As we know, the number of outbound Chinese tourists keep growing in a fast pace, reaching 122 million tourists in 2016. It will account for 20%of all global travels in 2020.
With the income growth, evolution of tourism consuming habits, visa facilitation by tourism destination and so on, outbound Chinese tourists increase by 4.3% in 2016 year on year. However, only 10% of Chinese population holds the passports as travel document abroad, which indicates that there is still an enormous potential for growth. Inspite of the amazing growth, tapping into this market is still a challenge unless mastering the online digital habit of Chinese travelers.
So which tips can we suggest for tourism operators to attract Chinese customers online?
For Chinese travelers, some destinations might not be all known by traditional media and personal experience, so their adventure begins from the time they start to search information online. They enjoy the exploration of new destinations and new culture, and experience of collecting all the useful information to make their own travel guide with their independent viewpoints, instead of being a “traditional” travelers. They regard travelling independently as a fashion, a symbol of difference from the elder generation and demonstration of their ability.
1. Create a Chinese website, indexed in Chinese search engines
For most Chinese travelers, to browse a website in English is still not comfortable. A website localized in Chinese language and adapted to Chinese user experience is very important to establish your presence in Chinese Internet world. A Chinese webpage should be installed not only for making your Chinese target understand better, but also to get your audience involved and know that you are thinking highly of them, as we all know Chinese market is large enough to have some “special care”.
If your server is located in your original country, the Internet accessing speed of your website could be unacceptable for Chinese Internet users or banned in China if you do not have necessary documentation to publish your content. network solutions such as hosting or CDN should also be considered, in order to accelerate your website in China.
According to Chinese policies, Google is not available in China where Baidu holds more than 80% of search engine market. Same as Google, it is important to understand the keywords and optimizing regulation of a search engine. As the search results in the field of tourism is dominated by OTAs such as Booking.com, TripAdvisor, etc., it will be relatively difficult to occupy all the search result pages, which means communicating on OTA platforms should be also considered. (See following)
2. Build brand image and digital PR on Weibo
China has a totally distinct internet culture with different social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, the social media channels generally used are all banned in China. According to McKinsey, China has the world’s most active environment for social media. Chinese netizens spend more than 40 percent of their time online on social media, a figure that continues to rise rapidly. Chinese has more positive attitude towards brands on social media according to Fleishman-Hillard.
In China the most used social media platforms for are Weibo and WeChat, which allow reaching audience in different ways.
Weibo is the mixture of 70% Twitter with its organization of messages and 30% Facebook with more various multi-media functionalities. Weibo is literally “microblog” in Chinese, which offers a cyber space with its features of “media channel” as Twitter.
Unlike Twitter, the Weibo platform has a strong relationship with key opinion leaders(KOL) and online media, who have already a large base of audience and a great reputation among them. With KOLs, brands could touch more potential customers, raise their brand awareness, and also export the followers of KOLs to their own social accounts.
Moreover, regarding video streaming platform, only Chinese video platforms such as Youku, iQiyi e Tencent Video are meaningful for Chinese customers, so if it comes to publish a video it is no use to upload in on Youtube.
As part of a campaign by VisitBritain to promote tourism, 101 Britain’s most famous landmarks, including Stonehenge and Buckingham Palace, are being given the same renaming treatment. Chinese customers approach the campaign via a specific mini-site and social media, enabled to know the history, interesting stories, listening to the original pronunciation, send Chinese name proposal, like and share. The names receiving most likes would be assumed officially by the destinations and published on online maps, dictionary and encyclopedia. Creating Mandarin names for Britain’s famous sites promotes engagement between the British and Chinese populations and encourage more people in China to choose Britain as a holiday destination.
3. Maintain your brand loyalty and make yourself more ‘social’ on WeChat
The latest report says that WeChat’s monthly active users have reached 938 million. WeChat is now not only an instant messenger or a pure social media but also an integrated ecosystem.
In-depth contents are applied here while on Weibo contents are short and simple. Compared to official press release or traditional communication towards international travellers, WeChat articles tend to be more engaging and created towards sharing action in an intimate network.
However, WeChat is not only a messaging app or social network any more but also helps with “Chinese-friendly” digitalization of destinations such as Wi-fi access, store locator, customer care, games, membership system, coupons, mobile payment. Instead of loading webpages, or downloading an app not frequently used and occupying large space of smartphone’s memory, people now are more likely to follow the WeChat public account to have the same functionality.
For example, Manchester Airport in the UK started the WeChat official account to help its “Chinese-friendly” digital transformation towards Chinese customers. Manchester Airport engages the followers with news and information of the latest events and promotions at the airport. With presence on this ubiquitous social media platform, the airport engages and understands followers with regular, informative newsletters and timely responses to feedback and queries with the help of WeChat.
4. Exploit the Chinese OTA network. That’s the place to be!
The Chinese online tourism market is dominated by Ctrip which accounts for more than 70% of accommodation bookings in China, taking the place of Booking.com and Expedia in Europe. In China, for instance, 91% of online shoppers used OTAs, but less than 4 out of 10 used hotel websites.
OTAs could have different business model: they could be an online tourism agency or also a platform or a marketplace for all kinds of tourism products. Accommodation (hotel, hostel, B&B), transports (flight, train, taxi, ship, car renting), tourism products (group travel, flight+hotel, short trip, customized trip), travelling strategy and community could all be included in a single platform. You should try to have a higher rankings and track your reviews on this platform to have a better online impression. By the way, the pages on OTAs are also more likely to be captured by search engines. So you should make sure that all information on OTAs are sexy, straightforward and updated.
Chinese Internet ecosystem, which is different from their western correspondents, provides a chance for overseas destination to promote themselves and boost their business in a cost-efficient way. A more Chinese-friendly destination could have success in increasing traffic from China and capitalize it into revenue.
Digital to Asia is a digital marketing and e-commerce agency focused on Chinese market and based in Milan, Italy, delivering “end to end” digital solutions of high quality to Italian and European brands willing to tap into the Chinese market.
Digital to Asia – Your digital gateway to China
Ref: Travel Weekly Asia, Attract China, Travel 168, ABC, Tuniu, Pinchain