7 tips for China Outbound tourism success: How to market your destination to Chinese tourists

China is a rapidly growing market for outbound tourism and a hugely lucrative one with great growth potential. But to promote your destination and successfully market to Chinese tourists, it is vital to really understand the specific requirements of effective China outbound tourism, particularly with regards to available marketing platforms. By pinning down Chinese tourism trends, available digital and offline platforms and specifics about the in-country market and audience, global marketers can ensure a healthy ROI on their marketing activity – and a measurable upswing in those all-important bookings.

How Chinese tourism trends are changing

Talk about the tourism industry and increasingly it centres on Chinese tourism. In fact, China provided the highest volume of outbound destination tourism in 2013 at 97.3 million, and the highest level of overseas expenditure in 2012 at $102 billion, making it the new leader for outbound tourism on a global scale. It is also estimated that 20% of world travel will be undertaken by Chinese tourists by 2023, driven by domestic changes in the tourism market, greater affluence and a growing middle class and profound social changes that are transforming the country. If you’re serious about growing your destination to new visitors, it’s time to take the Chinese market seriously, and this means gaining a keen understanding of its features, characteristics and needs.

Where Chinese tourists want to visit

The top destinations for Chinese tourists span the UK, USA, Europe and Asia. In Europe, their preferred destinations include France, Italy, Spain, Germany and the United Kingdon. In Asia, hotspots include Japan, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia. Other popular outbound destinations are the Maldives, Russia, UAE and Australia.

What are Chinese tourists looking for?

As a broad national group, their needs are varied and offer plenty of opportunities for effective marketing and proposition creation. Key search terms from Chinese tourists include island destinations, foodie holidays, nature and exploration, family fun and outdoor sports. They love five-star hotels (and can afford them) and enjoy getting away during the peaks of the Chinese summer and winter to avoid excesses of heat and cold. Relaxation and recuperation feature highly as requirements, as do in-depth cultural and local experiences and broad urban leisure attractions, from shopping and museums through to entertainment and dining. Interestingly too, tourism preferences are now including greater unique individual experiences and less reliance on group package travel, perhaps reflecting a rapid confidence in solo travel and the ability to craft tailored experiences through excellent local service provision (a key marketing message for tourism providers!).

Why successful Chinese tourism needs a multi-channel marketing strategy

Tourism businesses must successfully employ a multi-channel marketing strategy that includes China’s own key channels – remember, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Western equivalents aren’t available in China. It’s vital to also have rich knowledge about the target groups you are aiming to attract – knowing for example that Chinese tourists tend to book their trips 3 months in advance, are often female and upper or middle class, and are more likely to fly to a destination with a direct flight link to their own city.

Here are 7 tips we would like share with you.

1. Website optimisation

Chinese tourists are comfortable booking their travel and tourism services via their smartphones and other digital devices, so be sure to optimise your Chinese website to be fully responsive. Offer a translated alternative to local language content so that Chinese users can learn about your services in their native language. Also, don’t forget to make sure your Chinese website is user-friendly to Chinese tourist.

2. Search engine marketing in China

Baidu is the leading search engine in China with a market share of almost 80%. It offers multiple advertising products, including Baidu PPC and a BrandZone on a CPT auction model with a conversion rate of 50-80% AC Nielsen has reported that this feature can deliver a 78% rise in purchase intent. It is wise to invest in SEO and PPC activity which targets your key market demographics and which ensures local keywords are embedded into your own digital content to help elevate your search rankings for relevant terms. Online advertising is available to businesses, but it requires a lot of complex administration to navigate – something that we can assist you with at Market Me China.

3. Chinese social media

Social media marketing is vital, and WeChat and Weibo are vital platforms on which to build a destination tourism presence and to engage with potential visitors. Chinese tourists use social media platforms to help with their travel decision-making process in the pre-purchase phase. Travel brands can interact with users, reply to comments and messages, share rich content, launch competitions and deliver targeted advertising campaigns. The first step is to set up an official account on the right Chinese social media platforms, and then begin to share expertly crafted content, imagery, video, reviews and other engagement approaches.

4. Influence marketing / KOL marketing

Key Opinion Leaders – or KOLs – must be considered for their ability to influence opinion and intent via social platforms like WeChat and Weibo. Akin to Western influencers, they can be engaged with individually to soft promote, test or advertise services to their followers.

5. PR & travel forums

Tourism brands must build ePR strategies across key platforms such as TripAdvisor and Mafengwo – the Chinese equivalent. This means creating shareable, value-adding content, engaging with journalists and platform owners and being innovative, authentic and knowledgeable in your approach to meet the needs of your target audience. Chinese users also heavily use online travel forums to discuss travel options and to seek advice and views. Tuniu, Mafengwo and Qyer are good platforms to look at and to build a brand presence upon.

6. Online travel agencies

The key Chinese online agencies include Ctrip, Qunar and eLong, as well as Mangocity and Tuniu. It is vital to have your tourism service registered on these sites, as well as to consider targeted advertising to reach Chinese tourists. For smaller and more niche tourism service providers who don’t have the budget to compete for advertising space against large players, there are other specialist agencies which are worth considering for highly targeted advertising.

7. Offline marketing

Don’t forget the value of offline marketing channels either – which are as diverse as cinematic advertising through to Out of House advertising.

Remember, the Chinese market has different needs for messaging, content and imagery, and local expertise must be applied with consideration to regionalism, language and other segmented factors. The market as a whole is expected to segment greatly in the coming years, meaning that access to local expertise will be key to success. As an example, timing of campaigns is vital to ramping up demand before key holidays such as Chinese New Year, Summertime and October Golden Week, and regionalism is vital when considering language used by Chinese geography, age, social class and other demographics; all factors which are challenging to navigate without specialist and professional Chinese destination marketing expertise.

Ready to market your destination to Chinese tourists? Get in touch!

If you are responsible for destination marketing and keen to learn more about this fascinating market, the rich potential on offer and the strategies that you need to employ to gain market share for your own holiday hotspot, then we are here to help. As the experts in Chinese marketing, we can help you to craft the expert marketing strategy that leads to those all-important conversions, whilst building your destination brand and awareness in the China market. Whether you are seeking to enter the Chinese tourism market with a fresh destination proposition or are seeking expert help with your Chinese online marketing, we will be delighted to assist you. Please get in touch to find out more.