One year in the pandemic, some destinations are adapting to the “new normal” and are focused on recovery. Thanks to the ongoing vaccine roll out and constant practice of minimum health standards, some even reopen their borders to brave international travellers.
One of the strategies seen by some tourist destinations is to attract Chinese travellers, which is one of the biggest movers and shakers in travel.
According to a report from GlobalData, China’s international departures declined by 52.5% in 2020 due to the outbreak of COVID-19. GlobalData’s COVID-19 Recovery surveys (*June 2020 and December 2020) found that demand for international travel among Chinese respondents was lower in December 2020 compared to June 2020. The surveys suggested that 59% of Chinese respondents declared they would ‘somewhat’ or ‘strongly disagree’ with the statement ‘I will consider booking an international trip this year’ in December compared to 54% in June.
Johanna Bonhill-Smith, travel & tourism analyst at GlobalData, comments: “COVID-19 and fears of xenophobia are both threatening the prospects of international departures from China. Additional steps are critical to interact with Chinese citizens to help spark international travel demand when travel is more easily accessible.”
Bonhill-Smith presented some of the ways on how to attract the massive Chinese market:
- Adapting to Chinese offerings such as hosting a website with Chinese language preferences or selling local tours and excursions in Mandarin can all add to the quality of a Chinese tourist’s experience.
- A destination that makes Chinese tourists feel welcome may be the first to see an increase in post-pandemic travel.
- Digital engagement across all verticals such as promotion, payment, advice and general experiences have always been desirable factors for Chinese tourists but for post-pandemic travel, this will grow in importance.
- China’s prime social media channels differ from the Western world with apps such as WeChat, Weibo and Douyin that are heavily used.
- Accepting payments from WeChat or Alipay for example can benefit across the travel and tourism supply chain – from a company and destination perspective.
Partnerships with Chinese tour operators is another route that can be taken. There is a strong desire for familiar and trustworthy products amongst Chinese travellers. Local operators will typically have the first-hand experience in promoting to Chinese individuals and therefore, have greater leverage when servicing this market. Trip.Com Group for example dominates the OTA market across China and has repeatedly formed partnerships with companies worldwide.
Bonhill-Smith concludes: “Even though 85% of its international departures are focused on destinations across the Asia-Pacific region, China regularly features in the top 10 international arrivals for destinations across the Middle East and Europe. It is the largest and most lucrative source market globally, so engagement is now critical to battle any anti-Chinese/racism fears and stimulates future travel demand of the Chinese tourists.”