The Chinese outbound tourist is changing drastically: as recently as 10 years ago, travel in China constituted returning to home provinces for Chinese New Year and organised travel tours. Fast-forward to present day and travel for the Tier 1 city Chinese traveller involves international long-haul flights for multi-country trips, researching the most sought-after destinations and interacting on online forums to inform their travel.
Who is the Chinese traveller?
- 135 million Chinese people travelled overseas during 2016
- This demographic spent $261 billion while abroad – a 12% increase from 2015
- 81% of Chinese outbound travellers consider shopping a key factor when choosing their destination
Among these 135 million travellers, there are big differences between ages and generations.
While the post-80s generation traveller’s typical behaviour is ticking off the quintessential “must-see” sights such as Paris, Rome and New York, the post-90s traveller is on the whole concerned with unique and individual experiences. Their trip of choice may take in the likes of Sweden or Morocco, seeking out more unconventional pins for their maps.
Lastly, the emerging post-95 generation comprises highly internationalised consumers and travellers, often with significant experience travelling for international study or family trips. This generation is the first Chinese generation to consider international travel the norm.
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As the Chinese outbound travellers’ experience develops, so does their attitude to travelling and their preparation for it. In the past, Chinese travellers mostly travelled in groups and bus tours due to a strong aversion to risk and complex visa procedures. Travelling with a Chinese tour guide and Chinese food were guaranteed ways of avoiding risk. Today, this tour traveller is being replaced by a new generation of independents.
The new Chinese traveller is increasingly comfortable in English and is keen to explore niche areas and adventurous locations, as well as showing interest and willingness to try the local cuisine. They are travellers seeking intangible experiences rather than buying material goods.
Given that more than 70% of Chinese outbound travellers now plan and travel independently, what is the best approach for destinations and brands to engage with them?
This audience relies heavily on online channels for research such as travel forums, social media, online advertising and influential travel KOLs. This has spawned a new group of digital platforms entirely dedicated to travel research and booking. Mafengwo, Qunar, Qiongyou (among others) offer city guides, traveller reviews and flight and hotel bookings. Some of the most popular platforms have over 100 million registered users and highly engaged traveller communities, making a natural environment for hospitality brands, destinations and global retailers to engage with affluent Chinese travellers.
Key travelling dates should also be considered: May Day, October Golden Week and Chinese New Year are all peak travel seasons. In order to manage a brand’s approach towards such a selective consumer group over such a wide range of potential channels, a holistic approach to the digital landscape is required.
The effort and planning behind a cohesive digital strategy is decidedly worthwhile: 62% are researching and booking their trips online, versus only 10% offline.
Checklist for Digital Success:
- Do you have compelling content on WeChat and Weibo?
- Are you communicating an experience that appeals to Chinese travellers?
- Do you have community management on relevant online travel forums such as Qunar, Mafengwo and Qyer?
- Do you work with leading travel and lifestyle KOLs to deliver messaging to targeted audiences?
Hot Pot Digital advises leading international travel, tourism and retail brands on digital strategies for reaching China’s new travelling consumers.
We generate high-value audiences through targeted social, digital and paid media campaigns.