In the near future, the sight of groups of Chinese tourists following their tour guides around to the most beautiful tourist attractions could well become a thing of the past. Young and wealthy Chinese citizens fascinated by technology and with a desire to experience individual forms of travel are no longer taking the kind of trips once popular with many Chinese people. Chinese citizens’ travel habits are undergoing huge change. In order to keep up with the ever-increasing number of Chinese tourists the international travel industry must tailor its services to meet the demands of China’s new generation of tourists. Chinese speaking staff, typical Chinese dishes, and communicating via China’s popular social media channels could well be the recipes for success.
The economic boom is the driving force behind Chinese citizens’ desire to travel. Well-educated young professionals in particular are benefiting from the economic boom and can afford to take international trips which focus on experiencing something new. The demand is for high-quality service rather than low-cost group tours. China’s tourists want to experience individual travel. While visiting as many attractions as possible remains an important part of a tour, factors such as relaxation and entertainment have now moved further up the wish list. For many Chinese people shopping is still one of their favourite activities when travelling abroad. One indicator of this is the average amount of money they spend per visit, which has now reached double-digit figures.
In order for the travel industry to be acknowledged by Chinese tourists it must meet their specific requests and demands and respect their local culture and customs. Chinese speaking staff and audio guides in museums ensure that tourists feel welcome. For many travellers, additional comforts such as a kettle in one’s room for preparing snacks in between meals or Chinese dishes on the hotel restaurant menu are seen as respecting their culture.
Hotels and Tour operators should also take the needs and habits of Chinese people into account on their websites. Individual information pertaining to the market as well as links to Chinese search engines such as Baidu are what is required, instead of simply translating one’s own content. Websites should be hosted in China to enable a quick response to any censorship activities. Furthermore, they should not contain any links to websites which are banned in China, such as Facebook or YouTube. Chinese citizens go on different social networking sites, and this must be taken into account. For Chinese people, taking their specific cultural aspects into account is equivalent to affording someone respect, whereas for many Chinese tourists a website that ignores their needs is tantamount to a bad travel experience.
For China’s young generation of digital natives especially, social media, online bookings and mobile technologies are indispensable tools for planning and booking trips. In particular those who wish to travel abroad make use of online media to prepare in detail and to obtain information on their travel destination, and after a trip they share their experiences with other community members on the web. 92 per cent of China’s internet users go on social networking sites, around twice as many as in Europe or the US. According to Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus, the leading digital marketing agency focused on affluent & wealthy Chinese outbound tourists “ This new generation of Chinese tourists now chooses their destination, hotel, shopping activity through a network of informal travel blogs that give real insights about how Chinese tourists are really welcome all over the World. These independent blogs have much more influence than the big, official, travel website and hotel booking engines in China.
Chinese tourists remain eager to travel, and Chinese citizens are well on the way to soon becoming one of the world’s main source markets for tourism. According to estimates by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), 66 million Chinese citizens travelled abroad in 2011, 15 per cent more than in 2010. Even if the majority of these day trips and those including overnight stays are to former colonies, i.e. Hong Kong and Macau, the number of trips taken by Chinese citizens to other countries in Asia and beyond is increasing rapidly.