Engaging The Outbound Chinese Travel Market

The Connected Chinese Journey
With a prediction of 200 million+ outbound trips per year by 2020, China’s outbound millions are one of the most lucrative audiences for travel providers in a long time. The Phocuswright-IGT study ‘China Unbounded: The Rise of China’s Oubound Millions’ provides in-depth data, informed insights about Chinese travel preferences and destination choices, and its potential impacts in the global travel ecosystem.

In this blog, we cover key points from IGT/Phocuswright China Report, and provide recommendations on how to upsell tourism destinations in the Chinese market, highlight the latest trends and their implications to a Travel business’s bottom line.

As the Chinese economy grows stronger and more connected, they are defined by their digital and m-commerce leadership, device penetration and spending habits. The Chinese traveller is mobile and an “on-demand Traveller” with high expectations of dynamic connectivity, personalization and “seamless” digital services across their journey. Travel providers need to strategize end-to-end connectivity and hyper-localize personalization (payment, language customizations etc) and intent across the ecosystem of devices, services, and partners.

Firstly, understanding their travel cycle from intent, motivation to behavior and in-destination behavior is crucial in engaging them. Since Chinese tourists mostly stick to pre-determined itineraries, you have to get them before they leave. Brands should engage travellers through local channels such as Weibo, WeChat in the average four to six-week research period prior to travel and then retargeting travelers once they arrive at their international destinations.

Key Chinese Travel Cycle trends according to the buying pattern:

Inspiration: The journey starts online
• Mobile is key to research, social sharing and even bookings via apps like WeChat, Ctrip etc
• Shopping, Social community, Videos and local celebrities are key motivators

Research: It’s all Local and digital
• Local OTAs lead bookings and research – Ctrip is the leading website among outbound travelers who book online
• Planning and research happens though websites, apps and smartphones
• China’s younger travelers, increasingly use the popular WeChat platform to conduct pre-trip research.
• The average age of a chinese traveller is between 22-44

Buy on-the-Go:
• 53% of package purchases go through apps and mobile websites
• China’s online payment methods enjoy traction not seen in any other major travel market
• Apps account for 38% of mobile package bookings, 37% of mobile lodging

In-destination experience
• Mobile is key to research, social sharing and even bookings via apps like WeChat, Ctrip etc
• Shopping, Social community, Videos and local celebrities are key motivators

Sharing the experience
• Social media provides an immediate outlet to share reviews

Chinese Travellers use hand-held devices and multiple methods of engaging with your organization as they plan, book, and execute their travel plans. To maintain consistent engagement, Travel providers should embed a unified and strategic approach, using services-based business models, connecting the entire length of the journey. This is found to be fundamentally challenging, as the Chinese traveller’s preferred use of platforms, mobile and apps is starkly different compared to its western counterparts.

So how does one adapt to these “foreign” digital challenges?

Adapt Connectivity: Travel providers can reduce time-to-market and operation costs with partnerships with local Chinese players driving effective reach and opportunities. Managed travellers expect to be connected via mobile device at every point during the journey with multilingual options for booking, payments, researching and customer support. Local OTAs provide superior branded app experiences, whereas websites and customer support with language customization break localization barriers. Offering this for seamless connectivity is smart.

a. Personalized – multilingual customer support, wi-fi, and language customization are the norm
b. Localize Across Devices: Multilingual websites, apps, social messaging, chats
c. Local discovery – Features like curated guides, translations plus offline maps.

For eg: Marriott Rewards has partnered with DaoDao, TripAdvisor’s official Chinese website, to provide Chinese travellers’ access to location-based recommendations and reviews.

Mobilize & Localize:
While Mobile makes the Chinese outbound journey connected, multiple touch-points can fragment that experience. To build reach, keeping the customer connected to a single platform and partner is the key. For example, Travel providers trying to reach guests for connected experience, messaging app, WeChat helps navigate language, cultural and payment barriers in one platform with an amalgamation of social media, instant messaging, m-commerce features. In fact, Four Seasons introduced an updated multifunctional, content-rich global app with in-language customizations and support. Let’s look at numbers:

  • 53% of Chinese tourists travelling abroad used mobile apps to book (hotels, flight ticket, attractions ticket)
  • Driving reach with local partners (Ex: Uber has a partnership in place with Alipay that has allowed Chinese users to use their Alipay app to hail Uber rides in other countries and use the Chinese platform to pay.)
  • Language customizations play a key part in building loyalty and experience.

Going the extra mile: Consider personalizing their in-destination activity. The need for personalization around intent has markedly different expectations for in-destination experiences. For example Hotels can provide apps that come with language customizations, maps, recommended restaurants and leisure activities tailored to their profiles. Additionally, they can help travellers find the nearest designer store or receive a promotion tailored to their profile preferences based on the weather in that city. For this data and real-time analytics plays a crucial role, by leveraging Location-based data with traveller profile and insights, for a personalized offer or service.

By going the extra mile, hotels can build loyalty as many outbound travellers prefer to come back to their preferred place of stay. Similarly on-ground experience can also be personalized. Having staff that speak Chinese or including items such as teapot in their rooms can help personalize their experience. The Hilton Huanying program extends an authentic welcome to Chinese travelers. Ex: guest rooms are outfitted with amenities such as tea kettles and slippers, and breakfast includes traditional Chinese items such as dim sum, congee etc.

Connected Experiences: To summarize – Mobilization, Localization and Personalization are the corner stones for creating unique and unified experiences for the Chinese outbound traveller. In the past, Travel providers took a more traditional, centralized approach of ‘meeting at the point of sales,’ but now it’s imperative to have digital services that build a continuous interaction with the Chinese traveller – pre, during and post travel.

How IGT creates Connected Experiences:

By tapping into mobility, language customizations and personalized service IGT creates differentiated experiences that can help enrich services, gain customer insights, increase efficiency, and create differentiation opportunities.

Recently, in a first-of-its-kind hospitality solution, IGT and Cachet Hotel Group, Asia’s leading hospitality chain, came together to develop Cachet World, CHG’s proprietary technology platform. It aimed at bringing greater mobility and seamless control across segments including hotels, residential, restaurants and entertainment, enabling significant value to guest and owners.

Today, more traveller interactions today begin on one channel and then migrate onto others. IGT Digital Contact Center services in 20+ languages, with analytics that improve staff efficiencies and personalization opportunities. Building seamless experiences bring control and clarity to the entire traveller lifecycle.

Outbound market’s potential requires investment priorities to meet the needs of today’s Chinese passengers and it needs to begin now.

About the Author:
Renee Kishore is digital marketing specialist, and a published author. A researcher and writer of change tactics and technologies in travel and other verticals, she frequently posts across the digital ecosystem. With 8-yrs of experience in communications and marketing, Renee has a passion for discussions and can be reached at: renee.kishore@www.igtsolutions.com