The Chinese tourist market is one of the largest and most lucrative in the world.
With a population of 1.3 billion people and an increasingly affluent Chinese middle class, having the desire to travel overseas, it becomes more important than ever to market your destination in the ‘right’ way to the Chinese tourist.
Understanding what communication channels to use and how to present your destination is key. If you’re looking to market to Chinese tourists, here are a few ways to do so successfully.
1. Understand what the Chinese want from a destination, how do they like to travel?
The Chinese traveller who can afford to visit overseas is increasingly wealthy, due to a sustained period of economic prosperity, there is a growing, more affluent middle class in China.
The tourist is therefore often seeking luxury, they look for a destination that will connote prestige and sophistication. Many European cities benefit from this trend because of their established reputation but it is certainly possible to ‘create’ this luxurious image in the mind of the Chinese traveller using certain images and promoting a consistent narrative around the destination.
The Chinese typically prefer to travel in groups so when marketing a destination provide the facilities for this, offering coach tours, tour guides and collective room bookings are examples of this.
The Chinese typically are seeking a combination of variety (experiences different from the ‘norm’) and also a sense of familiarity and comfort (group travel, Mandarin language translation etc). Ensure your destination provides this and markets itself as one which specifically can cater for the Chinese tourist.
2. Visibility on Baidu
The Chinese will firstly search for a destination on Baidu, the largest search engine in China.
Ensure that your destination is a top result when certain key words are entered.
Engaging in SEO practices is vital to increase your presence as many Chinese will not look further than the first or second page of results.
3. Marketing to the Chinese tourist on social media
The Chinese have an insatiable demand for social networking. They will share their experiences abroad on networks such as Weibo or WeChat but also use social networks to research destinations.
Weibo, a micro blogging platform (akin to twitter) also users a hashtag system whereby the potential visitor can follow certain keywords and see the content being posted, the Chinese increasingly distrust traditional media sources and turn to social media for their information (moreso than we do in the west), in this sense the digital solution can be very effective.
Ensure you set up an official account on Weibo and WeChat which users can follow and produce interesting, shareable content. Striking imagery of the destination can be effective but people will look for other Chinese tourists to be in the images, they particularly trust the opinions of others on social networks.
Post images of a destination which include the Chinese tourist and seek to directly communicate with them via an official account.
4. Generate positive reviews on forums and travel based websites
As mentioned previously, the Chinese particularly trust other user’s experiences and will spend much time on forums, social media and other travel websites reading user reviews of a destination.
It is vital to manage your reputation in these forums and promote the spreading of positive reviews. Provide incentives for those leaving positive reviews in Chinese forums. Your e-reputation in China is key.
5. Establish connections with Chinese tourism agencies
It is important to establish connections with the main travel agencies whom many Chinese will use to organize and plan their holidays. Ctrip is the largest travel agency presiding over 50% of the Chinese market.
Advertising your destination on their website and building a relationship with them is key, they will often plan and recommend trip itineraries.
6. Discounts and promotions
The Chinese are seeking a sense of luxury abroad but want this for the best price. Offering promotions and discounts can be an effective way of gathering followers on social media and increasing the appeal of your destination.
7. Utilize stories
The Chinese love narrative, they love a well-constructed story to elevate a sense of place, it adds value and meaning for them. The most popular, enduring narrative in modern China is still the love story.
When marketing a destination tap into this sense of romance, create Chinese characters or find real life examples of Chinese couples who perhaps got engaged or met in a given destination. This type of narrative is very appealing to the consumer.
Author Bio: Benji Lamb has been living and working in Shanghai for five years and is passionate about digital marketing solutions and tourism in China. For more information on marketing a hotel or destination in the mysterious orient see his blog/website.