Attracting Chinese Guests Using Social Media


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This eBook was developed for hotels, guesthouses and motels looking at attracting Chinese visitors to their properties. The aim of developing your properties Brand within China is to increase the direct bookings and facilitate greater numbers of visitors flows.

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Attracting Chinese Guests Using Social Media

  1. 1. Marketing Hotels to the Cover slide Chinese Tourist December, 2014 Cross Cultural Digital Marketing Experts
  2. 2. Preface As the number of Chinese tourists travelling abroad continues to grow at a breakneck pace there will be ample opportunities for hotels across the globe to wine, dine and house these increasingly wealthy and sophisticated tourists. Winning over this market segment requires an understanding of Chinese consumers, what these consumers look for when travelling abroad and a deep knowledge of the Chinese social media universe, as social media represents ones of the best platforms by which to reach these consumers. This eBook will cover both topics and outline key strategies by which hotels worldwide can win and retain Chinese outbound tourists for years to come. 1 Copyright © 2014 Digital Jungle Limited. All rights reserved.
  3. 3. 2 Table of Contents Introduction: Growth of Chinese Tourism 3 The Evolving Chinese Tourist 4 Digital Marketing in China 7 Your Hotel 9 Concluding Points 10 References 11 Contact Us 12 Copyright © 2014 Digital Jungle Limited. All rights reserved.
  4. 4. Introduction: Growth of Chinese Tourism As the Chinese economy continues to develop, increasing numbers of Chinese citizens have the both the desire and the disposable income to take leisure trips abroad. In 2012, 83 million Chinese tourists went abroad; this figure is set to top 100 million by 2015, amounting to a 1000% increase in just 15 years since 2000.1 China is now home to the largest number of international tourists as its yearly total of citizens travelling abroad has overtaken the United States and the western European states.3 These Chinese tourists spent a staggering $102 billion USD abroad in 2012, more than the tourists from any other state. The $102 billion spent abroad constituted a massive 40% year on year (YoY) increase from 2011’s spending total.4 Where they are going is also changing. Daodao (the name operates under in China) listed the destinations which had received the most clicks from unique users in July and August of 2013. The top 15 destinations listed were: 1. Hong Kong 2. Phuket 3. Taiwan 4. Bangkok 5. Paris 6. Dubai 7. Macau 8. Seoul 9. Singapore 10. Bali 11. Rome 12. Chiang Mai, Thailand 13. New York 3 14. London 15. Jeju Island, South Korea5 Changing Tastes Crucially, Daodao also released how interest in these destinations had changed YoY. Interest in some destinations rose by over 500%. The top 10 by increased interest are: 1. Kyoto – 580% 2. Jeju Island, South Korea – 570% 3. Kota Kimbalu, Malaysia – 550% 4. Hanoi – 510% 5. Paris – 360% 6. Boracay, Philippines – 360% 7. Taiwan – 350% 8. Bali – 310% 9. New York – 280% 10. Bangkok – 270% 6 Increased interest in Hong Kong and Macau both only rose by 50% each, whereas interest in all foreign destinations more than doubled.7 This demonstrates that Chinese tourists are increasingly interested in travelling to a wider range of destinations, thus fragmenting the market and opening up opportunities for more destinations and hotels worldwide. Niche holidays are also becoming more popular in China. For example the number of Chinese tourists taking Safari holidays in Africa has been increasing.8 Copyright © 2014 Digital Jungle Limited. All rights reserved.
  5. 5. The Evolving Chinese Tourist Ways to reach this audience and what Chinese tourist look for in holidays will be addressed in the next chapter, but an introduction to Chinese internet usage will be crucial as digital marketing represents one of the best channels by which to reach Chinese consumers and tourists. There are currently over 591 million internet users in China.9 To put this number in perspective, it’s 43 times the entire population of Australia. This number will keep growing and will reach over 700 million by 2015.10 Consumers in China tend to mistrust official product reviews and marketing campaigns from branded sources, so the importance of social media and the peer-generated feedback created on social media platforms is amplified. In order to effectively reach this audience you have to understand Chinese consumers and their motivations. Once you do this, you will be able to create content and messages which resonate with and engage prospective tourists. The Changing Consumer The nature of Chinese consumers is changing: the more established middle classes in the economically developed Tier One and Two cities are spending larger amounts of their disposable incomes but will still save more than their “Western” counterparts.11 As the middle class in Tier Three and Four cities and inland areas expand there will be a growing dichotomy in the Chinese middle and upper classes: those who have experienced wealth for several years (or a decade) and those whose incomes are just now rising enough to allow them to 4 consider travelling abroad.12 This serves as a reminder of two important points about marketing in China. Firstly, that there are many separate socio-economic groups which display different characteristics and have different tastes - so differing tactics will have to be employed. This leads in the second: that campaigns have to be highly localised as a result of this. Employing general campaigns for the whole of the country will end up having very little impact. Types of Chinese Tourists Within the framework just outlined, it is possible to split Chinese tourists into two different categories. These different groups will be looking for different experiences during their foreign tips. Wolfgang Georg Arlt, Director of the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRI) outlined two categories of Chinese tourist. The first type are the older type of Chinese tourists who tend to travel in large guided tours due to the difficult visa application process and perceived cultural differences. When these types of tourists go abroad, it is often the first time they have left China and they are looking to see as many famous places as possible. The second type of Chinese tourist has only emerged recently as the upper strata of China’s middle classes have expanded their wealthy and embraced the luxurious lifestyle. Copyright © 2014 Digital Jungle Limited. All rights reserved.
  6. 6. Source:, Chinese International Travel Monitor 201214 These individuals have been abroad 5 before, many will have studied “New” Tourists’ Likes and Preferences While there are quite a few things that they look for, implementing these additions will require a different approach to marketing than the stereotypical “slippers and tea kettle” approach advocated by many for catering to members of Chinese guided tours. These new tourists will mostly come from T1 & 2 cities and have a great deal of disposable income, in fact being wealthy by anyone’s standards. They will be seeking luxury, particularly when it comes to shopping.15 Compared to Beijing and Shanghai, luxury goods are around 20-30% cheaper in international cities. Even when you include in the costs of a holiday it still makes sense to shop abroad. Chinese writer Lin Xu noted a few strategies which would make abroad and will be multilingual. They will be more independently minded, willing to try local culture and cuisine and may be resentful of being regarded in the same bracket as the older type of Chinese tourists.13 The image above shows the biggest changes in nature of Chinese travellers identified by hoteliers in the Chinese International Travel Monitor. It demonstrates the evolution of this new breed of Chinese tourist. As the “newer” type of Chinese tourist is more likely to booking hotels themselves, the focus of this ebook will be on what they seek when travelling abroad. Within these categories there will be smaller sub categories according to age, location, wealth etc. Copyright © 2014 Digital Jungle Limited. All rights reserved.
  7. 7. independent Chinese tourists much happier. These include letting tourists know how much they are saving when making purchases, having a global warranty (which helps protect major investments) and accepting Union Pay, which will allow these well-heeled tourists to access their Chinese bank accounts. Providing pictures of popular food items or Chinese language menus can be a major help as well - even native speakers sometime do not know what certain items or special dishes on menus are.16 A major complaint of these tourists is feeling like they are being discriminated against and that “Western” visitors might be given preferential treatment over them. Arlt gives the example that if Chinese tourists have to wait five minutes to receive their room key, their first thought will not be that more staff are required, but they are being made to wait because they are Chinese.17 This type of concern can grow, if not tended to immediately, into fears that they are actually being exploited and treated as second class guests even when they are spending large amounts of money. High levels of customer service will go a long way to redress this. 6 Making these types of changes will greatly aid Chinese tourist in feeling a lot more at home. No matter who you are or where you come from, there is nothing quite like the reassuring presence of something familiar when away from home. Having translated welcome materials and a Chinese member of staff on duty at all times will help resolve any problems. Popular Chinese soft drinks in the mini-bars, Chinese liquor placed above the bar along with other spirits and adding different regional dishes to menus – genuine Chinese dishes, not the “Chinese” dishes served in average “Western” restaurants can all help tourist settle in while in a new place. A copy of daily Chinese newspapers along with “Western” newspapers available at breakfast, free in-room Wi-Fi and assistance with mobile phone providers can go a long way. Introducing these changes are not going to break the bank and given that Chinese consumers like to publically review products will make a huge difference in attracting and retaining Chinese tourists as guests. Copyright © 2014 Digital Jungle Limited. All rights reserved.
  8. 8. Digital Marketing in China Chinese Social Media The social media landscape is very different in China. Facebook, Twitter and You Tube are not accessible here. Local platforms such as WeChat, Tencent Weibo, RenRen, Douban, and Sina Weibo must be used to reach your audience. Comparisons between Weibo and Twitter or RenRen and Facebook are very misleading. To create messaging and content which will resonate and engage with Chinese consumers, you must tailor your strategy to reach them 7 on their terms. Strategies employed in developed economies will not work here. Using social media allows you to really customize campaigns to reach your target audiences. Platforms are best used in conjunction with one another as each one serves a different purpose and connects with its users in differing ways. Effective campaigns use different combinations of platforms as content distribution networks vary depending upon who their targets are. Copyright © 2014 Digital Jungle Limited. All rights reserved.
  9. 9. Other Digital Work Social media works more effectively when used in conjunction with search engine marketing and optimization (SEO & SEM) campaigns. It is pivotal to get your websites on the first page of results on Baidu and Sogou if you want them to be seen by Chinese netizens. This is best accomplished by building a customized Chinese website or landing pages, specifically designed for China rather than a carbon copy of pre-existing 8 pages used in other markets. Whilst Google is available in China, it is not widely used. Chinese consumers generally like to research products thoroughly online and rarely make purchases on impulse. This will be especially so for holidays as 70% of Chinese travellers use the internet as their main source of information about trips.18 The importance of mobile cannot be overstated. There are currently over 360 million smartphones in China, and that total will rise to over 450 million by the end of 2014.19 Most internet access in China comes from mobile devices so remember that your content must be compatible with mobile devices. Smartphone use is near universal amongst the new type of Chinese tourists due to their socio-economic backgrounds and incomes. Social Listening In China, officially branded sources of information are not very well trusted compared to what consumers hear from their peers, thus elevating the role of people-driven social media, making both very important for your business. Chinese people write reviews of products and will absolutely pen posts and messages about their experiences on holiday. A Chinese tourist sharing their pleasure of a hotel stay will be worth his or her weight in gold, especially if this particular tourist is a key opinion leader. Social Listening is a way to keep track of what consumers think about products. Its application for hotels is clear: employ social listening services to track your hotel’s buzz online. Doing so will help to protect you brand, increase your market knowledge and better tailor your services for certain key groups of tourists. One example of how it can be used is to look for competitors’ weaknesses: if there are complaints that guests are forced to pay for Wi-Fi, you can promote the fact that yours is offered for free. Copyright © 2014 Digital Jungle Limited. All rights reserved.
  10. 10. Your Hotel Understand Your Location It is also imperative to understand your location geographically. Not as you understand it, but how it is thought of in China. How would it appeal to potential tourists from Shanghai? This is important for hoteliers because you don’t just have to attract Chinese tourists to your hotel, but also to your destination. You have to get Chinese tourists to firstly go to your location and then to stay in your accommodations. You have to remember which groups will usually go to your destination. Resorts in parts of South East Asia such as Bali and Boracay cater to young, white collar Chinese workers with lower levels of 9 disposable income as this group makes up the majority of visitors from mainland China.20 These visitors are less wealthy than those heading to further afield. If you business is a game reserve in Kenya, your clientele will be made up of the wealthy travellers given the costs involved in taking this trip. The next question to ask yourself is what layers are there to my destination. For example Berlin also has “German” and “European” identities in addition to a “Berlin” identity. This will affect what Chinese tourists will think of your destination and what your location has to offer relative to other destinations. Are there fantastic shopping opportunities? Is it an area of outstanding natural beauty? What attractions are nearby? This list is near endless. Understand Your Hotel You then have to consider what the demographics of Chinese tourists coming to your location will expect. You have to demonstrate that you provide what they want as this will result in tourists making reservations at your hotel, not at a competitor’s. Those heading off to Bali will not be looking for the same levels of luxury relative to cost compared to those going on Safari. It is crucial to then assess what your hotel’s personality is. Is it a chic boutique hotel, or one that provides great value for very little money? This will help you narrow down your target audiences further, allowing you to really create messages and content which will resonate and engage with them. Copyright © 2014 Digital Jungle Limited. All rights reserved.
  11. 11. Parting Thoughts The global importance of Chinese tourism is here to stay. The good news for hoteliers is that the more this market develops, the greater the share of “new” tourists will become. Though the demographics of this market will change over time. Middle class growth in inland areas and Tier Three and Tier Four cities will fragment this group meaning that campaigns in China will have to increasingly localised and focused on specific target audiences. You can attract middle classes from Harbin and Foshan at the same time, but you will have to use different methods to entice them. The most effective way to reach this growing market is through Chinese social media and digital campaigns. Before firing up a WeChat account, bear in mind four key questions which should act as inputs and guiding principles: 10 1. Which particular socio-economic demographic you are targeting? 2. What do Chinese tourists want? 3. Which type of tourist is most likely to go to your location and stay at your hotel? 4. How can you then attract them specifically to your location and hotel? Answer these and your digital campaigns will be far more successful as they will be able to guide your messages and marketing content. If you would like to know more about marketing to a Chinese traveller, or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Digital Jungle. We have years of experience in this field as well as a talented, multicultural and multilingual staff. Our contact details can be found online: or on the back page. Copyright © 2014 Digital Jungle Limited. All rights reserved.
  12. 12. References 1. 11 travel/chinese-tourism-impact 2. 2013-04-04/china-new-number- one-tourism-source-market- world 3. ST.INT.DPRT/countries/1W? display=map 4. 2013-04-04/china-new-number- one-tourism-source-market- world 5. 2013/09/25/chinese-tourists-travel-farther- southeast-asi/ 6. images/AI-CD748_ CTRAVE_G_201309250548 09.jpg 7. ibid 8. http:// blog/uncategorized/chinese-tourists- increase-in-numbers.html 9. technology-23343058 10. whitepaper/china-internet-statistics/ 11. digital-marketing-and-the-changing-chinese- consumer 12. consumer_and_retail/ mapping_chinas_middle_class 13. travel/chinese-tourism-impact 14. 2012/07/ International-Traveller-MapCITM.pdf 15. travel/china-tourists-spend/ index.html 16. independent-chinese-travelers-8- things-you-should-know/27910/ 17. travel/chinese-tourism-impact 18. attract-chinese-tourists-to-usa/ 19. 2013/09/24/us-china-smartphones-idUSBRE98N08V20130924? source=email_rt_mc_body&app=n 20. 2013/09/25/chinese-tourists-travel-farther- southeast-asi/ Copyright © 2014 Digital Jungle Limited. All rights reserved.
  13. 13. Contact US @digitaljunglecn 12 Copyright © 2014 Digital Jungle Limited. All rights reserved.