7 ways for travel marketers to prepare for Golden Week in China 2018

If you work in Western tourism and are looking to attract Chinese outbound travellers during Golden Week in China 2018, then it’s time to start preparing your marketing strategy now. In this blog, we will take a look at some of the channels and activities that can be best utilised to engage with your target audience and to stand out from the crowd when it comes to successfully positioning your destination as a Western travel hotspot of choice.

What is Golden Week?

Golden Week in China 2018 runs from 1st to 7th October. The holiday was created by the Chinese government in 1999 to encourage consumer spending, and it represents a lucrative opportunity for international travel destinations. In 2017, an estimated 710 million Chinese tourists took domestic and overseas trips during the holiday, spending ¥590 billion in the process (Source: www.forbes.com).

The opportunity

China has the biggest middle class demographic in the world (Source: www.telegraph.co.uk) and its consumers have both a healthy disposable income and a keen will to travel overseas. However, the audience is huge, diverse and complex, with significant requirements for marketing segmentation and targeting to achieve desired outcomes. The good news for Western travel businesses, however, is that 82pc of Chinese consumers see Western brands as desirable (Source: Toluna, for Marketing Week) and when it comes to travel, they view Western destinations as hotspots for unique cultural experiences, luxury shopping and retail bargains.

Marketing to Chinese travellers

So how can Western travel brands market successfully to Chinese customers in advance of Golden Week in 2018? Success will come by following a planned approach which uses in-depth local insight and data, combined with a rich experience of the Chinese market and the channels that its consumers prefer. For example:

1. Strategy and planning

A multi-channel marketing strategy before Golden Week must be carefully planned and conceptualised. The initial stage must be to research, to identify target audiences and to segment them effectively. Local knowledge is essential to factor in the impacts of regionalism, language and dialect, plus culture and social, political and economic factors. Various resources can be used intelligently to identify the values and desires that motivate Chinese travellers. For example, TuNiu and other Chinese travel forums are great places to get an insight into what your target travel audience’s interests, by following forum discussions and asking questions.

2. Social media

Chinese buyers are hyper-social in the digital space and respond well to unique, engaging and interesting branded content which offers them real value. Western travel brands can share destination guides, travel interviews, insights, reviews and details of tailored Mandarin-language cultural and retail experience tours, for example, to encourage engagement and referral marketing amongst individual networks. Additionally, Western brands can advertise on WeChat and other Chinese social media platforms, offering discounts, special offers, tax refunds and bilingual information for Golden Week in 2018.

Travel brands should promote the aspects of Western travel that appeal to Chinese travellers, such as Western culture, lifestyles, retail and experiences. Millennial travellers, in particular, are seeking destination-led experiences and older travellers may seek the chance to buy luxury goods. In terms of social media platforms, WeChat is a focal point for brand-led customer engagement, with over 1 billion registered users, especially amongst travelling Chinese youth. Weibo is also a key platform for sharing branded content and promoted images with its user base of 400 million. Both WeChat and Weibo are used heavily by Chinese tourists before they make a travel destination decision.

3. Key Opinion Leaders / Influencers

Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) are hugely influential in China, and many leading KOLs will have thousands of followers and real sway when it comes to recommending destinations and travel experiences. Once engaged to sponsor your brand, they will share your messages with their audience, blog or vlog about your destination and share images that resonate with your target audience. Chinese customers trust the opinions of the KOLS that they feel an affinity with, and a Chinese marketing agency can help Western travel brands to identify the right KOLs for their offer and audience.

4. Baidu PPC

Baidu is the largest search engine in China and it offers an array of advertising opportunities for Western brands. Baidu PPC is a result-driven channel. Success can be achieved by those which optimise their website for the Chinese audience or who – ideally – create a bespoke Chinese language website with targeted content, and who optimise for mobile. Baidu account application process is complex, therefore, it is recommended to get started 3 months before the Golden Week. Many Western brands will prefer to save time and money by using the services of a Chinese marketing agency to navigate the hurdles and to avoid wasting resources.

5. Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)

OTAs such as CTrip, eLong and Qunar are highly popular for booking travel, and there are opportunities to Western brands to advertise on them, directing customers to their locally-hosted, Chinese language and Chinese content-driven websites to boost conversions. Competition is high for ad space and big brands to dominate, so niche OTAs can be targeted for segmented Chinese audiences, to better leverage smaller budgets.

6. ePR

A Chinese marketing agency can help Western travel brands to get valuable content into the publications and digital news platforms that their target audiences will be reading. These can be a mix of reputational pieces, informative pieces with brand positioning or advertorial.

7. TV and outdoor advertising

Product placement may be a mature strategy in the West, but it is still gaining traction in China and well-placed TV advertising can be an excellent way to capture the interest of your audience – especially more mature Chinese travellers. Similarly, outdoor advertising is highly visual and can be powerful for showing travel destinations in an attractive, compelling way – with attention paid to regional placement and local values, dialects and imagery.

Examples of Western brands already marketing for Golden Week

Good examples of marketing effectively before Golden Week in China 2018 can be found across an array of Western brands. For example, the Cambridge Satchel Company uses KOLs, which it has built relationships with over a number of years in order to craft compelling and authentic messaging for their style-conscious followers. It also works with local travel and tour operators at its retail locations, which are based in popular cities for Chinese tourism. For Golden Week, it promotes its red and oxblood red, smaller satchels for POS advertising in-store, and offers in-store wrapping services, promotional gifts and other incentives. Luxury brands like Fortnum & Mason and Harvey Nichols adopt similar strategies and employ Mandarin and Cantonese speaking staff at their stores, as well as offering familiar Chinese payment platforms such as China UnionPay and Alipay (Source: www.marketingweek.com).

Find out more

To maximise the benefits of Golden Week in China 2018, it’s essential to start planning early on. For most Western travel brands, success can be vastly facilitated by using a specialist Chinese Marketing agency such as Market Me China, to navigate the complexity of the vast Chinese market, and to facilitate the complex administrative processes involved. We offer services in Baidu PPC, social media, ePR and more, to help Western brands achieve their target marketing outcomes. Whether you are new to Chinese marketing or an experienced brand looking to take your Chinese market presence further, we are here to assist. Contact us to find out more.