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Travellers from China: Marketing to Chinese tourists

  Posted in Resources  Last updated 9/02/2024

What are Chinese travellers?

Chinese travellers are individuals residing in China who travel domestically within their country or internationally to various destinations around the world. This group has become a significant force in the global tourism industry due to China’s large population, growing middle class, and increasing disposable income. 

Chinese travellers are known for their distinct travel preferences and behaviours, which include a strong inclination towards mobile booking platforms, a preference for experiential travel, and an emphasis on cultural and culinary experiences. While an incredibly diverse group, they often seek out destinations that offer a blend of historical significance, natural beauty, and modern amenities.

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Why should you capture the attention of Chinese travellers?

China is home to one of the most massive outbound tourism sectors globally. When you start attracting this crowd, you’re not just opening your doors to a few more guests; you’re tapping into a colossal wave of potential visitors. And we’re not just talking about sheer numbers here. Chinese tourists are known for their willingness to spend generously on accommodation, dining, and shopping, making them a dream demographic for any hotel looking to boost its bottom line. 

What about the hard numbers? According to Statista research, revenue in the Travel & Tourism market is projected to reach US$184.50bn in 2024. Meanwhile, the largest Travel & Tourism market is the Hotels market with a projected market volume of US$93.62bn in 2024. In population size, that market is made up of just over 300 million people.

Appealing to the Chinese travel market means you can enjoy the benefits of:

  1. Significant market size: China boasts one of the largest outbound tourism markets in the world. By tapping into this demographic, hotels can access a vast pool of potential guests, increasing occupancy rates and revenue.
  2. High spending power: Chinese tourists are known for their high spending power, often outspending tourists from other nations on accommodation, dining, and shopping. Catering to this market can significantly boost a hotel’s profitability.
  3. Year-round travel: Unlike tourists from some regions who may travel seasonally, Chinese travellers have multiple peak travel periods throughout the year, including Chinese New Year, Golden Week, and the summer months. This provides a steady flow of potential guests year-round.
  4. Global influence: Chinese tourists often share their travel experiences on social media platforms, influencing friends, family, and followers. Positive experiences can lead to increased visibility and attractiveness to a broader audience.

Diving into the Chinese travel market is not just a good idea—it’s a game-changer.

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What are Chinese tourists looking for?

Chinese tourists, with their diverse interests and preferences, are on the lookout for a blend of experiences and amenities that cater to their cultural background, technologically savvy, and desire for convenience and quality. Here’s what they typically seek:

  • Cultural compatibility: Chinese tourists appreciate when hotels and destinations show understanding and respect for their culture. This includes offering Mandarin-speaking staff, Chinese signage, and information, as well as celebrating Chinese holidays or festivals.
  • Authentic experiences: They are keen on exploring local culture, history, and natural beauty. Authentic local experiences, from traditional performances to local cuisine tasting, are highly valued.
  • Convenience and efficiency: Ease of booking, check-in, and payment processes are crucial. Mobile platforms are preferred for managing travel arrangements, with a strong inclination towards platforms like WeChat and Alipay for both information and transactions.
  • Quality dining options: Food is an integral part of Chinese culture, so having access to high-quality cuisine and authentic local dishes that cater to their palate is a significant draw.
  • Shopping opportunities: Shopping, particularly for luxury and local specialty items, is often a key activity. Proximity to or information about prime shopping destinations can enhance their travel experience.
  • Comfort and safety: High standards of accommodation, with a focus on cleanliness, safety, and privacy, are important. Facilities that ensure a comfortable and secure stay rank high on their list.
  • Technology integration: From free and fast Wi-Fi to smart room technologies, Chinese tourists appreciate modern amenities that keep them connected and enhance their stay.
  • Health and wellness: Interest in wellness and health-related amenities, including spas, fitness centres, and relaxation areas, is growing among Chinese travellers, who often seek to integrate wellness into their travels.
  • Family-friendly features: Many Chinese tourists travel with family, so amenities catering to all ages, such as family rooms, entertainment options, and child-friendly activities, are highly sought after.

As you can see, there’s a huge variety of wants and needs from this important market. Chinese tourism alone has a market share the equivalent of multiple less populated countries put together, so you can expect a wide range. All this means is that, no matter what kind of hotel you have, you have opportunities to appeal to this demographic – if you can prove that you’re worth their interest and loyalty.

What about Chinese Millennials?

Chinese millennials are an increasingly significant part of the overall Chinese (and global) travel market. 

According to the Hotels.com Chinese International Travel Monitor (CITM) 2015 report, Chinese outbound traveller numbers increased by 20% over the previous year.

This increase in numbers has been driven by millennials, aged 18-35, with 59% of hoteliers surveyed claiming an increase in the number of Chinese guests aged 35 or younger in the past year.

Looking specifically at Asia Pacific, the number leaps to almost four out of five hoteliers (78%) welcoming more young Chinese guests over the past year, compared with the year before.

For the Chinese millennials, the reasons for travel are, overwhelmingly, related to leisure (91%), and business (43%), but many Chinese also take the opportunity to visit friends and relatives (17%), go on a cruise (15%), or seek overseas education (7%), beauty treatment (6%), or medicine (5%).

While overseas, a Chinese millennial’s favourite activities are sightseeing, dining, shopping, and visiting resorts and beaches. There is also growth in eco-tours, with roughly 20% of young Chinese rating it as a favourite activity while abroad.

It is clear that the Chinese millennial community is a key opportunity for tourism across the globe, but especially so in the Asia Pacific region. At the same time, for hoteliers to take advantage of this opportunity in full, it requires an understanding of the people and the way they like to travel.

How to appeal to Chinese Millennials

Young Chinese people are very tech-savvy. The CITM report found that 30% of millennials use social media in making travel decisions, which is only just behind word of mouth and review sites, at 44%.

There is less of a reliance on travel agents and packages, and 80% of Chinese travellers overall used a mobile, desktop, or laptop computer to plan and book their travel – a big jump from 53% in the previous year.

Ensuring your hotel is connected to local online travel agents, for example Ctrip, will play a big role in distributing your available rooms online via a channel manager such as SiteMinder, to attract the Chinese traveller.

It’s also important that your hotel is fully mobile-ready, with mobile websites and/or apps that are easy to navigate regardless of the device – remember that many Chinese are using lower-cost and less powerful smartphones when compared to their overseas counterparts.

Like most young people around the world, Chinese millennials are also happy to travel cheaply. The study found that 15% of travellers between the ages of 18 and 25 booked into hostels and backpacker venues, for example. On average Chinese millennials would spend $US503 per day on accommodation, food, entertainment and so on, which is $US33 less than the overall average Chinese expenditure of $US536.

Hotels that are budget-conscious are therefore in the best position to capitalise on the growth in Chinese millennial travel. However, hoteliers should also be aware that around 66% of these travellers appreciate hotels and accommodations that offer a tailored experience, and this means Chinese-language booking websites, and Chinese-language information and signage within the hotel.

This culturally tailored experience isn’t absolutely necessary for the majority of Chinese millennial customers, and only 20% suggest it is mandatory before they book with a hotel. With competition for these customers expected to heat up across the globe, it is likely that many hotels, both independent and franchise, will take care to offer Chinese-language communications to their customers, so it can be expected to become a competitive requirement for any hotel that wants to capitalise on the movement of these millennials.

Finally, with millennials being so connected to the Internet, WiFi is an increasingly important service for hotels to offer, so they can keep in touch and communicate back home.

Those in tourism are also starting to see value in accepting payment from Chinese-based platforms, such as Alipay.

As with any customer, the Chinese millennial will appreciate a personalised level of service and would prefer to stay in accommodation that is tailored to their preferences.

With the expected explosion of young Chinese tourists around the world, this is going to be a key customer base for all hotels in the future.

When will Chinese tourists return?

Chinese travel restrictions fell away at the beginning of 2023, though there was still some clear hesitancy from the populace at large due to the sudden opening. 

However, before the pandemic, mainland China was the largest outbound travel marketing in the world, both in terms of trip volume and total spend, according to the World Tourism Organisation. Much of that sentiment has held even over the COVID-19 crisis, with McKinsey’s Survey of Chinese Tourist Attitudes in November 2022 showing that about 40 percent of respondents reported that they expect to undertake outbound travel for their next leisure trip.

So when will Chinese tourists return? Based on past sentiment, any day now, with some experts like OliverWyman suggesting there may be a full recovery of Chinese outbound tourism in the second half of 2024.

What to do to attract Chinese travellers to your hotel

The first thing to remember is that, just like for travellers from all over the world, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to attracting guests from China.

There is incredible diversity within China, given it is a country of almost 1.5 billion people and over 5,000 years of history. There are 33 provinces, municipalities, autonomous regions, and special administrative regions (SAR), and China shares borders with 14 countries. Mandarin is the official language, but various dialects are spoken throughout China.

On top of that, there has always been diverse incomes, budgets, ages, hometowns, interests, and travel motivations.

Comparing the pre and post-COVID landscape shows us that things are even more different now. Initially there are likely to be specific segments and reasons for travel before these give way to a more general wave of international leisure travel. They may include short-haul trips such as:

  • Travellers undertaking urgent trips to reunite with family and friends
  • Business people travelling to reestablish relationships and partnerships
  • Student travel
  • Travel for healthcare

Once urgent trips are out of the way, visa processes are smoothed out, and all flights have resumed, it’s likely that long-haul travel will take place for leisure purposes. Some predictions are expecting:

  • The first wave of guests to be experienced travellers, including millennials, Gen-Z and luxury travellers.
  • A move away from big sightseeing groups and tours, towards independent trips that have been planned and dreamt about for years.
  • A greater focus on experiencing and learning, with value for money as a priority.
  • ‘Less discovered’ destinations to be popular – e.g trips that feel like an adventure.
  • More attention being paid to sustainability.

So what can your hotel do right now and in the future to maximise bookings?

The very first step is knowing where to find and target travellers from China online.

SiteMinder’s Changing Traveller Report found that just 8% plan to begin their research on a search engine, well down on the global average of 33% – most will begin on specific sites or apps. Additionally, 47% plan to book with an OTA and 24% direct with their accommodation.

Tip #1 – Connect additional OTA channels, such as Trip.com and Kognitiv

SiteMinder data shows that if you connect to Trip.com and Kognitiv – you will be visible where nearly 75% of where bookings are made by travellers from China. Increasing your channel diversity is always a good idea if you want to reach new markets or cash-in on a large market like China. Use a channel manager solution to automate the process, cut-down on double bookings, and get key performance insights.

Tip #2 – Increase your language and currency capabilities

This is both important for the booking process and the guest experience. If you don’t have multi-language and multi-currency optimised via an online booking engine, it’s very likely you’ll experience a high number of abandoned bookings due to frustration.

Likewise, having information on-hand in Mandarin at your hotel to cater for their interests will be the difference between an average stay and an amazing stay – one that they post about on social media and tell their friends and family about.

Tip #3 – Use tech to provide seamless payment processing

A huge part of gaining trust and assuring travellers from China that you are using tech effectively is to ensure your payment system is fast, simple, and secure. It’s a good idea to look into hotel-specific payment solutions, to keep guest data safe and make your life easier.

Saving time through automation will also ease the pressure on your staff and allow them more flexibility to serve guests.

Tip #4 – Audit your marketing and sales strategies

Take a look back at past reviews to see what guests from China liked and disliked about your hotel. Align that with the current information you have to ensure your marketing is tailored to the segment you want to attract.

With visitors from China more eager to explore and experience than ever, make sure your offers are value-packed and that you are paying attention to the global desire for more sustainable travel.

Tip #5 – Consider the Global Distribution System

The GDS can still be a vital part of increasing your hotel’s visibility, and recent years have shown GDS bookings making a comeback – not only for corporate travel but leisure travel too. The ability to link with hotels, flights, and car rentals in one simple interface makes it the perfect platform for that never-ending need of convenience.

Connect to the GDS via your channel manager provider to diversify your booking opportunities and gain access to an exclusive network of travel agencies.

Tip #6 – Make your presence known throughout the booking journey

Being proactive and making sure guests from China find you is crucial. Think about how your guests dream, plan, book, prepare, experience, and share throughout their journey.

Some things you can do to maximise visibility and enhance your chance of winning revenue include staying active across all social media channels, optimising your public websites and listings for search engines; offer enticing extras upgrades, and packages; maintain direct contact with guests via personalised communication, accommodate customer requests as best you can, and always make it easy for guests to share their experience or leave positive feedback.

Tip #7 – Compete hard in your local market

Understanding your local market, and knowing the activities of your closest competitors can give you an edge. With pricing insights and business intelligence tools you’ll be able to operate in real-time to ensure you can maximise both booking volume and individual reservation revenue.

You can also view reports that help you identify trends and make adjustments to your strategy so you can compete at the very top of your local market.

Top Chinese travellers destination

While many Chinese travellers have indicated a preference to return to tried-and-true holiday destinations like New Zealand and Australia, recent statistics show that Chinese tourism is taking a closer look at countries that previously may have gone overlooked.

Trip.com, China’s largest online travel agent, has revealed that the top 5 destinations for Chinese travellers over 2023 were:

  1. Thailand
  2. Japan
  3. South Korea
  4. Singapore
  5. Malaysia

Whether this ranking will stay the same over 2024 is a different question. However, for hotels located in these destinations, it is more important than ever to remain competitive to ensure that your business is able to attract and re-attract the crucial Chinese market. For hotels located outside of these countries, targeting Chinese travellers is still crucial, as the market share is such that even a less popular destination can still receive significant volumes of guests from this market.

By Dean Elphick

Dean is the Senior Content Marketing Specialist of SiteMinder, the leading technology provider delivering hoteliers unbeatable revenue results. Dean has made writing and creating content his passion for the entirety of his professional life, which includes more than six years at SiteMinder. Through content, Dean aims to provide education, inspiration, assistance and value for accommodation businesses looking to improve the way they run their operations achieve their goals.

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