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Featured article from Digital Jungle

 

A booming economy and expanding middle class with newly disposable income has made China the number one most sought after outbound tourism market in the world. Nearly 100 million tourists from mainland China went abroad in 2013 and set a new record with total expenditures of $102 billion in 2012.

These totals are set to continue expanding well into the future as increasing wealth in China brings an ever-larger share of the population into the middle class. From airlines and hotels to restaurant and spa and wellness vendors, every business is looking to attract and retain these valuable customers. However, in order to understand relevant touch points and consumer thought processes, companies must enter the minds of Chinese consumers and see the world through their eyes.

Group travel used to be the only way for Chinese tourists to go abroad. It’s still popular primarily because language and cultural barriers are minimized in a group, as well as issues with complicated visa application processes.

That said, Chinese travelers are increasingly going overseas independently, so for those who work in the tourist industry or who potentially interact with these independent tourists, we have some tips and suggestions to make their experiences as smooth and as pleasant as possible.

There are a myriad of steps that travel-related businesses can take to help better serve Chinese tourists. As UnionPay is the dominant bankcard service in China, accepting UnionPay cards will make it easier for Chinese tourists to make purchases and pay for services.  Adding a “We Accept UnionPay” sticker or sign to a store’s window may help entice tourists by letting them know that their bank accounts will be readily acceptable inside.

Maintaining Chinese-language versions of menus with food descriptions written in Chinese can help ease any food-related communication issues. While Chinese travelers are likely to speak another language, certain food vocabulary is usually beyond the realm of many language learners no matter how fluently they speak a foreign language. Having menu item descriptions in Chinese explaining that, for example, Spaghetti Bolognese is just spaghetti in a tomato and beef sauce can help guests better understand your offerings and encourage gastronomic exploration.

Of particular note for hotels, hostels, and other types of accommodation providers is the ubiquity of free Wi-Fi in China. Nearly every cafe, coffee shop, and hostel in the country provides Wi-Fi, as do many major restaurants. Providing similar free Wi-Fi for guests would be a small gesture that would go a long way in pleasing a large number of tourists.

China has over 590 million internet users and over 500 million smartphone users. Social media and digital marketing are very effective ways of reaching this large market as users will almost assuredly look up potential destinations online before committing. Having a Chinese-language website is essential; it should not simply be a translated version of an international website, but must be custom made and optimized for Chinese search practices on Baidu, which differ from those of Google, since it is China’s largest search engine and the the go-to resource for web search.

SEM campaigns to drive traffic to your site and promote your destination should be optimized for Baidu as well. Additionally, services such as Baidu BrandZone can help massively increase your exposure. If this is unfamiliar territory, consult digital marketing agencies in China that specialize with working with foreign companies. Digital Jungle for example, has an entire team of social media and SEO specialists dedicated to navigating the Chinese digital landscape and creating brand awareness for its customers.

By some estimates, social media usage in China has reached 91% of internet users, with high percentages of them following their favorite brands; therefore, the creation by your company of Chinese social media accounts for airline, hotel, destination, and travel services will help consumers learn more about your services and build engagement with your brand. Travel-related websites such as Ctrip and eLong are also very popular with Chinese consumers and partnerships with these firms can yield tremendous results in terms of brand exposure.

It is anticipated that by 2020 we will see 200 million outbound Chinese travelers. That in itself should explain why destination marketers are seeing gold in these numbers. Set yourself up for success by understanding the Chinese traveler’s needs and make your presence known in the Chinese digital market. Brands that position themselves as “China friendly” today will have a strong market position tomorrow.

 

unnamedAlthough a native of Australia, Dr. Mathew McDougall has been involved in the Chinese Internet and media industries for nearly nine years. Dr. McDougall is currently the CEO and founder of Digital Jungle, a leading Chinese social media marketing agency.