China Travel Outbound was commissioned by Wonderful Copenhagen, the tourist board for the capital of Denmark, to conduct a research study amongst Chinese higher education students in the UK. The client wanted to understand the motivation for studying in the UK, the demographics of the students, their travel habits and spend. Wonderful Copenhagen also asked us to examine the students’ perceptions of Copenhagen and other major European destinations in order to better understand the opportunities and barriers to attracting this affluent and influential group of 120,000 Chinese millennials to Copenhagen.
Our research team carried out a series of online surveys delivered in Mandarin to students at four UK universities. 548 surveys were completed in March 2020 and the key findings were as follows:
How do Chinese students travel during their studies?
60% of respondents received visitors from China during their stay in the UK
UK and European hotels and destinations should seize the opportunity to market themselves as the ideal place for Chinese students to take their friends and family. It is important for students to entertain their parents with interesting experiences and high quality accommodation when they visit.
Chinese students love Paris
For the 61% who had travelled before, Paris was by far the most popular destination, with 63% having visited the city. Paris was also the most desirable destination for the 73% of respondents who were planning to go on a city break. Rome was the second most popular destination for those that had already been on a city break during their time studying in the UK. Venice, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Florence, Prague, Berlin and Vienna are also popular.
Frequency of travel and length of stay
For those that have travelled since being in the UK, the average number of city breaks they had been on was three, and their average length of stay was 6.2 nights, which indicates that trips are being taken during university holidays, not just at weekends.
Timing of travel – end of term is the most popular
In terms of the time of year when respondents preferred to travel abroad, 26% said that April was their most preferred month, which correlates with the university’s Easter holiday. December and June (15%) were tied for the second most commonly chose months, correlating with the Christmas and summer holidays, respectively.
71% would define themselves as an independent traveller, while 24% would define themselves as a semi-independent traveller.
The majority of respondents were travelling with friends
67% of the respondents who had already been on a city break abroad said that they had been travelling with friends, while 78% of the respondents who were planning a city break abroad were planning to go with friends.
Travelling to experience food
71% of the respondents said that experiencing the local cuisine was one of their top five priorities when choosing a travel destination, with the cultural offerings (69%) and experiencing how the locals live (62%) being the second and third most highly prioritized travel motivations.
The research and booking journey
Chinese social media is preferred for tips and inspiration for travel
54% used the Chinese social media platform, Weibo, for tips and inspiration regarding their international city break. 45% used Chinese travel website, Mafengwo, to look for tips and inspiration for their last city break. 40% used recommendations from friends and family members for their last international trip. Only 23% used the official website of the destination and only 15% used Instagram/Facebook to research their last trip.
Qyer and Mafengwo were the most popular ways to choose a destination
68% of respondents who have travelled chose their destination through looking at sites such as Qyer and Mafengwo and 74% indicated that this was how they would plan to choose where to go on their next city break. 64% chose their destination because it related to their interests (history, culture etc.), while 73% planned to choose their next destination based on its relevance to their interests.
Booking lead time
87% of those who had travelled from the UK on a European city break during their studies booked within 2 months of travel.
What are they studying and why did they choose the UK?
Half of respondents were studying for a master’s degree abroad.
50% of the students were in the UK studying for a Master’s degree, while 41% were studying for a bachelor’s degree, 6% were studying for a Ph.D. and the remaining 2% were taking university preparatory courses. Chinese students overindex on Master’s degrees vs other nationalities. The UK is particularly popular for Master’s degrees as they are usually one year courses where American universities tend to offer two year courses.
September was the most popular month to start / stop studying abroad
Almost three quarters of the students (68%) started their studies in the UK in the month of September, with the months of June (9%) and July (8%) being the second and third most popular months.
About a third had studied abroad before
While all of the respondents were currently in the UK studying abroad, 36% of them said that they had previously studied abroad, meaning that their time spent studying in the UK was at least the second time they had gone abroad to study. Another indicator of wealth.
The reputation of the university was a deciding factor for respondents’ choice to study abroad
69% said that the reputation of the university was important in their decision to study abroad, however, the increased job prospects from studying abroad (43%) and the low language barrier in the UK (39%) were also important factors for the respondents’ decision to study in the UK.
Students have a monthly disposable income of £1,700
Specifically, 78% of the respondents said that they had a monthly disposable income of 15,000 RMB (~£1,700) after all rent and tuition fees had been accounted for). This compares to just £250 for the average British student. Their top three priorities for spending this disposable income were Clothes/Cosmetics, Restaurants, and Entertainment/Leisure. Travel came fourth on the list for both men and women.
More than half of the respondents had been on a city break abroad before
Specifically, 34% said that they had been on a city break abroad during their time studying in the UK. Another 25% said that they had both been on a city break during their stay and were planning to go on another city break abroad during the remainder of their time in the UK.
Demographics of respondents
Over 70% of respondents were female and just under 20% live in Beijing. Most of the respondents live in the big cities on China’s east coast. The highest number of respondents live in Beijing (19%) followed by Shanghai (14%). There is a lot of spread throughout China with small percentages of respondents in the towns and cities.
The average age for respondents is 22 years of age.
The respondents were studying at one of four different universities in the UK. 31% of respondents were attending a London University, whilst 30% were attending a university in Liverpool. 21% of respondents were attending a Manchester university and the remaining 18% were attending the University of Sussex.
Half of respondents were in their first year of study, while one in five were on their second year and one in ten was on their third year.
The full report can be accessed on the Wonderful Copenhagen website here.
Researching Chinese Students
If you are interested in finding out more about what Chinese students think of your brand, please contact us to discuss how we can survey our Chinese student panel on your behalf.