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Winning the loyalty of Chinese travellers

The Langham Xintiandi exterior

TripAdvisor and The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a global management consulting firm, have released a jointly published new report on the travel and tourism industry titled, Winning the Next Billion Asian Travellers – Starting with China.

The report showed that by 2030, more than 50% of the growth in global traffic will come from Asia Pacific and 49% of all passenger traffic globally will be within Asia Pacific or between the region and the rest of the world.

Travellers from China will account for the lion’s share of this growth—accounting for around 40% of Asian outbound travellers by 2030. Within the same time frame, China will likely overtake the US as the world’s largest domestic travel market.

Specifically, by 2030, Chinese urban travellers will take 1.7 billion domestic and outbound trips annually, up from 500 million today, spending $1.8 trillion on travel and tourism—nearly seven times their current expenditures. The report shows that China’s outbound leisure market will grow the fastest, with its travel and tourism spending increasing by 15% year-on-year between now and 2030.

Locally, Tourism Australia implemented its ‘China 2020’ strategic plan, following results that indicated China is Australia’s most valuable inbound tourism market. Australia has experienced faster arrivals growth from China than any other market. In 2010, China was Australia’s fourth largest source of visitor arrivals with 454,000 Chinese visitors, 24 per cent higher than 2009. This is estimated to reach 860,000 potential Chinese visitors by 2020.

TripAdvisor revealed several important insights into the future growth direction of China’s outbound tourism market, including destinations that Chinese travellers are investigating, the cities they come from, factors that motivate their travel choices, and how businesses can better cater to their needs and preferences.

According to data from TripAdvisor’s official site in China, daodao.com, the number of unique visitors in July and August 2013 who researched outbound destinations has increased by more than 250% (excluding Hong Kong and Macau), compared to the same period the year before. Of those who researched outbound destinations in that time, 56% researched destinations in Asia while 44% researched destination outside of the region, with Paris, Rome, London and New York amongst the most frequently researched destinations.

Similarly, a BCG 2013 survey showed that a growing number of young affluent Chinese travellers were interested in longer-haul trips. While just 20% of the most popular destinations for the past three years were long-haul trips (to the US and France), 80% of the most desired destinations for intended travel over the next five to 10 years are outside of Asia. The top “dream” destinations include Australia, with New Zealand, the Maldives, the US, France, Greece, the UK, and Italy also making the list. While sightseeing, relaxing, and shopping are popular activities amongst Chinese tourists, outdoor and adventure trips are emerging as a new trend, providing opportunities for both Australia and New Zealand to further increase their share of Chinese visitors.

Well-known “super- tier 1” cities, which all have populations of more than 10 million, like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, are all highly competitive environments. The TripAdvisor-BCG report revealed that more than 80% of China’s middle-income and affluent consumers (MAC) and potential spenders live in smaller cities outside of China’s major metropolises.
According to 2013 data from daodao.com, more than 70% of unique site visitors researching outbound destinations lived outside the four “super tier 1” cities, and online traffic from these visitors is growing two to three times faster than that of visitors from the “super tier 1” cities. The report also showed that businesses that reach beyond China’s “super tier 1” cities may have to further adapt their services as well as marketing and distribution models, but they also have a better chance of gaining a first-mover advantage.

“China’s fast-growing outbound tourism market represents significant and unprecedented opportunities for businesses around the world. Companies that deeply understand and cater to the preferences of Chinese travellers can differentiate themselves and win market share,” said Lily Cheng, Managing Director of TripAdvisor China.

According to the report, many of these preferences are rapidly evolving—particularly for young affluent travellers. For example, Chinese travellers tend to be more spontaneous and have shorter planning timelines than their Western counterparts. This is mainly because they love bargains, but also because planning for a vacation three to six months in advance is not the cultural norm in China. When it comes to hotels, the biggest decision factors for young affluent travellers are location, cleanliness, and price. According to TripAdvisor traveller insights of hotel preferences, the most important considerations for business and leisure travellers alike were location and reputation. Furthermore, Chinese consumers continue to emphasise that they trust recommendations from people they know, as well as online opinion.

A recent study conducted by daodao.com, revealed some interesting insights into the psyche of Chinese travellers. For example, they prefer to settle payment on arrival, and while less experienced travellers favour to book through a Chinese online travel agency (OTA), the more experienced are likely to book through a foreign OTA site or directly with a property. Additionally, free in-room Wi-Fi connection, air-conditioning, Chinese tea, snacks and instant-noodles are amongst the most desirable hotel room amenities.

“Language barriers and cultural differences are two of the biggest obstacles that Chinese travellers face when travelling abroad. Businesses that offer various services and amenities that make Chinese travellers feel more welcome, such as Mandarin-speaking staff, travel guide information in Chinese, photos in menus, and acceptance of international cards like China UnionPay which are dominant amongst Chinese travellers, will stand a greater chance of attracting Chinese guests and winning them over,” Cheng said.

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