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Return of Chinese travellers to West: experts see opportunities but also challenges

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The recent influx of Chinese travellers is reshaping the travel landscape, notably during the Year of the Dragon. Experts predict a significant rise in outbound trips, nearing 80% of pre-pandemic levels. Yet, these travelers now seek new experiences and hold different expectations. Industry professionals must adapt by employing robust distribution strategies and understanding cultural nuances.

Earlier this year a surge of Chinese travellers during the Lunar New Year holiday signalled a thaw after the pandemic’s chill.  And this influx is now expected to gain momentum throughout the auspicious Year of the Dragon, fuelled by a predicted near-doubling of outbound Chinese trips in 2024. Oxford Economics forecasts a return to nearly 80% of pre-pandemic levels, heralding a vibrant revival of China – Europe tourism.

But recent reports suggest that the Chinese traveller is now a very different profile to pre-pandemic traveller. Instead they’re looking for different experiences and have a new set of expectations.  What can the travel industry do to capture the attention of this dynamic new group of travellers? We spoke with some leading experts in from travel technology companies who know the market well to understand both the opportunities and the challenges.

Gareth Matthews from global travel distribution provider Didatravel – which is China-based and the biggest outbound wholesale seller of travel in China – confirms that  “Initially the recovery was focused on the APAC destinations, but we’ve seen a recent spike in bookings from China to various parts of Europe, North America and even LATAM”. Matthews goes on to explain that hoteliers and other suppliers of travel services need a strong distribution strategy in place – this isn’t just about having a Chinese language website.  Chinese travellers heavily rely on booking channels and inspiration websites that don’t exist in traditional Western markets.  Only through China-based, local experts can you really gain maximum visibility and bookings.”

Once the right distribution strategy and technology is in place, the next step is to invest in building an understanding of this new group of travellers, according to Evren Oktay, Founder & COO from pax2night – an accommodation bedbank specialising in the Turkey destination that is part of Yuppi Travel.  “To attract their business, hoteliers need to understand the cultural differences of Chinese travellers as they have quite uniqe  needs and desires.  For example, it is very important for them when booking a hotel to know what the actual room they will get looks like and exactly how big it is, down to the last square metre. Equally they like to have kettle in their room to boil their own tea.”

Juana Muro at TourReview, which provides a platform for tours & experiences to manage their online reviews, sees positive reviews as essential for those looking to reach the Chinese traveller.  “We saw a huge influx of reviews from Chinese travellers around the Lunar new year, and this can really help European or North American brands to connect with this market – but only if we’re talking about Chinese language review platforms like Trip.com, as they would rarely use something like say TripAdvisor.  European travel brands should recognize the power the Chinese traveller holds; a good review from one person can really help to build trust in your brand back in their home country, and can unlock vast additional revenue.  Once you are confident the experience you offer understands the unique needs of this group of travellers, consider incentivising travellers to write reviews on all the major Chinese sites.”

 And it’s not just traveller reviews, Chinese local bloggers and influencers can add another level of trust and help bring travel brands to life in a way that their audiences understand. “Chinese tourists are known to be highly influenced by travel recommendations and bloggers, particularly those with a strong online presence in China,” said Andrew Lockhead, CEO of Stay22, the travel tech company that offers affiliate revenue generation opportunities for travel bloggers and media. “Bloggers who understand and resonate with the Chinese market can be incredibly effective brand ambassadors. By partnering with these creators to place affiliate marketing links on their content, travel companies can themselves directly in front of their target audience.”

 One final but very important thought is that it is important to ensure you get paid properly! Koert Grasveld from travel payments company Terrapay points out that making and receiving B2B payments from Chinese companies can be both very complex and expensive. “You need to have the B2B technology payments processes in place to ensure that payments are cheap, quick and seamless plus able to cope of things like refunds or cancellations smoothly – we see far too many companies out there waiting way too long to get paid by Chinese partners not because of a lack of goodwill, but simply because of the use of old-fashioned, innappropriate payment channels.”

Theodore Koumelis
Co-Founder & Managing Director - Travel Media Applications | Website

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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