On 21 October, we were delighted to share insight into the Chinese travel market with senior representatives from the UK’s leading destination organisations, transport operators, tour operators and visitor attractions at the fourth annual Chinese Tourism Leaders’ event. Hosted by China Travel Outbound and Capela China, settling around Zoom wasn’t quite the same as enjoying Peking Duck in Chinatown but it was a fantastic success nevertheless.
Vivienne Song, China Director for China Travel Outbound,and Helena Beard, Managing Director in the UK, shared the latest information on the Chinese travel market. We heard that life in China is back to normal with the only Covid-19 changes relating to mask-wearing and Track and Trace requirements. China’s domestic travel market has been the first in the world to recover, with flight bookings down only -2% in August, and 75% of China’s travel agents back at work. Post-Covid-19 revenge travel took hold for Golden Week with 637 million trips being made, and strengthening trends include small tailormade tours, self-drive, rail, and luxury and personalised service. A lust for open spaces, remote islands, and direct contact with local cultures will be an emerging trend once the market returns to our shores.
We were delighted to be joined by Richard Nicholls, Head of Research and Forecasting for VisitBritain, who talked us through recent changes to VisitBritain China stats. For several years now there have been significant anomalies between VisitBritain figures for Chinese inbound tourists to the UK, and data from other sources such as number of visas issued. This issue has been discussed at length by the Chinese Tourism Leaders’ group in the past so the audience was very happy to hear that this has now been resolved. The updated stats show a very substantial increase in Chinese inbound tourist visits to the UK with the revised total more than doubling to 860,000 in 2018. 2019 saw 883,000 Chinese inbound visits to the UK. In fact China’s £1.7bn spend in 2019 makes it the second largest inbound market by expenditure.
The timing for the return of the market was also discussed, with expectation that the first significant influx of Chinese tourists will be seen in Summer 2021. More accurate predications will be possible following Chinese New Year in February 21 when we will see how and where the Chinese government lifts restrictions on international travel. Helena Beard highlighted to the audience that the more immediate opportunity lies with international students and announced that a new student-focused product would be launched by the agency next month to service this market.
We also heard from Clive Doble of Value Retail, Bicester Village, who talked about the abolition of tax-free shopping for international visitors to the UK from 1st January ’21. This policy would make it about 20% more expensive for Chinese travellers to visit the UK and shop here. It would have a detrimental impact on international visitor figures and come as a huge blow to the inbound tourism sector which is already one of the sectors impacted most severely by COVID-19. Joss Croft, CEO of UKinbound, reassured the forum that intense lobbying continues to try to reverse this decision.
The Chinese Tourism Leaders’ group was created by specialist agencies China Travel Outbound and Capela China to share insights and best practice between the destinations, visitor attractions, transport companies and tourism brands who are at the forefront of Chinese inbound tourism to the UK.
What is a global study tour, who goes on them, and why are they so vital to the future of UK inbound Tourism?
As the world emerges from the coronavirus crisis, competition to reach the top of the desirable destination list amongst Chinese outbound tourists is going to be fierce. This autumn, the whole world will be fighting for its share of this huge and lucrative market, encouraging the Chinese to return for Golden Week, Chinese New Year, the May National Holiday and, of course, Summer 2021.
The UK will be part of this race and I am sure we will do well, with our fantastic tourism products and strong China Welcome. However, there is one very important sector where we have very real potential to excel and surpass the competition if we just pay attention and understand the opportunity, and that is the global study tour market.
What is the global study tour market?
A global study tour is a trip abroad made by a school-aged child for the purpose of learning. There are four main categories of global study tour:
The most common type of global study tour involves a group of children visiting a foreign country to learn something (usually the language) with some elements of sightseeing as part of the itinerary.
‘Camp education’ is common in the States, where students stay in a camp and confine their activities to the camp and its surrounding areas. The content is around education, with most courses offering a theme; sport, art, science, technology are all popular. Many of the summer schools favoured by high-achieving students applying to America’s best universities offer campsite programmes.
A third option is the ‘School immersion’ tour, where the student has a curriculum based experience within a foreign school or university.
The fourth type is aimed at students with a clear ambition to study abroad in the future. This type of study tour aims at enhancing the actual university application and is intended to give the student the best chance of success.
How big is the market and how much is worth?
Like all Chinese travel sectors, it’s big and it’s growing. According to iResearch data in 2018, the number of people who participated in a global study tour was 1.05 million, with an estimated forecast growth rate in the global study tour / camp education market of around 20%. Of course, the coronavirus will interrupt this growth in 2020. The per customer transaction ranges from around £2,300 up to £5,800 and the estimated size of the global study tour and global camp education market in China is around RMB 94.6 billion (£10.5 billion).
The market is still relatively immature. The penetration of the study tour industry is reported to be low at around 16%, and distribution is still fragmented, with a large number of tour operators having small shares of the market. For example, New Oriental, one of the leading players in this field, has only a 1-2% market share and most of the companies in the sector are SMEs with revenues below RMB 10 million (iResearch, 2018).
“The biggest growth is forecast to be seen in the primary school sector.“
The expectation is that although the biggest sector of students undertaking global study tours is currently those at secondary school age, the biggest growth is forecast to be seen in the primary school sector. This reflects the population development of young children since the lifting of the one child policy in China.
Why are global study tours so popular in China?
The Chinese middle classes are looking beyond day to day work and family life, and seeking richer cultural experiences, self-improvement, culture, entertainment and, very importantly, education. Travel is an investment in the future of their children and is often undertaken as a way to educate further, and to check out possible options for future overseas high school and/or university education. Travel broadens the mind, but it also offers the practical purpose of competitive advantage on a university application form. And all this in the context of the child who is still unlikely to have many siblings and certainly no cousins to compete with for the discretionary spend of the doting grandparent. What better way to spend your money than investing in your grandchild’s education?
What is the opportunity for the UK?
The most popular places to travel to for global study tours are United Kingdom, USA, Japan, Australia, France, Singapore, Canada, New Zealand, Thailand and Switzerland (Tuniu.com, 2019 Summer Global Study Tour Trends Report). According to C Trip, South East Asia is seeing strong and rapid growth over the last two years which Zhao Yao, C Trip’s Study Tour director attributes to low prices and a proliferation of European and American teachers working in South East Asia, offering great value access to language education. South East Asia also offers the benefit of volunteer work, especially on environmental projects.
“One of the most popular reasons for embarking on a global study tour is to prepare the child for a future at an overseas university…”
One of the most popular reasons for embarking on a global study tour is to prepare the child for a future at an overseas university and, it remains the case that the USA, the UK and Australia lead the way in welcoming Chinese students at their universities. And this is the real opportunity for the United Kingdom.
According to The Guardian, in 2019, applications from Chinese students to study at UK universities increased by 30% year on year, and Chinese students are now the largest group of international students in the UK’s universities. But the opportunity is bigger still and, like many things in China, it comes down to politics.
The trade war with the USA and the poor relationship with President Trump are driving Chinese tourists and students away from America. At the same time, China’s relations with Australia are also deteriorating, with arguments over trade tariffs and anger from Beijing over Australia’s call for an independent investigation into the origination and handling of the coronavirus by China.
Chinese people are hugely influenced by politics and the direction of their President. Any further breakdown in Sino-American and Sino-Australian relations leaves a path open for the United Kingdom to welcome more and more Chinese study groups and students to our shores.
What are the challenges?
So what does the UK need to do to maximise on this opportunity? Our team in Beijing has been speaking to two of the major players in this market and you can read the full interviews here. In summary, the agents are willing to hear from the UK and believe in the destination. They identify the most important priorities are to increase the options for study beyond the pure language courses, to focus on the promotion of our cultural heritage in order to compete with more famous attractions of the USA, to expand our promotion of the regions, universities and cities beyond London, to find ways to compete on price with the States, and to improve communication of product, benefits and tours to the Chinese travel trade, through marketing, sales missions, roadshows and trade communication. It is also important for our top museums and attractions to create bespoke tours and products which can be offered flexibly as part of the study tours, and that they have Mandarin speaking staff who are able to deliver educational tours to the children on-site. If our attractions can make it easier for the Chinese tour operators to work with them during the summer months, and can deliver a really world-class service to these study tour groups, the demand from the Chinese travel trade is real and valuable.
It is clear that the United Kingdom has some way to go in terms of product development and communication of our study tour offering, but the opportunity is real and ours for the taking. I hope the pause that has resulted from the Coronavirus crisis will offer our museums and attractions an opportunity to redevelop their offering, communicate with the Chinese specialist operators, and prepare for the inevitable surge in interest for Chinese study tours arriving next summer. It is an opportunity they would be foolish to ignore.
The Chinese love museums. Art galleries and historical exhibitions continue to grow in popularity for Chinese tourists seeking a more cultural and educational experience in their overseas travels. As a result, many international museums have established themselves on the itineraries of organised tour groups and FIT travellers. The Chinese market is one of the fastest growing tourism industries in the world, and asserting your museum’s brand in the orbit of Chinese tourists is fundamental for success in this valuable market.
So how do you go about increasing your museum’s presence in China?
Here are China Travel Outbound’s top five tips for promoting your museum to the Chinese traveller.
Find out what they’re saying about you
Any attraction worth its salt keeps a firm eye on its TripAdvisor review, however, that’s not going to mean too much in the Chinese market. Although there is a Chinese TripAdvisor, China has its own ecosystem of social media platforms and travel sites which you need to explore to find out what people are saying about your museum.
China’s review sites are extremely influential. C-Trip, Mafengwo and Qyer are among the top three options with a collective unique monthly visitor rate of over 300,000,000! Mafengwo, in particular, is extremely influential with the FITs, and you need your museum to a) be listed as a Place of Interest and b) to be receiving some positive reviews on Mafengwo and its ilk. This is such a vital factor for Chinese promotion which many museums are missing out on; either with no profile on these sites or profiles with incorrect names, opening times, location information or very poor images. PR companies are able to audit these sites for you and make recommendations for improving your profiles and generating more reviews. At China Travel Outbound, we have good relationships with the platforms and are able to ask them to take down misleading imagery or incorrect information and replace it. It is not in the interest of the sites to be inaccurate, so they are happy to work with us, although there are certain verifications we have to go through.
Once you’ve got your listing looking great, you can get to work on building those positive reviews.
Find the influencers
Chinese Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) are exceptionally important in a country where people have a collective culture and like to follow trends and advice from those they trust.
A visit from the right KOL, even to the smallest museum, can change its fortunes.
If your museum piques the interest of one of these influencers, you may end up with coverage and recommendations for your museum to their fan base which can sometimes reach into the millions!
KOL coverage comes in various forms. The more common is a blog about the KOL’s personal trip experiences. However, Chinese influencers don’t run their own websites. They post their blogs on third party platforms (such as Mafengwo, CTrip and Qyer) and the blogs run to several thousand words and contain many professionally shot images. What is also important is that the website itself will be offering the reader the opportunity to book tickets for the trip alongside the blog.So your coverage is supported by a direct distribution channel.
KOLs also post about their experiences on personal Chinese social media, for example, on Weibo and WeChat. These posts tend to be more immediate, although it is not unusual for a KOL to spend some time manipulating the images to make sure the posts are beautifully constructed to show your museum in its best light.
Livestreams – Occasionally, influencers will livestream their visit to your museum with viewership levels that can hold hundreds of thousands of users. Livestreams allow audiences to experience your museum as close to first-hand as possible when living on the other side of the world. Influencers can interact directly with their audience, discuss and outline the various attractions of your museum and offer their immediate impressions and recommendations while still onsite. The authenticity of livestreaming appeals greatly to a population subjected to so many copies and fake products.
Museums with a commitment to the Chinese market should definitely consider investing in their own social media platform. Weibo and WeChat are the most popular choices. A recent survey found that Weibo had the strongest influence in the trip planning of FIT millennial travellers. WeChat is another of the largest social platforms in China and one which already sees many international museums’ profiles well established on the site. Check out JingTravel’s museum index to gain an insight into which museums have most effectively capitalised on the exposure provided by a WeChat profile.
The lion’s share of Chinese bookings comes via the Travel Trade. If your museum is large and well established in the market, you may want to consider working directly with the Chinese travel trade and signing contracts directly with operators. Alternatively, you may wish to work via Destination Management Companies (DMCs) based in your own country. Either way, you are going to need to promote your museum to the Chinese travel trade to encourage them to accept its inclusion within itineraries, or to push it themselves to their customers.
You can approach this in a number of ways. Going out to China on a sales mission to meet operators is effective for finding a few key contacts to build on. Attending trade shows can also work but you’ll need to go frequently and build relationships as it is quite hard to get stand out, unless your brand is already a very famous one. However, whatever you do, you need to carefully consider your long term strategy, as building relationships in China takes a long time and a lot of effort. A more effective and sustainable approach is to work with a representative based in China to help you deliver your messages, train agents about your museum, and follow up on all meetings to ensure points have been actioned.
With itineraries tailored to families, students, business large groups and many more; positioning your museum strongly within the Travel Trade could be the most effective way to boost inbound Chinese tourism in the direction of your business.
The number of Chinese tourists visiting the UK has never been higher so now is the time to work on ensuring your museum is featured on itineraries. Don’t be dismayed, however, if you are just one of the options listed for, say, a free afternoon in London. That in itself can deliver profile. And once your museum starts to be listed by one Chinese operator, the others will start to take you seriously. Remember, copying is a fundamental aspect of Chinese business!
Open your museum shop on Tmall
Once you have followed the previous three steps and are more established in the Chinese market, another way to increase exposure and generate profit is to offer some of your products online. The Chinese have a lot of interest in these kinds of high quality museum-branded products and making these items available yields great potential for success; as the British Museum had discovered when doing exactly that and continues to do so to this day.
Sites such as Tmall and Taobao would be recommended to offer this service and it provides yet another means of cementing your position in the Chinese tourism market, as it increases brand awareness and draws more traffic to your travel and social platforms.
China Travel Outbound is experienced in working with European museums and we can help promote your museum to the Chinese. If you would like to find out more about how Chinese representation, marketing and PR can help you promote your museum brand to the Chinese market, please get in touch with us for a chat.
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The 530ft viewing tower is the highest on the South Coast and welcomes over 300,000 visitors per year from the UK and all over the world. China Travel Outbound has been tasked with improving the profile of the attraction on Chinese travel platforms, and delivering content online through Chinese social media. This activity will augment and complement the work already being delivered by the agency in China for VisitBrighton.
The agency has also been asked to explore ways to connect more effectively with the growing Chinese student population attending the University of Sussex and the University of Brighton.
Helena Beard, Managing Director, China Travel Outbound, said, ‘Brighton’s popularity in China is on the rise, with its huge appeal for millennials, FIT travelers, families and the buoyant international student market. British Airways i360 is the city’s most visited paid attraction and it is very important that its Chinese profile reflects that position. Our goal is that every Chinese tourist visiting the South Coast should have a flight on BA i360 on their itinerary.’
Anna Prior, Head of Marketing, British Airways i360 said: ‘As part of our international marketing campaign we are keen to increase the awareness of BAi360 and Brighton in the Chinese market. We have already welcomed many Chinese visitors to the attraction, but we know the market has great potential. We’re excited to have appointed China Travel Outbound; its expertise in the Chinese tourism market will provide us with the in-depth knowledge and promotion we require’.
The UK is one of the most popular places in the world for Chinese students seeking education abroad; in fact, it is estimated that there are around 130,000 Chinese undergraduates and postgraduates studying in the UK, with numbers growing every year.
So what draws Chinese students to the UK? What do they like to do here and what places to they like to visit?
We sat down with University of Sussex student, Joanna, to discuss what it is that brings Chinese Students to the U.K, how they like to travel and what student life is like in a foreign country.
If you’d like to find out more about how the Chinese travel and decide on where to visit, be sure to check out some of our other related articles:
‘Children’s Day’ is an annual holiday in China, as well as many other countries, celebrated on June 1st. While there are no specific traditions to be followed regarding the holiday, it is typically accepted as being a day for parents to spend time with their children and reflect on the impact they have on their lives; it is a day for ‘family time’. Many companies will award their staff a full or half day off in order to allow this unofficial custom to be followed, promoting positive mindfulness of loving, family relationships.
Commercial businesses also have the opportunity for involvement in the holiday, with numerous public services and tourist attractions allowing free admission to families and other companies holding specific ‘children’ themed events.
This was a perfect chance for Martinhal, a hotel chain based in Portugal who excel in ‘family-friendly’ holiday experiences, to express itself further in the Chinese market through its involvement in the holiday. With the help of China Travel Outbound’s Beijing office, Martinhal was able to collaborate with Tribe Organic, a Mediterranean-themed restaurant chain in Beijing and Shanghai, to establish a ‘Children’s day’ event to benefit all who were involved.
On the day of the celebration, Tribe held a child-friendly promotion at one of their restaurants which attracted a large quantity of families through the doors to enjoy a variety of games and activities. This allowed CTO to distribute information and summer offers from the Martinhal brand as a more efficient means of targeted marketing. The main attraction of the day was the raffle held in which certain families could win vouchers for a stay at one of Martinhal’s hotels in Portugal.
The event overall was an excellent demonstration of Martinhal’s good will and helped put the name of the brand in more mouths of potential Chinese tourists.
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The inaugural Chinese Tourism Leaders’ Dinner will be held on Sunday 5th November 2017. Hosted by specialist travel PR agency, China Travel Outbound, and China Welcome training experts, Capela China, the event will bring together those senior travel and tourism professionals who are driving the growth in Chinese tourism to the UK. Guests include representatives from VisitBritain, Royal Museums Greenwich, Blenheim Palace, Bicester Village and the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group.
The theme of this year’s event will be ‘The rise of the Chinese Independent Traveller’. We are delighted to welcome Europe’s most highly respected expert on Chinese tourism, Professor Dr Wolfgang Arlt, Director COTRI (China Outbound Tourism Research Institute), to present his thoughts on the changing landscape of the FIT market. China Travel Outbound’s Beijing Director, Vivienne Song, will then share her top tips with the audience on how best to engage with and market to this valuable and growing segment.
Attendance at the event is by invitation only. You can follow the event on Twitter @ChinaTravelOut or @CapelaChina #CTLDinner.
China Travel Outbound is a PR, sales and marketing agency with offices in Brighton and Beijing. We help tourist attractions, destinations, hotels and restaurants promote themselves to the huge market of Chinese tourists who are now choosing to holiday in the UK, Europe and America.
We’re looking for a fluent Mandarin speaker to intern with us! You will receive valuable experience in working in an office and, hopefully, improve your English language skills and build new contacts and networks.
There are 130,000 Chinese students studying in the UK and we want you to help us communicate with them. We are organising a series of VIP weekends for the Presidents and Vice Presidents of the Chinese Student Societies of the UK’s universities. As our intern, you will contact the right people, invite them to participate in the trips, and build a network of ambassadors for our British tourist destination, hotel and attraction clients.
You will need a knowledge of the international student environment, in particular Chinese societies, or a willingness to learn quickly. You need to be able to use Chinese and UK social media.
Fluent Mandarin Chinese is required, Cantonese would also be an advantage.
With food and drink experiences so highly prized by Chinese tourists, what can you do to attract this growing market of gastro-fans to your restaurant? Where a previous blog discussed food preferences, here are our top 6 sales and marketing tips.
1. Mandarin menus are a must-have
Your menu is your primary sales material for the passing hungry tourist. Although more and more Chinese are learning other languages, many still have limited foreign language skills. The Chinese are also very conscious of embarrassment and are fearful of ordering the wrong thing. So avoid confusion over food choices, and make your guests feel welcome with a Mandarin menu. And what would be even better? Include a section or a set menu recommending the dishes most popular with other Chinese guests.
Brighton’s highly popular,seafood restaurant, The Regency has gone one step further. Due to the restaurant’s vast number of Chinese guests, they have a Mandarin menu complete with comments about all the dishes other guests enjoy. It was translated by a Chinese student and is full of ‘in’ jokes, making the menu even more fun to read and shareable on social media.
2. ‘Ni Hao’: say hello to your Chinese guests
Not only will Mandarin menus go a long way in attracting Chinese travellers to your restaurant, but speaking Mandarin will too. If you have any Mandarin-speaking staff, that’s great – be sure to utilise them front of house. If not, why not start by learning a few simple key phrases yourself, then teach them to your team. It will show you’re actively making an effort to make your Chinese guests feel welcome and comfortable in your restaurant, and put you one step ahead of other businesses. It might help you garner positive online reviews too, a surefire way to put your restaurant on the map. It is widely known that Chinese tourists plan and research their trips months in advance and good reviews will do wonders for attracting more Chinese travellers to your restaurant. All it takes is a simple ‘ni hao’.
3. Accept Chinese payment methods
The Chinese do not like to carry money around with them, especially not large sums. In fact, in 2015, the combination of card and online payments accounted for nearly 60% of all retail transactions in China.You are far more likely to see people pulling their phone out to pay for their lunch in China, than their wallet. If you want to attract Chinese travellers to your restaurant, cater to their payment needs.
If that doesn’t convince you to start accepting Chinese payment methods, maybe this will? The combination of payments from popular online methods, Alipay and WeChat Wallet, has flourished from less than $81 billion in 2012 to $2.9 trillion in 2016. Clearly the introduction of these payment methods can work wonders, so why not introduce them to your restaurant now?
4. Get online
With 721.4 million internet users, having an online presence in Chinese is fundamental. Chinese travellers like to plan in advance, reading information about where they’re going and planning each element, including their meals. They also look at photographs of the products you have to offer. Perhaps start by building a presence on WeChat. With 938 million active WeChat users, a presence on WeChat will help you reach high numbers of potential diners. Post relevant information, such as your address and opening times, your Mandarin menu, photographs of the foods and drinks on offer and anything else you think may be of interest to Chinese travellers. This will make it easier for users to find you online after reading about the experiences from their friends and family. Also high on their radar are online reviews. Positive reviews can go a long way in attracting Chinese visitors to your restaurant. After a rave review by a popular Chinese blogger, The Regency Restaurant, witnessed a very noticeable increase in the amount of Chinese visitors they received, and the Chinese now make up almost half of their clientele year-round.
If you want to attract Chinese diners and generate big business fast, get the help of a Key Opinion Leader. If you have the resources, utilising a KOL is a great way to gain publicity for your restaurant. Here at China Travel Outbound, we invited famous Chinese rock band, Miserable Faith, to lunch at Hard Rock’s original London Cafe. They enjoyed a meal, were given a VIP tour, had their pictures taken and given personalised gifts. The subsequent posts on Weibo reached nearly 3 million followers, giving Hard Rock Cafe great exposure to the Chinese market.
5. Photograph your food
Whilst a picture of your food is considered a sure sign of a downmarket joint in the UK, restaurants in China almost always publish pictures of their food. A picture takes away a lot of the stress of knowing what to order where language is a challenge. Again, it is vital to make your guests feel comfortable.
Food presentation is also important. With the rise of social media, making your dishes ‘WeChat-worthy’ will also help your online reputation. Appealing, well-presented food is great for your business when Chinese guests share their experiences on social media and review sites. Lots of small sharing dishes, presented on pretty crockery or with decorative garnishes, will encourage social shares.
6. Get friendly with your local tourist board
Let your local tourist board, or VisitBritain, know you are keen to host Chinese trade fams and media trips. All visitors need to be fed and this is a great way to start to make inroads to the influencers in the market. Or offer discounts and jobs to students at the local university, and open yourself up to the Chinese millennial market. They are brilliant at spreading the word as we found out during a recent VIP Student Fam Trip to Brighton.
With these six simple steps, attracting Chinese diners has never been easier. Contact us to find out more and put your restaurant on the map.
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