Localize social media for China – Win with the emerging Chinese tourist market.

The dragon has risen – and it’s left half of its 23kg luggage allowance free…

Developments in Chinese tourism and travel across the world, and how to maximise your hospitality or retail business with this game-changing market.

The last time I was in Rome, I treated myself to the finest pair of shoes that I’ve ever owned. I bought them on the world-famous Via dei Condotti, in a boutique positively oozing the classical trappings of Italian glamour, style, and tradition. It was an all-round #luxury experience.

But, whilst the sales team in that boutique were themselves quintessentially Italian, it was pretty obvious that the bulk of the shoppers: were not. Nor were the army of colourful-bag-toting residents of our hotel that evening. And, nor were the crowds in the offices of one of my clients the next week – which also happens to be one of iconic Department Stores of London.

What do you think was the common language of Rome & Knightsbridge – as it often is in the boutiques and hotels of Paris, New York, Rio, Cape Town, Toronto, Moscow & Dubai?  No surprise – it was Mandarin.

It’s something of a cliché now to talk about “Chinese Maths” – which can make all other kinds look almost irrelevant. The numbers associated with the booming Chinese consumer market for goods and services, and the power that this market has to transform businesses right across the world, can boggle the brain.

And there’s one sector that in particular continues to boom like no other: that of the Chinese leisure traveller.



If you’re in the travel industry, or you’re running a business in a tourist hotspot that sees large numbers of Chinese travellers, then there are only a few real questions remaining for you here: are you maximising your exposure to this high-value group, and if not – how can you get your marketing in shape to take advantage of all this potential business?

And let’s look at some of that Maths quickly – because, this is not just potential business: it’s potential Big Business.

  • In 2014, China surpassed the US to become the world’s largest outbound tourism market.
  • In 2015, there were 120 million outbound tourists from China – up 12% from that year before.
  • Chinese travellers have emerged as amongst the largest travel spenders worldwide; on both a per-trip & per-night basis. In 2015, tourists from China spent $104.5bn just on their travel (that’s not including purchases made overseas.)
  • That was a 16.7% increase on the previous year – so it’s clear travel spending is growing faster than the numbers of visitors.
  • Importantly, leisure tourism comprises an increasing share of this Chinese travel demand. Currently, leisure accounts for 59% of total Chinese travel and tourism spending: by 2023, the leisure share of total Chinese outbound tourism will reach 62%.
  • Cities are the primary destinations of Chinese travellers, with over 85% of Chinese outbound travel to major cities around the world.
  • Looking specifically at online/ digital travel, because the internet is the gateway for you to this huge market, China by 2017 is predicted to deliver $95.2bn of online travel sales.
  • And that growth will drive Asia as a whole past North America, to be the world’s no.1 online travel market region, worth $215.92bn annually. (Korea and Japan continue to be incredibly valuable, growing travel markets too.)

(Our sources – Oxford Economics, IHG Hotels, China Tourism Research Institute, Travel China Guide, EMarketer, China Internet Watch.)

Much of this growth over the last few years has been fuelled by macro PEST factors – the relaxing of Visa regulations, high growth in mobile phone adoption and internet access, and the emergence of a huge Chinese middle class with ever-more disposable income.

But now, the tide is shifting – with access to services everywhere, choice comes in to play for everyone involved, the traveller and the businesses looking to attract them. And so, we turn to customer experience and marketing activity: the new battleground for those who will win this game.

In their 2015 China report, IHG hotels sum up the challenge neatly –

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“Attracting Chinese visitors is more than just improving the experience once they have arrived: the entire booking procedure needs to be considered and adapted to improve access.”

To win with the Chinese traveller, and capture their attention and business once they are in your cities, you need to start your customer acquisition journey with them whilst they are still on home soil…

You need to get them whilst they are researching, planning – and booking their travel.  And this throws up some unique challenges, due to the history and nature of the Chinese internet.

The Chinese internet, naturally, has some big Maths of its own. In fact, Chinese internet users spend 5-6 hours more hours per week online than American web users; and they average over 90mins per day of that time inside social networks. Some really good news too – they are spending money whilst they are there: digital shopping in China grew 70% year-on-year in 2015; and in 2016 over 200million people (15% of the entire population) will make a purchase online from abroad.  This means a Chinese cross-border ecommerce market of $85.76bn.

But here’s the catch – since 2009 – the digital giants that you would usually use in order to attract these potential customers – Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, twitter – have all been banned from being accessed inside mainland China…so, what to do?

Your answer lies in Weibo – one of the China-based new digital channels that have blossomed in catering to this insatiable demand for connectivity.  Weibo has 260m monthly active users, 73m of them accessing via mobile app, each in Weibo 1.8 times a day, for a total of over 4mins a day of face time: it’s not “the Chinese Twitter” as it’s often called – it’s bigger than Twitter.

Weibo cuts across all ages and demographics now, and with its spread up from younger consumers, has become a great partner for that exploding e-commerce market: 82% of Weibo users have purchased online after discovering a product in Weibo, 44% of Weibo users also use an e-commerce app (browse, research, or purchase) every single day (!) – and 44.4% of them in a recent survey rated ads on Weibo as more often that not matching their needs. In fact, behind “people I know,”Social Media scored #2 of all sources as “the most influential source of information” in China for high-value purchases, ahead of print ads/ retail info/ TV ads, amongst others.

You only need a few things to open your business to China through Weibo – a partner to help with the setup, and then a way to handle the fact you will be marketing in Mandarin moving forwards. And for that – you’re in the right place.

Reach7 works with enterprises across all kinds of sectors, to establish and drive their website traffic from the Chinese consumer market. Our unique services and technology tools have businesses with no native Mandarin skills at all, trading in China on a daily basis. So, why not join the family. Whether you’re a hotel manager, an organiser of golf or spa breaks, or a luxury boutique owner – can you afford to miss out on the China opportunity?

To learn more about Weibo can transform your business, or how Reach7 helps companies from SMEs to the FTSE 100 make social media work for them – in analytics, advertising, translations, and data – across all borders and timezones, as well as simply in their neighbourhoods, please get in touch at hello@reach7.com or click here.

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