China's New Traveller Class: How to Deal with the No. 1 Customer of the Next 10 Years.
Thursday, 6th March 2014
Source : Roland Wildberg ~ Exclusive from ITB 2014
The Chinese market is always good for creating optimism and smiling faces among the travel industry: Over 250 million people from China, that is one fourth of the entire adult population, do travel, that is twice as many people as in the United States.

4Hoteliers Image LibraryAn immense market, but it has its own idiosyncrasies which from outside are often not understood correctly.

At ITB Berlin 2014 the PhoCusWright market research institute presented a study, which should contribute to a better understanding of the tourism sector in China and therefore should serve as a basic handout for every tourism manager who wants to take part in the business.

Starting the event Douglas Quinby, Vice President Research of PhoCus Whright literally threw away another misunderstanding about China which is widely spread: "Asia - Pacific is not an emerging market anymore. It is emerged." He cemented this thesis with different statistics.

Thus, the Asia-Pacific market is the largest travel market in the world ahead of the United States and Europe. In this market, recently significant changes took place: China just has overtaken Japan in the Asia-Pacific region and is the second largest travel market - now only headed by the United States - in the world.

A positive attitude towards travelling and curiosity

Quinby was obviously impressed by the results of the study. He spoke enthusiastically of "extraordinary transformation: millions and millions of new travellers." And further: "they are so positive, so hungry to travel. And there seems to be no limit for their new ambition. Their desires.

The Chinese have very broad interests." While in the United States only 20% are interested in nature or culture while traveling, there are 60% of that kind in China. Also interesting: 39% have taken a trip solo, much more alone than in other countries.

But what are the tourist attractions? Still the big cities in China like Beijing, but also Hong Kong - which has a special status - are obviously in the center of interest. The speaker then did ask the audience for an estimate: how many travellers have crossed already China's borders? Few people did know the indeed astonishing share: 50%!

Even if you take away from Taiwan and other parts of the greater China region is 30%. And if you ask the domestic traveller: 62% want in future travel internaionally. In other words: the majority of travellers can imagine to travel in the next few years. Given that financial reasons often prevent people from a trip - there is a high level of trust that one can afford international travel in the close future.

Inform online, book offline

According to this general information, Quinby entered on the specific itinerary. There are important differences to Europe: thus 52% follow personal recommendations from friends and family, whom they do ask face-to-face or online.

In other countries this share is much smaller. Another aspect is unique: 42% do look for research with smartphones, 25% with tablets.

Evident here: China is a highly mobile market. While the search of destinations very often is taking place digitally, the booking itself mainly happens offline. In contrast to the UK, where for example 60% do book online, there are only 29% of that kind in China. "By all the talk I have done concerning mobile etc. people still buy offline."

Respond to the specificity of the Chinese market

In all the excitement about this new market but also the demands of Chinese customers are to be taken seriously.

This begins with Chinese-language Web sites, but also goes forth with an offer tailored to Chinese guests, for example, at dinner.

Chinese consumers trust primarily local offerings. And even if all American online pages have a counterpart in China: it would be wrong to think that China simply follows the development of the West. Rather, the important role of mobile communication shows that China is in its own way and also may skip certain steps.

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Roland Wildberg is Travel Writer and Correspondent based in Berlin, Germany. He started as an Editor for the National daily 'Die Welt' (tourism section), later on switched to a freelanced career and nowadays mainly publishes on the Web. Observing the hospitality industry has always fascinated him as it looks like the perfect combination of sleeping and writing work-live-balance at its best.

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