Last year was a strong one for outbound tourism by Mainland Chinese travellers, the world’s leading outbound market.
According to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer Report, China continued to be the biggest spender in overseas travel last year, spending US$258 billion – $8 billion more than the previous year, a 5 per cent increase in local currency terms. Outbound trips by Mainland Chinese travellers rose 7 per cent from 122 million to 130 million last year, making it the largest source of outbound tourists in the world.
The growth in mainland outbound tourism benefited many destinations in the region, most notably Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea, but also long-haul destinations such as the US and select countries in Europe.
Without doubt, Mainland Chinese travellers are a key source of revenue for many industries, including retail and consumer goods, leisure, hospitality, transportation as well as financial and insurance services. It is therefore imperative to understand their travel and spending preferences.
Understanding their behaviour
As the mainland economy grows stronger, consumers are becoming more and more connected. Mainland Chinese travellers use social media to tap into the opinions of friends and family on destinations to visit and products they should buy. They have high expectations regarding dynamic connectivity, personalisation and seamless digital services. According to The WeChat Data Report 2017, more than 10 million WeChat Official Accounts have been set up in mainland China till 2017, mostly business entities. Combined Monthly Active Users (MAU) of Weixin and WeChat were 1.04 billion, a year-on-year increase of 10.9 per cent. It is now harder for brands to acquire members and boost customer engagement using the traditional, one-size-fits-all approach of loyalty schemes. To seize the huge opportunities from outbound tourism, particularly during Golden Week, hospitality marketers should avoid outdated ideas about mainland travellers and respond to their changing needs.
Here are three tips to start with.
- Start engaging early
Typically, Mainland Chinese travellers’ journeys start long before they reach the airport. They are extremely mobile-savvy, with 72 per cent of surveyed tourists using websites, blogs and social media to plan their trips. Increasingly sophisticated, they expect and appreciate flexibility in the form of greater weight allowances for luggage from airlines and beginning to have more specific requirements in terms of hotel brands. This provides opportunities for retail and hospitality players to educate the mainland market and shape the perceptions and preferences of travellers at an early stage.
- Add experiential rewards
Mainland Chinese travellers are reportedly more demanding than their neighbours in Hong Kong, according to recent ICLP research. However, they are more likely to buy more and to be brand advocates as long as brands understand their individual needs by providing them with personalised experiences. With more and more Mainland Chinese travellers looking for immersive local experiences such as unique dining, culture or lifestyle events, this creates a new demand that tourism providers can fill. Retail and hospitality players should, therefore, explore ways to enhance their experiential offerings, for example by incorporating partner rewards, to emphasise their unique value proposition for mainland customers.
- Re-activate and customise
While a brand’s relationship with a mainland customer can start overseas, its biggest potential lies in the ability to generate repeat purchases once the traveller is back in China. The brand’s goal is to re-activate and extend the relationship locally, and ensure it provides a consistent brand experience and personalised communications for the customer wherever the customer may be. Thanks to big data technology, the best performing brands are becoming focused on much more targeted messaging, positioning, product development and even loyalty schemes to fit the market’s needs.
- Mary English is executive VP – Apac at Collinson, responsible for the vision, strategy and overall management of the regional business. An accomplished consumer loyalty marketing and client services leader, she has expertise in brand strategy, consumer loyalty marketing, partnership marketing, incentive design, consumer experience mapping and marketing process development.