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Chinese Tourists are Changing Travel: Here’s How to Reach Them

By: Courtney Kubitza
First Published: May 9, 2019
Topics: Applied Knowledge, Faculty and Curriculum, Research, STHM School, Tourism & Hospitality, U.S.-Asia Center

With mobile pay technologies, a desire for authentic travel experiences and the urge to spend, Chinese tourists are leading the way in changing how the rest of the world travels.

As the leading travel market, Chinese travelers made 149 million international tourist trips in 2018, up 14.7% from a year earlier. With an estimated 300-400 million annual outbound travelers by 2030, the Chinese market will be an enormous driver of the global tourism economy.

At the World Travel and Tourism Council’s Global Summit in Seville, Spain, Dr. Xiang (Robert) Li, professor at Temple University School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management and director of the U.S.-Asia Center for Tourism and Hospitality Research, discussed the thriving opportunity in Chinese outbound travel with global tourism leaders from McKinsey and Company, Alibaba, and El Corte Inglés. The invitation-only Global Summit raises awareness for the global travel and tourism industry and addresses issues that affect the sector as a whole. This year, former president Barack Obama joined the conference as headline speaker and guest of honor to celebrate the people and ideas defining the future of tourism.

During the summit’s panel discussion themed “China’s Rising Star“, Dr. Li and other tourism leaders shared insight into Chinese tourism trends and how to reach the growing Chinese travel market.

A Growing Appetite for Authentic Travel Experiences

New findings about Chinese tourists’ travel attitudes challenge the traditional beliefs on what they are looking for in a travel experience. In the past, destinations believed that shopping was one of the top drivers for selecting a travel destination. Today’s research, however, shows the Chinese tourist is looking for relaxation, access to nature, and a smaller, more authentic experience, with shopping falling to lesser importance.

A global trend expanding beyond the Asian market–the desire for authentic travel experiences in cuisine, sightseeing and services creates an opportunity for destinations and travel-related companies. Organizations will benefit from catering to this change by creating authentic travel experiences for Chinese travelers, staying true to their destination’s originality. A highly-informed and educated audience, Chinese tourists spend more time than other travelers researching and studying a destination. This presents an even greater opportunity for lesser-known destinations to create content that communicates why their destination is so special to potential tourists.

Reaching Chinese Travelers in a Mobile-Only World

Globally, companies are taught to think “mobile-first” when looking at how to reach their customers. The panel shared that the Chinese tourism market takes it a step further, becoming a mobile-only world, with a greater need for destinations to invest in technology and business-practices focused on mobile. These savvy, smart travelers use mobile phones to research trips, book hotels and travel, and pay for services and products along their journey.

Adopting mobile pay into business strategies will open new doors for many destinations and travel-service providers by reaching this thriving market, as 61% of all global mobile payments made in 2017 were by Chinese users.

In a white paper recently published by the U.S.-Asia Center for Tourism and Hospitality Research and the World Travel and Tourism Council, researchers explored the opportunities and challenges for implementing mobile pay services such as WeChat Pay, AliPay and Apple Pay.

Simplifying Chinese Travel: More Fun, Less Work

In early waves of Chinese tourism, tourists packed trips with leisure and business to maximize the rare international travel. Today, these tourists are traveling more frequently, making leisure and relaxation an important part of their trip. This purification of the travel experience places a high significance on travel services and authentic experiences. Chinese tourists now have more time to not only spend sightseeing but truly experiencing the individual cultures and cuisine as trips to areas become more frequent. A recent report released by the U.S.-Asia Center for Tourism and Hospitality Research and the National Tour Association, based on the China U.S.-Travel Monitor Program, documented some of the latest trends in Chinese travel to the U.S.

An expansive market poised for growth, China will continue to be the driver of the global tourism industry in the coming years. Destinations and organizations that seize the opportunity in mobile technology and authentic experiences will receive the greatest return on their tourism industry.

Continue the discussion on the growing Chinese tourism and hospitality market at the 2019 China Tourism Forum-USA, held on July 21-22, 2019 in Philadelphia, PA.

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