In trends

Chinese tourism is currently experiencing explosive growth as Chinese travellers are reshaping the global economy and having a real impact on the economies of the destinations that they're travelling to.  This presents real opportunities for destinations around the world to get ahead of the competition, develop an understanding of this lucrative market and appeal to their needs.

According to Taleb Rifai, secretary general of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), "Chinese tourists are the most powerful single source of change in the tourism industry."

China's consumers' spending power started as a domestic phenomenon but is now expanding around the globe.  China leads the world in terms of expenditure accounting for a fifth of the money spent by outbound tourists and topping the table at US$261.1bn, with the US coming in at no. 2.  And that's just the start with only 5% of China's citizens currently holding passports, compared to 40% in the US.  The Government is apparently issuing 10 million new travel documents every year.

During the first nine months of 2017, the UK saw strong growth from China with spending up 48% and visits up 33%.  VisitBritain is estimating full year figures of about 330,000 visits and spending of about £667 million. Forecast visits from China to the UK during 2018 are about 349,000 visits, with visitors spending about £722 million. Visits from China to the UK more than doubled in the decade to 2016! 

Some stats from VisitBritain help to put the opportunity into perspective:

  • Chinese visitors represent some of the UK's highest spenders, spending an average of £1972 per visit, more than 3 times the market average
  • They stay in the UK longer than any other international visitor, averaging 10 nights compared to 6 for other markets
  • Every 22 additional Chinese visitors that Britain attracts supports an additional job in tourism in the UK
  • VisitBritain’s ambition is to double spend from Chinese visitors in the UK to £1 billion annually by 2020

Specific growth was predicted around the Chinese New Year celebrations (the Year of the Dog) earlier this month, with the UK hosting some of the biggest celebrations outside Asia including many of our own destinations including Liverpool, Manchester, Durham, NewcastleGateshead and the Isle of Wight.

So what is the profile of a typical Chinese tourist?  The new Chinese middle-income visitor no longer travels in tour groups but is more likely to opt for a self-organised holiday.  They are typically well educated, internationally aware and experienced travellers.  A new segment known as FITs or free, independent travellers is emerging that plans itineries, translates signs and documents everything on social media. 

Other key points to bare in mind when marketing to Chinese tourists:

  • Mandarin is widely spoken in Mainland China with many different accents due to the vast number of local dialects so signage, translated menus etc will help to make visitors feel welcome
  • English is taught in schools from the age of 10 so most younger people will be conversant but older people will benefit from translations
  • Although fashion and luxury brands are still popular, Chinese visitors are still looking for value for money and will probably have carried out extensive research online to plan their trip (Chinese travellers typically conduct research 3 months in advance of their departure)
  • A new wave of Chinese food tourists is open to trying alternative cuisines although offering rice with any meal is always going to be welcomed
  • Comparatively few Chinese people use credit cards and the most popular payment options are Union Pay (a debit card used extensively in China), Alipay and WeChat Wallet so savvy destinations and providers who adopt these payment options will benefit
  • Internet access and Wifi are essential for Chinese travellers as would be expected from the largest online population in the world (772m at the end of December 2017)
  • WeChat and Weibo are the most popular social media platforms
  • A large number of bookings are still made via travel agents and tour operators so you need to promote your destination via the Chinese travel trade via social media, events and PR
  • Don't forget about the Chinese students already studying in your destinations (there are around 130,000 in the UK currently) who have access to key social media networks both in the UK and China
  • The national holiday in China known as Golden Week is the prime time to travel (Monday 1st to Sunday 7th October 2018)  

VisitBritain has launched its own digital campaign in China to entice visitors to the UK as part of the UK Government's global GREAT Britain campaign.  The 'I Travel For...' campaign uses short films and images to shine the spotlight on Britain's unexpected, less explored destinations, together with globally renowned and iconic cultural landmarks and attractions. 

For more information on how to target Chinese travellers, including sector specific advice, go to the VisitBritain website.  




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