Smart marketing is the way to attract Chinese tourists

Speaking at the Tourism Summit at World Routes in Chengdu, how destination marketing can bring in travellers from the biggest market in the world came under discussion. With a wide ranging international panel trying to lure in Chinese tourists, they shared their best practise on bringing in the emerging middle class who are willing to go the long-haul.

Innovations in destination marketing, moderated by Yolanta Strikitsa, director of Strikitsa Consulting, discussed how different regions have looked at the Chinese outbound market and what it can mean for them, how they have handled the challenges that comes with this market, and what they believe the best methods are.

Carol Dray, commercial director of VisitBritain believes that smart content marketing is the way forward when it comes to China and their tourists. As technology moves forward, Dray believes it is now so much easier to get content and information on this market than ever before – advances in technology makes jobs like hers much easier to do.

Social media is there to be capitalised on within China, and Carol Dray thinks you should have fun with your marketing materials. By creating something different and eye-catching, you have the potential to go viral with your posts which expands your reach.

The Chinese market is important to Great Britain, Dray divulged, because of the nature of the traveller – Chinese visitors are more likely to stay on and travel around as opposed to staying in one place. The big pull for VisitBritain is the capital city of London – “the city is on everyone’s bucket list” – but strategically, Dray and her team want Chinese visitors to spread out regionally.

England’s smaller size can be played to an advantage as it is much more attainable to cover more ground in the short space of time the Chinese visitors stay for. The way of getting these regions at the forefront of visitors minds is to tell the story of them. “Story sharing is hitting the sweet spot,” she concluded.

For Valencia, a city and region who were represented by Miguel Angel Perez Alba, sales promotion director, Turismo Valencia, it is not just about the big hub cities and airports. With the market constantly improving, strategies must be put in place to consider the ever growing secondary cities too.

The interesting thing about Chinese tourists who are visiting Valencia is the fact that they all come at different times of the year – it’s not just ‘summer traffic’, for example. With Valencia having numerous big events on in the winter, it is great for not only the city but the region to be able to showcase what they have on offer to the Chinese tourists.

Winter is key in the schedule for Valencia, who saw 15 new routes added during that season last year, and are expecting more or less the same in 2016 with the likes of KLM and Aeroflot services being added. In terms of markets, it is not solely China that is on the radar for Valencia – potential is being noted in the south east Asian countries like Singapore and Thailand. These tourists love to shop, and will spend money which will in turn help the economy in the Spanish city.

Shopping culture is a key attraction for Chinese visitors in the Virgin Islands too. Beverly Nicholson-Doty, commissioner for the US Virgin Islands Department of Tourism explained that the Chinese market is a relatively new one, with the region looking at how they can place their stake in the market.

Nicholson-Doty also praised the advances in social media for the strategies they have in place, as it gives the Virgin Islands a platform to be able to communicate with so many people very quickly. It also has the ability to feed into a customer’s specific appetite. This is key for trying to expand your market on a limited budget – something that was felt across the panel.

In order to try and grow their market, the Virgin Islands are hoping to position themselves as an onward destination as an extended vacation from some of the biggest American cities like Chicago and New York.

Kathy Smits, vice president, international tourism, Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board is no stranger to the Chinese market as there has been an office stationed in Beijing for the last ten years. Much of the efforts placed in the beginnings of forming this relationship was based on the visa requirements to enter China. Limited budget is an issue in Los Angeles too, who would like to expand their advertising to the secondary cities, but have to focus on Shanghai at the moment.

There is a strong reliance on the popular social media channel WeChat; Los Angeles are currently using it as a trade channel as well as direct to the consumer. The key thing is with China to use the right form of communication for the market. Working alongside the social media channels, there is a need to change the perception of Los Angeles. It is very much seen as ‘Hollywood’, and the home of celebrities – but the push is to get Chinese tourists into the suburbs of the city.

Laura Hamill

Originally from Belfast, Laura graduated from De Montfort University, Leicester with a BA Hons English and Journalism degree in 2014. She has…