time placed the Abbey in ALVA’s top 10 list of the most visited British attractions.

We could certainly expect a similar level of attention for Windsor Castle in the lead up to 2018’s Royal Wedding. Given Markle’s status as a famous American actress, having starred in the popular legal drama Suits, the international appeal of this Royal Wedding is staggering. In addition, like St Paul’s Cathedral, Windsor Castle provides Chinese visitors with a Mandarin multimedia guide, making a visit to the royal palace comfortable and convenient.

Shopping is still an incentive

While ‘authentic travel experiences’ are a huge incentive for Chinese outbound travel, shopping still remains a popular reason to travel abroad. Although the Chinese don’t choose to travel to the UK primarily for shops, they certainly do a lot of shopping while they are here.

Bicester Village, an outlet village based in Oxfordshire, attracts hundreds of thousands of Chinese tourists each year to its luxury brand stores. Reportedly, it rivals Buckingham Place as one of the UK’s most popular attractions, with eight out of ten Chinese tourists visiting the village during their trip. It’s only becoming more popular, as Chinese visitor numbers increased by 34% in 2016 compared to the year before. Chinese tourists visiting Bicester Village are guided by Mandarin signs installed at London’s Marylebone station, and many travel there by tour bus. The village itself targets Chinese consumers with Mandarin speakers, who make up the majority of the sales assistants.

In addition, a £185 million designer outlet village is being constructed in a complete circle around London’s O2 arena. The outlet village, expected to be around 204,000 square feet, will likely encompass over 100 shops and various restaurants. The impact of this new development is likely to be felt by the whole of London’s East and Southeast, and areas such as Greenwich and the Queen Elizabeth Park at Stratford are eagerly awaiting its launch.

Final thoughts

For our end-of-year article last year, our Managing Director, Helena Beard, had this to say about the state of Chinese tourism:

“China operates on a system of relationships and networks, collaboration and cooperation, loyalty to friends and partnerships with colleagues. The easier it is for the Chinese to visit and make these affiliations with the UK, the better our export prospects, the more students will come here to study, and the greater the economic benefits to our tourism industry.

Evidently, the UK and its European neighbours could only benefit from the improved collaboration and cooperation encouraged by the ECTY. This cross-cultural relationship will help develop Europe’s understanding of the Chinese outbound travel market, and the ways in which they could further adapt to accommodate their unique travel needs. This could only be fruitful going forward, and we at China Travel Outbound look forward to tracing the results of this relationship throughout the coming year.

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

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A Guide to Chinese National Holidays in 2018

Are you wondering what are the key times of year to expect an influx of Chinese tourists? Here is our helpful guide to Chinese National Holiday dates in 2018:

 

Saturday 30th December to Monday 1st January – New Year Holiday

Thursday 15th February to Wednesday 21st February – Chinese New Year Holiday/ Spring Festival 

Thursday 8th March – International Women’s Day

Thursday 5th April to 7th Saturday April – Ching Ming Festival

Sunday 29th April to Tuesday 1st May – Labour Day Holiday

Friday 4th May – Youth Day

Friday 1st June – Children’s Day

Saturday 16th June to Monday 18th June – Dragon Boat Festival

Wednesday 1st August – Army Day

Saturday 22nd September to Monday 24th September – Mid-Autumn Festival

Monday 1st October to Sunday 7th October – National Day Holiday (Golden Week) 

Wednesday 17th October – Chung Yeung Festival

 

Read other articles about the Chinese travel market:

Are Chinese tourists the new adventurers?

Harnessing the power of Chinese celebrity for the city of Bristol

Quality has become more important than quantity to Chinese tourists visiting the UK