Strategies to Reach and Engage Chinese Travelers

Chinese TravelThose of you who’ve read this blog for a while know that three of my favorite things to talk about are travel, China and mind-blowing industry trends. So you can understand why today is shaping up to be a good day for me: I just read that China is on target to be the largest outbound tourist market in the world by the end of 2013 (source: 5 Ways Companies Are Changing To Cash In On The Chinese Travel Boom, International Business Times, September 20, 2013).

I’ll focus on two angles of this today: how some travel companies are tailoring their marketing strategies and operations to reach this audience successfully, and how social media fits in China.

Travel Industry Strategies

Let’s start with more of that article from the International Business Times. This is just a brief overview of their findings and recommendations; please be sure you read their whole article when you have time.

  1. RenRen logoWeiboMarketing teams, seriously consider moving your China-targeted social media efforts from Facebook and Twitter to Renren and Sina Weibo, respectively. (Yes, this is social media-related, we’ll touch on this more in a minute.)
  2. For hotels, be sure your properties are welcoming and comfortable to Chinese travelers, by learning about and offering amenities that will make them feel, well… welcome and comfortable. According to the article’s author, providing little things like “slippers, a kettle, instant noodles and chopsticks” can go a long way toward attracting this market. Imagine how much more committed your hotel will look when you also offer maps and brochures in simplified Chinese.
  3. Industry analysts are also seeing retailers welcome Chinese tourists with open arms because these travelers tend to spend more on luxury goods than others. Generally speaking, they love to shop, and because China taxes luxury goods at very high rates, they love to shop when out of the country. One way some malls are accommodating this activity is by adding, “appropriate language materials, currency exchange and staff that speak Mandarin to adapt to the growth.”
  4. Airlines are working hard to adapt to the growing number of travelers, too. The most successful so far has been Air France-KLM. Get this: “More than 50 percent of passengers on Air France-KLM routes are now Chinese, a sign that the brand has gained further traction in the market.” Flights between China and the US are much more limited.
  5. Finally, we come to the Cruise industry, which isn’t as popular a vacation concept in Asia as it is in other parts of the world, but it’s growing. “Recent projections from the Hong Kong Tourism Board indicate that total Asian cruise passengers could reach 7 million by 2020, representing about 20 percent of the global cruise market.” So cruise lines, if you’re not putting plans in place to support this growing audience, you might miss out in a big way.

The bottom line is that it seems like time for creative marketing and strategic operational innovation. Remember that for a business to grow, it must either offer new products, reach new markets or just do things differently. The Travel and Hospitality industry is no exception, and the growing number of Chinese travelers is accelerating the need for this innovation. 

The Social Media Angle

Last week, Karthick Prabu published an in-depth article on Tnooz, Chinese traveller profiles – viewed through the lens of social media, about the Chinese travel industry based on research conducted by GroupM China and CIC China. Since social media is such an integral part of global marketing nowadays, I thought I’d highlight a few points here, and of course encourage you to read his article for all the details.

  • “Complaints from travellers and replies from airlines are the most important content for brand buzz on various social media channels.” Oh my, doesn’t this just sound like something I’d write about? Hint: Customer Reviews in the Travel & Hospitality Industry – To Translate or Not to Translate, and More on the Importance of Publishing Customer Reviews, to name just a couple.
  • “For business travellers, brands should take practical communication strategy in a real way, especially avoid exaggerations.” In other words, more reality, less hype.
  • “Package tourists are impressionable by the current hot topics on social media. So, travel brands should combine the brand attributes with the current trends in order to deepen the brand impression and broaden brand impact.” Makes sense to me – you want to speak to your audience in a context they’ll appreciate, with references they’ll understand.

Got a few more minutes? This next article offers some great data and insight about the state of social media in China, and how companies can tap into it: Key Opinion Leaders and Bloggers become major marketing driver for companies to be successful in China.

Want more info? Want tips? Want help? I’m here for you.

I think about this stuff because I’m genuinely, personally interested in it. But I talk about it here on the Lionbridge Travel & Hospitality blog because we’re really good at helping travel companies navigate their way through global marketing and social media challenges. So don’t hesitate to give me a yell sometime if you’d like to chat about strategies and see how our team of language and global marketing experts can help. It’s what we do.


As always, I strongly suggest you take the time to read the fantastic material I found in my research:

  1. 5 Ways Companies Are Changing To Cash In On The Chinese Travel Boom, by Mark Johanson, International Business Times, September 20, 2013.
  2. Chinese traveller profiles – viewed through the lens of social media, Tnooz, October 8, 2013.
  3. Key Opinion Leaders and Bloggers become major marketing driver for companies to be successful in China, China Travel Trends, May 10, 2013.
  4. 106 million Chinese outbound travels and 129 billion US$ expenditure expected for the period July 2013 to June 2014 (press release), China Travel Trends, August 14, 2013.
  5. 13 Trends That Will Define Travel in 2013 (pdf), by Rafat Ali, Dennis Schaal and Samantha Shankman, Skift.


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