Last Updated on September 8, 2023
In Mainland China, gone were the days when local travelers relied solely on physical booking agencies to plan overseas trips.
With the Chinese tourist market regaining its pace after the pandemic, independent travel planning and small-group trips have been getting all the hype.
These savvy Chinese travelers now have the luxury of researching destinations independently, relying on social media apps to plan their adventures.
However, despite the increasing appeal of overseas tourist destinations, there’s still pent-up demand from Chinese travelers to travel. Because of this, it’s time for international brands to step up their travel marketing game and seize the moment.
In this post, we’ll discuss some indispensable marketing tips to attract Chinese tourists and several insights into the business opportunities the Chinese outbound market can generate.
Chinese Tourism Market Overview
How big is the tourism industry in China?
You may not know, but Mainland China is one of the largest mass tourism markets in the world. According to South China Morning Post, over 90 million Chinese people are expected to go in and out of the country in the first half of the year.
If more Chinese tourists continue travelling at this pace, it’s likely for the local tourism market to regain its previous glory before the pandemic hit the industry.
A tourism handbook released this year also noted that over 200 million outbound Chinese tourists are projected to travel until 2028. The industry considers this a major milestone, mainly because it’s been 14 years since the 100-million mark was recorded in 2014.
Now that the country has lifted its imposed severe entry restrictions, major airlines in China are slowly regaining their inbound tourist volume. Both international and local brands are leveraging the perks of this mass tourism increase and trying their best to formulate the best marketing plan to attract new consumers.
What does Chinese Outbound Tourists Look for When Taking Trips Abroad?
The new Chinese outbound tourist prefers making custom travel plans and going with small groups. Since Chinese social media platforms fuel tourism trends in today’s digital age, modern travelers are more inclined to niche destinations and adventurous activities like camping and surfing.
On top of that, Chinese visitors on outbound trips are now more likely to have disposable income. Because of this, it’s worth noting that they’re on the lookout for high-quality products and services during their travels.
When they travel abroad, Chinese people expect special services to adapt to their needs. Having mobile payment options, translated resources, and Chinese staff are a few of the necessities any destination should have if they expect to receive Chinese visitors.
Where do Chinese tourists travel the most?
America’s brand remains strong in the global tourism market, but many Chinese tourists are seemingly more interested in closer destinations like South Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Japan. This trend is expected from the concluded pandemic, which toned down Chinese visits for the past few years.
Not to worry, though. As mass tours resume, more and more Chinese travelers are showing more interest in expanding their adventures outside the European and American counterparts of their usual destinations.
If you look at the graph from YouGov below, you’ll see the apparent preference of the Chinese market to travel to Asian destinations, except for Hawaii, New Zealand, and France.
Source: YouGov (Where are Chinese travelers thinking about visiting right now?)
Top 5 Strategies: How to Attract Chinese Tourists?
1. Social media is always key
Social media marketing is an indispensable strategy to engage Chinese tourists effectively. With over a billion active users, Chinese social media platforms hold immense potential for reaching and enticing your target audience.
When using this strategy, you must carefully select platforms like WeChat, Weibo, and Douyin to see if they align with your brand voice and image.
Focus on active customer interaction through comments and posts to go beyond mere account creation and product posts. Offer personalized services, rewards, discount tour packages, and exclusive group discounts, as Chinese consumers highly value tailored experiences that leave a lasting impression.
If you want to appeal to Chinese consumers during outbound trips, here are three key platforms you can consider:
Often dubbed the “super-app,” WeChat is an all-in-one Chinese social media platform that has become an essential part of daily life for local consumers. It offers various functionalities, including messaging, social networking, payments, mini-programs, etc.
A solid presence in WeChat is necessary for businesses seeking to attract Chinese tourists. Through official accounts, brands can share engaging content, conduct customer service, and even set up mobile stores to facilitate seamless transactions. WeChat Moments allow businesses to advertise to potential outbound tourists based on user behavior, interests, and demographics.
Moreover, the social media platform’s advanced analytics enables businesses to gain valuable insights into customer behavior and preferences.
Often likened to Twitter, Weibo is a prominent Chinese social media platform where users can micro-blog their real-time updates, photos, and videos. With over 500 million monthly active users, Weibo is a dynamic platform for businesses to build brand awareness and engage with potential customers.
By crafting compelling and shareable content, businesses can tap into trending topics and viral campaigns, increasing their visibility among Chinese tourists. Weibo also offers advertising options such as display ads, promoted posts, and key opinion leader (KOL) collaborations, providing various avenues to reach a broader audience.
Douyin’s primary content format is short videos, allowing businesses to showcase their travel destinations, attractions, and experiences visually appealing and engagingly. By creating captivating videos, companies can capture the attention of potential Chinese tourists and ignite their interest in visiting the showcased destinations.
On top of that, this Chinese social media platform also allows users to tag their videos with locations. Businesses can create location-specific content highlighting each destination’s attractions, activities, and unique experiences.
With a Douyin marketing campaign, Chinese tourists can discover lesser-known places and hidden gems, encouraging them to explore beyond the typical tourist hotspots.
2. Take advantage of online travel agencies
It’s no secret that Chinese travel planning sites can be expensive for smaller groups with low budgets, including top agencies like Fliggy, Ctrip, Qunar, and ma eLong. These well-known tour services take up ad space, making it even harder for smaller brands to showcase what they offer to Chinese travelers.
If you have the budget, getting an ad with one of these agencies or listing your service on their online booking features is a great business move.
Although not so many Chinese Gen Zs avail of these services, older tourists and low-income travelers still use these agencies. Older Chinese clients tend not to speak English and will likely need a tour guide. They also prefer to travel in groups due to fear of adventure or to utilize the lower price of group travel.
3. Use Chinese traveler forums
As Chinese tourists increasingly embrace independent trip planning, tapping into travel platforms and forums becomes a crucial strategy for businesses seeking to attract this growing segment of travelers.
Chinese traveler forums offer invaluable insights into the preferences and needs of Chinese tourists, making them a goldmine for businesses aiming to cater to this market. Three prominent Chinese traveler forums that companies should consider engaging with are:
Specifically tailored for travelers, Mafengwo is a travel-based platform that Chinese tourists flock to for inspiration, recommendations, and trip planning. With over 130 million registered users, Mafengwo has become a go-to resource for Chinese travelers seeking authentic travel experiences and reviews.
Businesses can create official accounts on Mafengwo to share travel-related content, tips, and special promotions as part of their tourism marketing strategies.
Engaging with users through the platform’s forums and Q&A sections can help build credibility and trust among potential tourists. Mafengwo also offers advertising opportunities for businesses seeking more visibility within the travel community.
As a leading online travel service provider in China, TuNiu offers a comprehensive platform for Chinese travelers to book flights, hotels, tours, and more. Chinese tourists frequently use TuNiu to plan and book their travel itineraries.
Businesses can collaborate with TuNiu to list their travel services and attract a broad audience of Chinese tourists actively seeking travel options. Partnering with TuNiu provides you with a credible platform to showcase their offerings and tap into Chinese travelers’ trust in well-established travel agencies.
● DaoDao (Chinese version of TripAdvisor)
DaoDao, the Chinese counterpart of TripAdvisor, is a trusted platform for Chinese people seeking authentic reviews and recommendations.
With a significant user base, DaoDao influences travelers’ decisions and shapes their travel experiences. Businesses can leverage DaoDao by actively managing their profiles, responding to reviews, and engaging with users.
Maintaining a positive online presence and addressing customer feedback can cultivate a favorable reputation that resonates with potential Chinese tourists.
4. Partner with KOLs to attract Chinese tourists
Partnering with Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) is a dynamic approach to attracting Chinese tourists and boosting your local business’s success. These influential figures wield significant impact through their opinions, viewpoints, and attitudes that connects with their dedicated followers on social media platforms.
Collaborating with a Chinese KOL in the travel niche can be a game-changer, enabling you to tap into their expansive reach and credibility to captivate the attention of Chinese travelers.
For destinations hoping to heighten Chinese visitation, you should know that KOLs’ endorsement holds immense weight, generating curiosity and interest among their followers and steering more traffic towards your business.
Chinese customers highly value authenticity, so KOLs are perceived as trustworthy sources of information when it comes to travel tips. These people are experts on Chinese culture and nuances, allowing them to pique interest and resonate with the local market.
5. Localize Your Website for the Chinese tourists
Localizing your website entails tailoring its content, design, and functionalities to resonate with the cultural nuances and expectations of Chinese customers.
We recommend international businesses to add language support features that enable users to switch between languages quickly. Through this, you can showcase your commitment to welcoming the Chinese tourism market. It’ll also allow all website visitors can access essential information in their preferred language.
You should also optimize your website for Chinese search engines like Baidu, which is widely used in China. Localizing keywords, meta tags, and content to improve your website’s visibility in search results can help global tourism’s biggest market to discover your offerings easily.
While localizing your entire website into Chinese is ideal, incorporating key content in Mandarin can significantly enhance the user experience for Chinese tourists.
Consider creating a Mandarin FAQ section to address common queries and concerns. It will facilitate communication and instil a sense of comfort and familiarity among Chinese travelers, encouraging them to explore your offerings further.
Other things to consider
- Payment Methods
As previously stated, Chinese tourists highly value businesses that cater to their preferences and offer localized products and services. One crucial aspect of localization is providing Chinese-friendly payment methods, such as Alipay and WeChat Pay.
These mobile payment platforms are widely used in China and are familiar to Chinese travelers. By accepting these payment methods, you can enhance the convenience and trustworthiness of transactions, making it more likely for Chinese tourists to engage with your business.
- Engaging Chinese Students
International students from China are also a prominent market that businesses can tap into to promote their brands within this community. This strategy can lead to potential word-of-mouth referrals and increased visibility among Chinese travelers.
Engaging with Chinese students is a cost-effective way to initiate a presence in the Chinese market and create brand advocates who can positively influence their fellow travelers.
- Timing Your Promotions with Holidays
Understanding Chinese holidays and travel patterns is crucial for effective marketing to Chinese tourists. Two significant holidays to consider are Chinese New Year and National Day.
These holidays see a massive surge in Chinese outbound tourism, and travelers often plan their vacations around these dates. Prepare promotional materials and special offers targeted at these peak travel periods to attract Chinese tourists seeking to explore new destinations during their holidays.
- Leveraging QR Codes
QR codes play a vital role in China’s digital landscape, and leveraging them can significantly enhance your engagement with Chinese tourists.
You must utilize QR codes, especially on your promotional materials, to provide easy access to additional information about your products or services.
Integrating QR codes with WeChat is particularly valuable, as it allows you to interact with customers, provide real-time customer support, and collect valuable data on their preferences and behaviors.
- Staying Informed about Current Events
Geopolitical tensions and conflicts can arise suddenly, impacting the perceptions and preferences of Chinese travelers. Marketers should closely monitor current events and political developments to anticipate potential travel behaviour shifts.
By staying informed, businesses can proactively adjust their strategies to cater to evolving preferences and avoid any pitfalls that may arise.
- Destination Safety Ranks
Safety is a paramount consideration for Chinese tourists, and they are more likely to choose destinations with a reputation for providing secure and reliable travel experiences.
Businesses in the tourism industry should prioritize safety measures, including well-maintained infrastructure, reliable transportation options, and comprehensive emergency response plans.
Destinations recognized for their safety efforts can leverage this as a powerful marketing tool, especially for groups of friends planning independent travel. Promising safety rankings and certifications on websites, promotional materials, and social media platforms can help instill confidence in potential Chinese travelers.
- Visitor Visa Hurdles
Obtaining a visa to visit certain countries can be a significant hurdle for Chinese tourists. Providing visa assistance services can be advantageous for businesses in the tourism industry.
Collaborating with reputable visa agencies or offering visa support through partnerships can help Chinese tourists navigate the application process more smoothly. These services can include guidance on required documents, application submission, and updates on visa status.
New Tourism Trends in the Chinese Market
The Peak of Family Travel Planning
The pandemic has reshaped the travel landscape, and Chinese tourists opt for different types of trips to meet their needs and preferences.
Family vacations, healthcare tours, and research trips are gaining popularity, with “parent-child tourism” emerging as a special interest tourism trend in 2021 and 2022.
According to Ctrip’s 2022 Summer Travel Market Trend Report, family travel packages peaked during the summer booking spree. In July 2022, family air ticket sales surged by a remarkable 804% compared to the previous month.
Bookings for family-friendly hotels also saw an 80% increase from the same period in 2021, with a 20% rise from 2019, especially in four and five-star tourist accommodations.
China’s largest cities, Shanghai and Beijing, saw a significant increase in family travel in July, indicating a pent-up demand accumulated during the first half of the year when travel restrictions began easing.
Gen Z Chinese Shoppers
With increasing purchasing power, Gen Z is embracing travel as a means of leisure and enjoyment. Over half (52.7%) of Gen Z travelers now seek travel information on social media and short video platforms. Additionally, 49% opt for online travel agencies (OTAs) such as Trip.com, Qunar, and Meituan, while only 16.7% still rely on offline services for travel information.
Gen Z’s digital prowess extends to their travel and shopping decision-making. Price and budget remain essential factors for this generation when planning tours, as they are crucial considerations when purchasing.
Embracing Chinese Heritage
The government’s effort to preserve disappearing local cultures has proven effective, as young Chinese travelers are enthusiastic about integrating their heritage into their travel experiences.
Besides exploring their country’s rich cultural tapestry locally, these savvy tourists prefer to experience local food overseas that caters to Chinese tastes and preferences. Businesses and destinations that recognize this penchant can capitalize on the opportunity to appeal to Chinese travelers.
What is the outlook for China tourism in 2023?
After a three-year lockdown, the Chinese government made a significant move by reopening all borders on January 8, 2023. This decision has sparked a frenzy of interest among the Chinese people for outbound travel. Notably, international flight bookings experienced an astounding 640% increase, as reported by C-trip, one of China’s leading online travel companies.
Chinese tourists have long been a driving force in the global outbound tourism industry. In 2019, the number of outbound tourists from China reached nearly 155 million. However, due to the impact of the pandemic, this number dramatically dropped to 25.62 million in 2021. Nonetheless, with the recent reopening of borders, the travel industry’s outlook is promising.
While international flight bookings have yet to reach 20% of 2019 levels as of February 2023, the situation is gradually improving. Chinese airlines continuously add new international routes, indicating a positive trend for short and long-haul destinations throughout the year.
Ready To Dominate The Chinese Tourism Market? Get In Touch With Us Today!
Chinese tourists represent a significant and lucrative market segment that cannot be overlooked. To effectively appeal to these target audiences, you must adopt a multifaceted approach that aligns with their unique preferences and behaviors.
At Sekkei Digital Group, we understand the local market’s nuances, consumer preferences, and shifting trends. With our expert guidance, you can unlock your brand’s maximum potential and establish yourself as a prominent industry leader.
Our team of seasoned experts specializes in delivering exceptional digital marketing and advertising solutions. We create captivating branding and positioning strategies, ensuring your business can leverage the growing Chinese tourism market.
Contact us today, and let us help you supercharge your social media strategies, advertising techniques, and KOL collaborations.