Tourism businesses who want to attract their share of the burgeoning Chinese travel market need to make sure they have a Chinese specific website and brush up on their language skills to attract a new breed of more independent traveller – according to the panel at the WTM China Tourism Forum.
Delegates attending the session at the 40th edition of WTM London were told that the Chinese have already made 81 million trips so far this year compared with a total of 150 million last year.
They are the world’s highest spenders on overseas travel, splashing out $277 billion last year, which was twice as much as Americans, six times more than the French and four times more than the British.
Whilst previously they preferred to travel in groups, 56% now take FIT (Free Independent Traveller) trips. “There is widespread information available, 1.2 billion are using WeChat, we go directly to you, the incoming service providers,” said Adam WU, CEO of CBN Travel. “The Chinese FITs like to book directly with the service providers. You might want to be ready.”
The most popular destinations for the Chinese last year were Thailand, Japan Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, USA (having fallen from fourth place in 2016), Cambodia, Russia and the Philippines.
European destinations working closely with China to increase visitor numbers have seen big rises, including Croatia, up 540%, Latvia, up 523%, and Slovenia, up 497%.
What Chinese visitors want are heritage, culture and authentic experiences, said Wu. More than 20% said attractions were their most important consideration, followed by food (15%) and shopping (6.5%).
“To the Chinese, heritage matters. We pay attention to this,” added Wu. “Anything that we have seen on film is also important, I take my daughter to anything to do with Harry Potter, it’s not heritage but when they have seen a film they want to experience the real thing.”
He said tourism businesses needed to make it easy for Chinese visitors by having websites in their language, guides able to communicate with them, and payment via WeChat. “You need to make it easy for Chinese to pay, I can guarantee that someone who has WeChat pay will get more sales than one that doesn’t. We want easy of spending.”
However, Tom Jenkins, CEO of the European Tour Operators Association, disagreed that companies should specifically target independent Chinese travellers, saying that the greatest growth would come from first-time visitors, who will still want to visit the “honeypot” destinations and travel in larger groups.
“There are millions of Chinese who have already visited Europe but there are billions who haven’t and when they come they will want to come to the major cities in Europe – London, Paris, Venice and Rome.”