Editor's note: this post is an excerpt from our Travel Trends Report 2018 which you can access now.
From 2017 to 2022, Euromonitor International predicts continued growth of 8.4% in the number of Chinese outbound travelers, reaching a whopping 128 million outbound trips by 2022. With a growing middle class, researchers also expect China to be one of the largest contributors to the tourism sector in the coming years.
2018 will be the EU-China Tourism Year where the European Commission and the European Tourism Commission will work closely with China National Tourism Administration to promote European destinations to Chinese travelers.
This partnership will strengthen ties between Europe and China (a smart move considering South Korea’s sharp decline in Chinese visitors when the Chinese government imposed a travel ban on the country due to political tensions), and aims to make it easier for Chinese travelers to explore Europe by increasing the number of connecting flights and improving visa application processes.
As it becomes easier for the Chinese to travel to Europe, the industry will see more repeat visitors. This a great opportunity for tour and activity operators because these visitors are already familiar with the local culture and language, know what to expect and know what is expected of them.
It’s now up to industry professionals to acknowledge the evolution in travel preferences and to create tours and activities that will appeal to a more well-traveled market.
Chinese travelers want to experience local culture
Like their Western counterparts, experienced Chinese travelers are interested in learning about the local culture and way of life. If that involves a hike into the mountains, a visit to the Saturday fish market, or a day out picking strawberries, these travelers will embrace local culture with open arms. They too want an authentic travel experience.
The Free and Independent traveler (FIT)
Today, there’s more information online about travel than ever before. Add to that the fact that online booking makes it easy for travelers to create their own itinerary and the fact that it’s much easier for individuals to obtain travel visas than before, many Chinese travelers are happy to explore in smaller groups or even on their own.
For this type of traveler, they’re highly influenced by word of mouth, whether that’s from an influencer or from their peers.
For tour and activity operators to reach them, they need to be present on Chinese social media and search sites like Baidu, Weibo and WeChat, and actively curate their digital word of mouth.
Operators with smaller marketing budgets can also make an effort to be present on these sites without breaking the bank. Creating a simple profile on WeChat is a great first step. Upload a few pictures or a video of your services, and offer practical advice on how travellers can reach your destination to attract some attention.
More Chinese women travel compared to their male counterparts
An interesting trend that has emerged from China is that women make up 56% of Chinese outbound travelers despite making up only 48% of the population. Chinese OTAs like Mafengwo, Tuniu and Qyer who offer a mix of local and international trips report that female travelers make 57%, 68% and 62% of their users respectively.
These women might be single or married (leaving their husbands at home to look after the kids), and are more likely to travel internationally. Those who travel internationally are more fluent in other languages and are more adventurous in their travel preferences.
Chinese travelers book online and on mobile
The “mobile first” economy in the East is comfortable with digital payments and mobile bookings in their daily lives and this behavior spills into their travel research and booking habits too.
It is estimated that half of China’s population is online and on mobile - that’s 751 million people!
Like I mentioned earlier, you don’t need a large marketing team or a large budget to be present on Chinese sites. Start by promoting your services on Chinese OTAs like Ctrip or ask Chinese travelers to review you on TripAdvisor in Mandarin.
International sites like TripAdvisor, known as Mao Tu Ying in China, let Chinese travellers leave reviews in Mandarin or translate your reviews from their main site. Sites like Booking.com and Hotels.com are also popular in China.
Would you like to know more? Download our 16-step checklist to discover how your business can reach the Chinese Market.