Are you a hotel? A villa provider? or maybe a shopping mall or foreign luxury brand looking to attract Chinese tourists? Here are 10 tips that will help you to attract them, the digital way ….
Overview of China’s outbound market and online activity
The COVID-19 pandemic made 2020 a challenging year for many sectors, especially for Tourism. Outbound travel, which had grown fast among Chinese consumers, experienced the toughest winter in many years, due to international airline control and cross-border travel restrictions. On the contrary, thanks to the effective response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the first half of the year, Chinese domestic tourism is slowly recovering. However, most Chinese tourists are gradually shifting their preferences and habits regarding travel, as they tend to prefer visiting domestic destinations. More and more Chinese tourists are reported to be millennials (people born between 1980 – 1999) resulting in a shift of Chinese tourist’s characteristics: tend to go more towards independent travel instead of groups, enjoy more adventure, typical local activities, etc.
#1 Have a thorough operation plan
Just like any business, you have to create an overall effective operation plan in order to attract your target customers. The things you will have to include in this operation plans are mainly strategies and contingency plans aimed at resolving any issues that may emerge when operation your hotel or business. Since we are focusing here on Chinese tourists, you should be aware of the fact that your reputation could be built or broken just by not taking care of a “small matter”. Chinese people are very digital savvy. With more than 660 million internet users in China and about 90% having a social media account, needless to say, they enjoy sharing information and more specifically positive AND negative comments. So don’t forget to build some contingency plans to prepare your business for any Chinese tourist related situations.
#2 Define specifically your business goals
We talked about the process but before having a road, a travel plan, you should have a goal. It is very important for your business goal to attract Chinese tourists to be SMART. This means the goal should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. When launching your digital campaign in China what is your main goal? Is it to increase your brand awareness, because few Chinese people know about your brand? Do you want to focus on generating traffic to your website? Or maybe do you want to improve your reputation?
#3 Communicate about the surroundings, not your property
Whether you are Louis Vuitton or Mercure hotel, do not only focus on your brand, property, facilities, products, and services. Chinese tourists just like any tourists are not going to let’s say Miami to stay at a particular hotel or to buy a certain brand (which by the way often has several locations all around the world). What a tourist want in Miami are the palm trees, the weather, enjoy the beaches, and a relaxed atmosphere.
If you want to communicate efficiently with Chinese tourists on social media you will have to communicate about the experience they could enjoy in your destination. If we take London for example, it would be tourist attractions such as the London Eye or Buckingham Palace. Other services and shopping amenities are additional and a plus for the Chinese tourists, who, as I said earlier like to spend abroad.
#4 Don’t forget about basic tourists issues
You may be tempted to talk on some Chinese social media platforms about some irrelevant issues such as a foreign celebrity being in town or a new book launch but don’t do it. Your business will be better off by posting relevant content related to Chinese tourist’s needs such as leisure activities, weather, Chinese food/restaurant, a Chinese celebrity who already visited your store, hotel, or restaurant for example, and so on.
Huang Lei and his wife were invited to spend their wedding anniversary in New Zealand by the local Tourism organisation. Their trip was shared on social media on Weibo (pictures, videos). Huang lei has over 20 million fans on his Weibo media account resulting in more than 710 000 Chinese social media users engaged in this content.
#5 Provide relevant content
In the same line of the fourth tip, you should only post good quality and relevant content. Your content should be diverse: videos and pictures. Also, do not hesitate to post some content in the beginning and then adapt your content marketing strategy according to your Chinese follower’s feedback. We always say in business that listening is a very important skill which is actually very true in private life as well. Listen and then tailor your digital strategy.
#6 Engage Chinese tourists on Social media
Having followers on WeChat or Weibo is great but now what you have to do is to engage them to create a real flow of interest and potential future customers. Use creative ways such as games, challenges, or Q&A, for example, to push your Chinese followers to interact with you but also with each other.
#7 Do some storytelling and have a real brand power
If you really want your brand to gain visibility and to be seen as a must-visit place at your location, you should have a strong brand image. This brand image should be unique and proper to your brand. You can use storytelling by posting videos on Youku and then sharing it on social media for example. You can choose any kind of characteristic as long as it aligns with your corporate values and shows your business as a human corporation.
#8 Take care of your employees in charge of the project
Speaking about human beings, last research and studies showed that taking care of your employees actually allows you to deliver better products and services. A study done by Shangri-la stated that upselling at the front desk improved hotel reputation by 25%! Needless to say, if you have social media managers who are not fully committed or even trusted, they won’t do the best they could do. Allow your social managers to be autonomous, to work independently while providing them with clear objectives, efficient tools, and the right contacts to reach out for in case of emergency.
#9 Work with Official account
Before engaging with your followers, or even creating a social media account, you should make sure that your accounts are “official”. If we take WeChat for example, if you don’t have the official account status you can’t have your own company QR code, send push notifications to your followers and in some cases (depending on the type of official account) you can’t create your own app or mini-website on WeChat. Finally, if you own a verified account, Chinese visitors will have more trust in your brand and your reputation will improve.
#10 Use Chinese KOLs to promote video content
To attract Chinese tourists, it is important to take into account Chinese social media channels. The technology supports many types of video formats, and studies have shown that videos have an engagement rate twice higher than photos. When it comes to the Chinese market, investing in video content can be done in various ways.
There is a range of popular video apps and platforms that people visit to have fun, such as DouYin (a Chinese version of TikTok), which cumulates more than 600 users each month! Moreover, Douyin allows the content creator to pin down the address of the destination, a feature very much useful for touristic companies looking to increase their visibility. For a brand, one of the fastest ways to increase their visibility is by creating a partnership with a popular KOL account, which already has a consequent following.
Famous travel KOLs such as 旅游约吗 represent a huge exposure potential, as she has a very consequent following (approximately 4 million), teaming up with KOLs with this type of popularity to promote your brand can be a very smart move.
#11 Make sure your brand can be found on Chinese Search engines
Having basic information about your brand on Chinese Search Engines is essential. Creating trust and managing your online reputation is a way to ensure that Chinese tourists will choose your brand over your concurrent. Having a translated version of your website in Chinese will also show people that your business welcomes Chinese tourists. Listing your business on popular sites, travel forums and blogs will help your brand name to come up first when people will search for it in Baidu or Sogou.
#12 Collaborate with a local digital marketing partner
If all of this social media strategy planning is too overwhelming (which I can totally understand), don’t hesitate to reach out to a local partner. Chinese tourists have their own characteristics and trends evolve fast. Another issue you may encounter while launching a digital campaign to attract Chinese tourists is the Chinese language. A digital marketing agency located in China will have not only the knowledge of the market but also the personnel to communicate efficiently with your Chinese followers.
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