Switzerland has been one of the early winners among European destinations in Chinese outbound tourism, already in 2012 more than half a million Chinese visited the country, in 2015 the best result was achieved with more than 1 million guests.
However, after that year arrival numbers stopped growing. In 2018 and probably also 2019 Switzerland narrowly managed to clear the one million Chinese arrivals hurdle.
In two years and two months, the Winter Olympics will start in Beijing. China had announced that by that time 300 million Chinese will be turned into fans of winter sports. Switzerland, therefore, began to prepare in 2015 for an intensified interest of Chinese visitors in winter sports and started to employ Chinese-speaking ski coaches among other activities. Alas, the results were not in line with the efforts made.
Prof. Barbara Haller is a Swiss expert in Chinese outbound tourism as well as winter sports. She is also featured in the CTT China Tourism Training, offered by COTRI and The Hong Kong Polytechnical University School of Hotel and Tourism Management, the new Standard Online Training Programme for the Chinese outbound tourism market.
She has now published together with three co-authors (including your humble editor) results of her research on „Chinese Guests in Alpine Destinations – What Are They Looking for?“, which provide insights into the answer to the question of why Switzerland wasn’t able to profit from the upcoming Winter Olympics in China in the last years. The text is published as a chapter in the book Winter Tourism: Trends and Challenges, CABI 2019.
One result of the surveys done with Chinese visitors to Switzerland shows that the guests had relatively high levels of satisfaction but in almost all aspects the expectations were even higher, especially with regards to physical and electronic information provided. Also for the experiences with skiing and ski coaches positive as well as negative feedback was recorded.
The second survey in China revealed clear differences in the perception of alpine winter landscapes. Photos of such landscapes, which would appear as beautiful and desirable to most Western potential visitors, had much less appeal for Chinese viewers, which connected them often with attributes like dangerous, or boring, or lacking culture.
With her studies, Prof. Haller provides good examples of the possible pitfalls in marketing and product adaptation of promising too much to your potential visitors and of disregarding the cultural differences between different cultures.
Prof. Dr. Arlt and the COTRI Weekly team / www.china-outbound.com