Hotels don’t need to be reminded how valuable international tourists are – especially those from China.
Chinese tourists are consistent travellers thanks to their country’s strong economy, and with the volume of outbound guests, they’re a target for any hotel looking to boost occupancy.
Within the next 10 years China’s economy will only get stronger, and if your hotel isn’t already developing strategies to attract Chinese tourists, it absolutely should be.
We wanted to give hoteliers some strong ideas for enticing Chinese travellers. Looking for expert advice and practical tips, SiteMinder’s Dean Elphick spoke to Justin Steele of China Ready Now.
Justin’s company specialises in helping hospitality businesses make themselves ready to attract and accept Chinese tourists. Here he covers all the frequently asked questions, and lays the foundations for hotels to start targeting the Chinese market.
There’s a strong distinction between western and Chinese travellers – and Justin says there are two main factors hotels must address when communicating to the Chinese market.
“The most important difference is language ability as most Chinese travellers are not as confident with their English. This means almost all pre-travel research will be done in Chinese, on Chinese OTAs and social media, especially WeChat. What very few hotels pay attention to is after their trip they will be leaving reviews on the same places. These online reviews can have a huge impact on a hotel’s reputation.
“The second difference is that there is no such thing as the single ‘Chinese tourist’. Chinese travellers are increasingly diverse in their incomes, budgets, ages, hometowns, interests, and travel motivations.”
Hotels looking to grow their popularity with Chinese travellers and cut a larger slice of the pie need to focus on these points. Justin suggests a concentrated focus on reviews and discovering more about each individual traveller.
“Hotels should actively encourage Chinese guests to leave reviews on booking platforms such as Ctrip, or even forums like Mafengwo and Qyer. It would also be worth performing an audit of your existing reviews to see what Chinese guests like about your hotel.
Online distribution requires a varied approach for Chinese tourists
“We’re at a stage now where a one-size-fits-all approach no longer works. Hotels should strive to appreciate and celebrate the differences of their Chinese guests. Having information on-hand in Chinese 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.”
Online channel Ctrip, has become the second largest OTA in the world with almost 80% of all online travel transactions in China leading back to it, according to Justin.
“It’s important hoteliers try to establish a direct relationship with their local Ctrip representative. However, there are many other Chinese travel platforms and medium-sized travel platforms may be able to offer better exposure through promotions or featured content.”
Chinese travellers respond to digital marketing and social media
Digital marketing and social media are repeatedly talked about as vital methods for hotels to improve their reach and booking potential. The impact is even more magnified when it comes to Chinese travellers, to the point where an absence of an online presence will put you out of the running for Chinese reservations.
Justin says social media engagement is a must.
“It’s hugely important from pre-trip planning, to when they are travelling, and finally in the post-trip period. A recent survey of young, wealthy Chinese travellers suggests that the top two sources of travel information for them are WeChat official subscription accounts and WeChat Moments.
“Another report commissioned by Destination NSW showed that four out of five Chinese travellers will post about their holiday experiences on WeChat as they travel.”
What features should your hotel offer to attract Chinese tourists?
This places an important focus on the type of content hotels need to be producing for Chinese travellers. Obviously it has to be helpful, entertaining, and highly shareable, but exactly what are Chinese travellers most interested in?
According to Justin, there are five popular areas of activity.
“The top activity is food and dining, followed by sightseeing and shopping. The fourth most popular are resort or beach attractions, with eco-friendly activities rounding out the top five. This is across all Chinese travellers and it might change if you’re targeting a younger audience.”
As for the hotel itself, the needs of Chinese travellers don’t differ all that much from your average guest. Justin states wifi access, on-site restaurants, and room service are the biggest priorities. However, there is a condition on the wifi.
“Importantly, the wifi should be free. In China, that has already long been the case (even at basic hotels). When Chinese guests stay at your hotel they’ll consider you to be lacking value if free wifi isn’t included. Think of it like this – why make it hard for them to communicate how great your property is?”
Hotels need to understand the diversity of Chinese travellers
Mobile payment is also becoming a desirable method of payment around the world, increasingly so in China.
“Hotels can take advantage of this trend easily, by incorporating payment gateways that accept the most popular mobile payment methods,” says Justin, “This is a great way to easily generate more revenue from in-house guests, as well as make check-in procedures faster and easier.”
The final takeaway, and perhaps the most important, is that even within China there is a huge amount of diversity, and targeting to China as a single entity would be a misjudgement, according to Justin.
“China is a country of 1.4 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 – more than any other country in the world. The more you make an effort to understand China, China’s history and its modern development, the better placed you will be to relate to and cater for your Chinese guests.
“Mandarin is the official language, but various dialects are spoken throughout China – and some of these dialects should be considered entirely different languages. For instance, a person from Shanghai speaking their local dialect is going to be almost completely unintelligible to someone who can only speak Mandarin.”