The Chinese outbound tourism market is undeniably lucrative for savvy properties wanting to expand. Here are some ways to get more bookings from this high volume and increasingly high spending market.
The Market: A Revolution, Not Evolution
The Chinese outbound travel in the recent years is often described as a ‘revolution’, not ‘evolution’. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Chinese tourists spent $261 billion in other countries, while the number of outbound Chinese travellers increased by six percent to 122 million in 2016.
This is happening with only four percent of Chinese population owning a passport! So, just imagine the potential when this grows.
Go Digital to Capture This Growing Pie
With more than 721 million Internet users in China, going digital is one of the most important way to expand into this market. Here are some ways to do this.
1. Get an Appealing Website with Good Chinese Content
The Chinese are web savvy customers. Make sure you have a well-designed website before you go into this market. In addition to looking good, the website must also feature high-quality content – general information, offers and inspiring photos and videos. Remember, social media links like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are blocked – no point in including them in the website for your Chinese edition.
Other important factors to consider are high download speed (hosting locally would help that immensely) and translation of content. These also add up towards improving your rankings on Baidu – the China search engine.
2. Become Search Smart – Understand the Workings of Baidu
80 percent of Chinese search happens on Baidu. Develop an SEO strategy around the rules and algorithms of Baidu, as well as the Chinese Government’s rules of censorship. You can advertise on Baidu but the paperwork required can be cumbersome. As a small property, finding a local marketing partner can be beneficial.
3. Use Ctrip and Relevant Payment Gateways
Having your own website is great. But, for greater reach you need to find bigger, local platforms. Ctrip is the largest online travel agency in China and one you definitely should be listed on in order to be seen. Other major players are Qunar and eLong. It is also important to have a trusted and secure payment gateway to encourage users to complete their booking.
Once listed, managing your rates and inventory on Ctrip is easily done via the STAAH channel manager, which integrates with this channel.
4. Invest in Chinese Social Media Platforms
92% of Chinese online users are engaged in social media. China has double the percentage of ‘active’ social media users than Europe or North America, making it one of the most engaged countries online in the world. Joining the social revolution here is a no brainer.
Weibo, a micro-blogging platform, and WeChat with more than 889 million registered users at the end of 2016, are the big players in this area. Chinese generally have a very positive attitude towards brands using these social tools to communicate, unlike other countries around the world. So, if you’re looking to attract and convert, make sure social is a big portion of your marketing mix.
5. Reviews and Word of Mouth Matters
Possibly because of cultural values emphasising respect among friendship and family circles, Chinese people are particularly influenced by others’ recommendations, experiences, and opinions. Hence encouraging reviews and managing them efficiently via tools like ReviewMinder are important.
The Chinese also have a strong celebrity or influencer culture. Leverage this to your advantage where possible.
With the language barrier and censorship rules, going into the market can be daunting. It is important that you partner with the right people and learn from others to make the whole entry process cost effective and successful for your business.