Outbound travel from China has reached record numbers. Worldwide destinations are trying to reach Chinese travelers. It’s understandable you’re trying to enter the game and attract Chinese tourists to join your tours and activities, too.
Europe currently takes the first place on the Chinese traveler’s list of preferred destinations, according to a recent trend survey. It’s estimated that Europe will welcome 11.4 million Chinese during 2017. The number of Chinese tourists in Europe will continue to grow by 9.3% a year, over the next 5 years. The World Tourism Organization expects that, in 2020, a quarter of all Asian tourists visiting Europe will come from China. That said, it’s obvious that European travel agencies need to attract Chinese tourists. But how to do it?
To help you find out what Chinese tourists like and expect to find in Europe, we interviewed Eve Baker, the founder of Beiwei 55°, a UK tour operator who provide tours to Chinese tourists. Her company was recently chosen by Visit England as one of the top four UK-China companies in the country. Since 2015 Beiwei 55° has taken over 600 Chinese guests on tours.
Today, Eve generously shares her advice on how you can attract Chinese tourists too.
“I wish I could say I had the foresight to see the business opportunities speaking Chinese would give me, but I would be lying! I was simply intrigued by China and knew learning Mandarin would help me unlock the culture”, said Eve. The business idea came afterward, seeing an opportunity in a burgeoning market and recognizing their unique (and privileged) position as native Brits who spoke Mandarin.
As N. Mandela said, if you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart. Eve couldn’t agree more. That’s why all of her tour guides are native British Mandarin speakers. “That way they are giving our customers the best of both worlds – a unique local experience, in the comfort of their own language”, Eve pointed out.
There is more than just one profile of Chinese tourist. Some are now very independent and happy to explore on their own. Others still prefer a guide accompany them. Eve thinks that many of the Chinese travelers are looking for something more in-depth than a whistle-stop bus tour around the UK, with a flag and a microphone, run by a Chinese operator. She said, “The fact we are not Chinese run, but ‘Made in Britain’ instead, actually has a lot of appeals and helps us to stand out. Our guides offer a different perspective and an insight into British culture that customers cannot always get elsewhere. That said, this does not appeal to all types of the Chinese traveler, but we do find a lot of families, semi-independent travelers and corporate groups booking with us.”
Their Classic London walking tour is still the best seller, giving Chinese tourists the chance to see the major London landmarks alongside a local guide.
If you want to know how to attract Chinese tourists, you should first understand what they really want. Eve says that more and more Chinese want a unique and local experience, something they cannot get back in China, and something they can brag about on social media and among friends or family.
Younger Chinese travelers are more often foodies. They travel to eat! To them, exploring local cuisine is a huge part of exploring a new place. Food gives the better understanding of the local culture. So, tour organizers at Beiwei 55° recommend them something truly British, like a pie and pint in a traditional pub or a cake or bun in a typical English tearoom.
Beiwei 55° works closely with travel agents online and offline in China, selling both B2B and B2C. “This can be quite a long process to build the right relationships but when you find the right fit and your product begins to gain traction, I think it can be a very effective marketing method”, stated Eve.
Beiwei 55° works hard on their SEO both on Baidu and Google, which is useful for the corporate tour services they offer to UK companies hosting Chinese in Britain.
To increase the visibility of your tours, list them on online travel agents (OTAs). To attract Chinese tourists, Eve recommends you list your travel offer on Ctrip and Mafengwo, two biggest Chinese travel platforms.
China has a completely different social media ecosystem to what we are used to in the West. “WeChat is the most powerful social media tool we use. We have a customer service channel that allows us to speak directly with customers, existing and perspective, as well as an official WeChat account which Chinese travelers can follow to get interesting content about the UK.” They use Weibo as a megaphone. It’s less personal than WeChat and a good way to reach more people.
Booking times vary, for longer itineraries, this is usually 1-3 months in advance although the research process begins much before that. For shorter half-day walking tours, Beiwei 55° has had as little as 24-hour notice.
First and foremost, provide content in Mandarin, this will put you on the map. It could be as simple as a one-pager on your website or Chinese signs around your attraction. Secondly, hire a Mandarin speaker who can build your presence on Chinese social media platforms such as WeChat and Weibo. Finally, know exactly who you are talking to. The Chinese market is so vast, even a niche market within it is massive. You cannot speak to everyone, so I would say be specific, choose your target audience and channel your marketing efforts towards them.
Hope you enjoyed the interview with miss Baker from Beiwei 55°! Eve, thank you for your time. It was the pleasure to work with you.
Dear readers, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to send us a message.
on October 25, 2017
by Jelena Gale
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