Chinese travelers want personalized service

Chinese wealthy gentleman - China Elite FocusChina’s outbound luxury travelers spend $65,000 per household on tourism per year, including $34,000 on travel shopping, according to a new study from Marriott International.

Chinese outbound tourists have long been a high-priority group for luxury brands, but the demands and habits of younger travelers are changing quickly. The digital natives aged between 18 and 36 years old want a more personalized experience, including superior guest services and smart device integration.

China’s young luxury travelers go abroad between three and four times a year on average, primarily for leisure. While France remains the most popular destination in Europe, Japan is the preferred shopping destination given its proximity and favorable exchange rates, while Australia is the preferred leisure destination.

Australia has long been a developed economy, but it is less commonly seen as a haven for growth than North America, and luxury’s home in Europe has also pushed Australia to the back burner for many brands aiming to capitalize on China’s growing tourism rates. A strong presence in Australia could entice wealthy vacationers to make a purchase.

Moreover, western brands should be aware that summer travel is less common in China. National Day Golden Week travel in the early fall and travels for Chinese New Year are nearly two and three times as likely, respectively.

As with North America’s millennials, China’s young travelers get most of their travel information digitally, largely from official WeChat accounts, underscoring the platform’s importance. C-Trip, Qunar and Tuniu are also popular third-party platforms on which hotels should strive for good placement.

While the above generation is more closely defined by a desire for material goods, a reaction to globalization and advertising in the wake of China’s emergence from poverty, its young travelers strive for more adventurous travel. Hotels and retailers alike should tailor messages to these consumers to emphasize experiential components and offerings.

More specifically, over the next three years global travel is expected to increase 25 percent, while polar exploration grows 32 percent, adventure travel by 52 percent and road trips by 75 percent.

However, personalized service is still the biggest consideration in traveling for luxury travelers. Besides a liking for amenities, being able to choose pillows of different firmness and having a butler or personalized service through digital channels are also important. Seventy-three percent demand WiFi while 55 percent want smart TVs, while unique art and design are also high draws.

With luxury growth stalling around the world and quarterly earnings being largely at the mercy of Chinese tourists and which markets they enter, the country remains the top concern for marketers. As it transitions to a consumer-driven economy, China’s growth has fallen below the double-digits that were beginning to feel normal, but it still offers enormous opportunity.

Chinese residents will make 90 million outbound trips in 2020, with that number increasing by an additional 36 million over the following decade, according to a report by Euromonitor.

Outbound trips have increased on average by an impressive 13 percent since 2000, helping China overtake Japan as the second largest consumer market in 2011. With the significance and size of the Chinese tourist market only projected to swell, brands will need to develop a more nuanced understanding of the market in order to reach consumers. In particular sophisticated native advertisement campaigns in influential digital travel publications catering to China’s super-rich, such as the Shanghai Travelers’ Club (STC) magazine, give good results to reach China’s elite.

However, as brands cater to Generation Y consumers and look to the future, they must be as aware of generational differences in China as they are in the West.

In a reversal of the more materialistic tendencies of their parents, almost 95 percent of Chinese Generation Z consumers say it is essential for brands to be sustainable and environmentally conscious, according to a report by RTG Consulting.

The continued growth of China over the next several years will ensure that its consumers remain prime targets for brands for the foreseeable future, as even a slowed China exceeds the growth rate of western nations. As a result, brands will need to make a connection to this group, the first born in a fully modern China, in the interest of long-term success

Source: TheTopTier

Advertisements

Private Jet charters for Chinese medical tourists

Chinese couple at home - China Elite focusChinese ultra-rich individuals use private jets for luxury overseas medical and wellness trips.

private jet chartering  sees a growing interest amongst Chinese ultra-rich individuals in luxury overseas medical and wellness trips.

The top destinations for mainstream Chinese medical tourists are Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the United States and Thailand.

The ultra-rich with a personal net worth of at least USD50 million however, are less price sensitive. They prefer to fly by private jet and are increasingly choosing to travel further abroad to Europe and the United States for more advanced treatments, drugs and technologies that are not available in China or the Asia Pacific region.

Global Growth Markets estimates that 4,300 ultra-rich Chinese sought medical care and health treatments overseas in 2015, spending over USD450 million on IVF, advanced cancer and cardiac treatments, stem-cell treatments, health check-ups and wellness programmes. On top of that, these ultra-rich patients spent over USD100 million on travel and sightseeing for these medical trips.Annual growth of 30% over the next few years is predicted, as more ultra-rich people will seek overseas treatment in the future.

Pierre Gervois, Publisher of the STC magazine, a luxury travel publication in Chinese Mandarin about the United States, said “The U.S. are the #1 medical tourism destination for High Net Worth Chinese patients.  We are working with the most prestigious hospital in the U.S., the Johns Hopkins International Medicine, to create for them a successful media campaign targeting very affluent Mainland Chinese patients”

China CMTHC digital media cluster editor Xue Chiao said: traffic as an important part of the medical tourism industry chain, the depth of participation in the industry has a unique advantage, development potential  is big.

L’voyage founder Diana Chou says: “We are seeing a growing number of inquiries about flying by private jet to France, Germany, Switzerland, the United States and the United Kingdom from our ultra-rich Chinese customers for the purpose of medical tourism. Not only are there advanced specialist hospitals in these countries, but also cultural landmarks and experiences that are popular with our clientele. Sometimes, relatives will travel overseas together for health checks and a family holiday. To cater to the growing trend in wellness and medical tourism, we cater our inflight menus to strict dietary instructions upon request and help pre-book return flights on the desired private jets for follow-up doctor appointments. At the moment, many of our Chinese ultra high net worth customers take off from airports in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou but we expect a gradual increase in flights from interior cities, such as Dalian, Chengdu, and Chongqing, where the population of ultra-rich individuals is set to grow at a faster rate than other cities.”

Marketing to Chinese Outbound Tourists: Towards Normalization.

By Pierre Gervois, Founder & Publisher of the STC magazine, CEO of China Elite Focus Magazines LLC (New York), keynote speaker and expert about marketing to outbound Chinese tourists.

In 2005, I had the first conversations with executives in luxury hospitality groups about the importance of improving the welcome for their first Chinese guests. I knew they used to receive a very poor quality of service, in large part because of the ignorance of the Chinese culture from the staff of luxury hotels, and also because of the persistence of stereotypes about Chinese travelers.

The General Managers of five star hotels I talked to from 2005 to 2007 told me more or less the same thing “Chinese tourists don’t stay in five star hotels”, and, as a consequence, they did not see the point of investing resources to improve the service for their Chinese guests.

Today, these same hotels advertise in the STC magazine and ask us to define their marketing strategy to attract more of high-spending Chinese guests and offer them the best possible service.

Wealthy Chinese tourist- China Elite FocusThings have obviously changed over the last ten years.

To better understand the way Chinese outbound tourism has dramatically changed over the last decade, let’s go back fifteen years ago, in the early 2000’s.

I would define three periods to describe the evolution of Chinese outbound tourism:

From 2000 and 2005, most of Chinese outbound travelers were business travelers traveling in official delegations to attend to trade shows and official business meetings in Western Europe and in The United States. At that time, it was nearly impossible for individual Chinese leisure travelers to obtain an independent leisure visa for Europe or the U.S., and the only way to have holidays overseas was to travel in the famous (or infamous) group tours organized by Chinese State-owned outbound travel agencies, in partnership with selected destination management companies in their country of destinations.  Basically, their passports were confiscated by travel agencies during their trip in coaches and low quality hotels, which is not a very enticing way to travel.

I talked with many of these first Chinese leisure travelers between 2000 and 2005, and they told me how displeased they were by the very poor quality of their travel experience, and how their feelings were hurt by the stereotypes who were widely spread within the travel industry: Chinese tourists were supposed to love to travel in coaches, were allegedly obsessed with discounts, and would prefer to stay in one star hotels. In fact, my Chinese friends were at that time willing to be free to explore a country on their own, were searching high quality – and expensive- travel experiences, and were particularly fond of nice suites in five star hotels. Basically, like a lot of affluent western travelers.  But not of a lot of travel and tourism professional understood and even listened to them at that time.  You were a Chinese tourist?  Then you had to fit in a certain category of negatively stereotyped traveler. Period. In some cases, that was very close to segregation, and surprisingly, very few western travel & tourism professionals realized how painful and sometimes humiliating it was for Chinese leisure travelers.

From 2005 and 2010, The travel and tourism industry started – slowly – to give up on stereotypes concerning Chinese travelers, and at a slower pace to gradually improve the service for Chinese travelers.  Some hotel chains started to offer in-room Chinese tea (It took several years of studies and commissioned researches for hoteliers to take such a simple and inexpensive step), or started to recruit a few Chinese speaking staff members.  But the industry did not yet understood where the core problem was: the structural inability of both the outbound travel agencies (OTA’s) and destination management companies (DMC’s) to understand this massive change in international outbound tourism.  In less than ten years, faster than in any other country in the history of international leisure tourism, a group of outbound travelers was growing at an impressive and never seen rate, from 5 million in 2000 to 57 million in 2010. With old fashioned organizations, Chinese OTA’s could not offer the kind of service that the new generation of Chinese travelers wanted from them: a good understanding of international travel opportunities.  On the other hand, DMC’s in Europe and the U.S. were still stuck in their preconceptions about Chinese leisure travelers and kept offering the same standardized programs (Traveling in coaches from a discount shopping mall to another and sleeping in very low quality hotels), that were by the way never favored by the Chinese travelers themselves.  But their advice was never solicited.  That was before the social media era.

GERVOIS magazine Advertising and sponsored content opportunitiesAround 2008, the first social media networks started to become popular in China.  And yes, I remember the time (somewhere in 2008), where Facebook and Twitter were freely accessible in China. With the launch of Weibo in 2009 and dozens of other Chinese social media networks, Chinese outbound travelers started to post stories about their experiences about their overseas travel, and make comments about hotels (since 2008 with the launch of DaoDao, the Chinese version of TripAdvisor). I frequently read translations in English of comments written in Chinese Mandarin about famous luxury hotels in New York, London or Paris, and the first comments and reviews were incredibly negative. Most of them expressed how the staff of these famous hotels lacked of respect with their first Chinese guests, and did clearly offer them a second-class experience compared to other guests from western countries. I was also surprised to see that nobody in these hotels made the effort to request a translation of comments made by their Chinese guests and analyze them.

From 2008 to 2010, the first travel destinations, travel agencies and hotels started to realize that they needed to communicate properly with Chinese outbound travelers, but very few marketing options existed. China Elite Focus was historically the first digital marketing agency (founded in june 2008 in Shanghai) who was exclusively specialized on digital travel marketing for affluent Chinese outbound travelers, with a unique focus on luxury destinations.  The launch of China Elite Focus was followed by a flurry of creation of other independent digital marketing agencies in China, Europe and the US, and defined all together an entire new marketing category: digital marketing to Chinese outbound travelers. The quick development and the popularity of Chinese social media networks as well as the first digital campaigns to promote international travel to Chinese potential travelers contributed critically to a better connection between travel operators worldwide and the emerging category of young and affluent Chinese first-time outbound travelers.

But access to the information was still a big issue, specifically for high spending travelers: From China, how to know what is the best hotel in New York you absolutely want to stay in? What is the best exclusive golf course in Scotland? How to book a table in the Paris’ finest restaurants?  No curated information was available at that time in Chinese Mandarin.  The existing travel magazines published in China did not had such sophisticated informations, and no website existed. That is the main reason we launched the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine (or the STC magazine) in 2009 as an electronic newsletter and since 2012 as an iPad & iPhone digital publication.

Chinese tourist having lunch - China Elite FocusFrom 2010 to 2015, all the elements of the complex puzzle were in place: a dynamic social media network environment in China, the emergence of digital only Chinese travel agencies using extensively social media, the growing desire of Chinese travelers to discover foreign countries, and the understanding by western travel, tourism and retail companies that, yes, this is it, Chinese travelers are the world’s biggest spenders and the #1 group of Chinese outbound travelers. This is an interesting period where we saw two different categories of Chinese travelers intersecting on different paths. Senior travelers, mostly top executives of large Chinese companies who reward themselves after a life of hard work with a once or twice a year luxury international travel experience, and their children, in their early twenties, who quickly become frequent global travelers (six to ten times a year), and end up spending more than their parents in travel and shopping.

One of the important reason for the exponential growth of Chinese outbound tourism (120 million in 2015) is luxury shopping, and in particular the desire to have a genuine shopping experience. Buying a Gucci bag in Milan, a Louis Vuitton suitcase in Paris or a Tiffany diamond in New York was seen in the early 2010’s as a necessary sign of social status for the young and affluent generation. International luxury brands understood too late this trend and hastily opened too many stores in China in this period, many of them with more sales associates than Chinese customers. (They are now closing stores and start to focus on improving the customer relations at their flagship stores in the US and in Europe for Chinese shoppers.)

On January 19, 2012, President Obama issued the “Executive Order #13597” who had a major impact in Chinese outbound travel.  This decision had to major consequences:
First, “to increase nonimmigrant (i.e. tourists) visa processing capacity in China by 40% over the coming year”, meaning allocate more human resources at U.S. consulates in China in order to be able to review and process more leisure visa requests.  Second, “to ensure that 80% of nonimmigrant visa applicants in China are interviewed within 3 weeks of receipt of application”, meaning to allow a much faster process for individual Chinese tourists planning holidays in the U.S..  This rather technical Executive Order created a psychological change in the perception the United States as a  luxury holidays destination by Chinese travelers.  Previously more considered as a business destination, the U.S. were seen as of the beginning of 2012 as a much more “tourist friendly” destination by the Chinese, and they started massively to consider to spend holidays in this country, who appeared as newly opened to them. We saw a surge in requests on Chinese search engines about “travel and holidays in the US” in the first half of 2012, and the U.S. travel and tourism industry operators started to feel the economical benefits of an increased influx of Chinese leisure visitors as early as the summer 2012. (1.5 million Chinese visitors came to the U.S. in 2012, 3.1 million are expected for 2019).

STC magazine - Gervois Hotel Rating CoverIn november 2014, China and the United States negociated a reciprocal agreement to extend the validity of tourists visas up to ten years (multiple entries).  It means that since november 2014, a Chinese tourist with a valid tourist visa to the United States can keep this visa for up to ten years, with multiple entries. That is very close to the “Visa Waiver program” with european tourists, and has strongly encouraged Chinese travelers to choose the U.S. over Western Europe destinations, who do not offer tourists visas with such a long validity for Chinese visitors.

At the end of 2015, We could say that 80% of tourism offices, hotel chains, retailers, and airlines had in place elements for a marketing strategy focused on Chinese tourists, even a modest one. What a change if we compare to 2005, where virtually less than 5% of them had a strategy in place.

Today, what could be the trends for the years to come? The first world that comes to my mind is normalization. For the last fifteen years, travel and tourism marketers considered Chinese tourists as a kind of “exotic” category of international traveler, with all the stereotypes and preconceptions attached. Now that more than 100 million Chinese travelers discover the world every year in virtually every country on the planet, tourism and travel professionals have a much better understanding of what the most important group of tourists really want.  And it’s – how surprising – exactly what Americans and European travelers want when they travel abroad: A carefully curated travel experience, nice hotels, local cultural and food discoveries, and the possibility to choose, alone, what to do during the day. Before starting a marketing campaign focused on Chinese outbound travelers, it’s now time to have the exact same mindset that for a marketing campaign targeted at any other nationality of tourists. And, please, forget about the stereotype of the Chinese traveler allegedly only interested by discounts. They are not. They want quality, sophistication and authenticity.  And they know it doesn’t come cheap.

 

Will cuts on luxury goods taxes in China prevent Chinese from buying abroad?

Last year Chinese tourists bought almost two-thirds of luxury goods sold in Europe as they went on a record spending-spree. But while mainlanders are happy to splurge on foreign soil, what their government needs is for them to open the purse strings at home. Domestic consumption has shrunk to just 36% of gross domestic product and is increasingly the weak link in China’s growth.
One step to redress this spending imbalance is to cut penal mainland taxes on consumption and luxury goods. Analysts say such a move now looks likely.
This could have far-reaching consequences for one of the biggest investment stories of recent years — outbound spending by mainland tourists.
Everyone from retailers in Hong Kong, to London or Seoul could feel the fallout, while foreign luxury brands seeking to expand in China should be buoyed by any duty cut.
Expectations that a move is imminent were fuelled by widely reported comments earlier this month by former deputy commerce minister Wei Jianguo, to expect at least two rounds of reductions on import taxes on consumer and luxury goods. Then, this past weekend Finance Minister Xie Xuren promised to improve China’s consumption tax.
Among the spending habits likely to catch authorities attention say Credit Suisse is the revelation that Chinese residents spent 300 billion yuan ($47.4 billion) overseas on their bank cards in 2011, up 66.7% on a year earlier, according to data from China UnionPay.
And as well as accounting for 62% of all luxury consumer sales in Europe last year, mainland shoppers spent a whopping $7.2 billion during the recent Lunar Year holiday, up 28.6% on the previous year according to the World Luxury Association.
If you look at existing tax rates in China, it is easy to see why shopping overseas is so popular.
Import duties on general luxury products range from 10%-25%, and can be as high as 35%-60% on luxury cosmetic products and alcohol. Add on value-added tax (17%) and a consumption tax depending on the merchandise and prices on the mainland are penal. According to a survey by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, prices for luxury goods in China are 45% higher than in Hong Kong, 51% higher than the U.S. and 72% higher than France.
If these taxes were designed to promote social fairness and curb bourgeoisie shopping habits by targeting rich consumers, they appear to be missing the mark — luxury spending at home is just being diverted overseas by globe trotting mainlanders.
Another reason to expect action on taxes is the government’s recent focus on boosting growth through domestic consumption. This past weekend in Beijing Vice Premier Li Keqiang said expanding domestic demand is a “strategic point” for economic development. Another official played up China’s readiness to import, predicting it may soon become the world’s largest importer.
This eagerness to import, however, comes at a time when China just recorded a monthly trade deficit in February of $31.5 billion. With export growth expected to remain relatively weak, this provides another reason for authorities to be less sanguine about yuan leaking abroad through unchecked tourist spending.
Meanwhile, it is also worth considering that for many mainlanders, shopping abroad is not just about getting a tax-free bargain.
China’s capital controls and limited domestic investment options mean luxury shopping often fulfills various secondary needs.
In Macau, for instance, purchasing luxury goods can be a handy way to access hard cash. A typical story is a mainlander shopper can buy an expensive handbag or watch on their credit card, which can then be sold back for something like 90% of the value in cash.
In fact, luxury handbags have almost become a money substitute. Milan Station Holdings Ltd. , a chain of shops that trades second-hand handbags even listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange last year, which gives you an idea how big this business is.
This, as well as a preference by many mainlanders to conceal conspicuous luxury shopping overseas, means old shopping habits could be hard to change.
If we do get a cut in luxury taxes, Credit Suisse, say luxury brands who import their goods into China will benefit such as Prada, Coach, Hugo Boss, LVMH or Tiffany.
The flip side, they add, is that for the retail and tourism industries that have benefitted from outbound Chinese tourists, any reduction in import tariffs will be incrementally negative.
But according to China Elite Focus, a Shanghai-based marketing and research firm specialized into reaching to affluent Chinese outbound tourists, these tax modifications will have small impact on the behavior of Chinese shoppers “Buying abroad luxury goods is first and foremost a sign of social status” said Pierre Gervois, China Elite Focus’ CEO. He added “ The fact that Chinese buyers will pay less their luxury goods if they buy in the U.S. or in Europe is a minor factor compared to the prestige of having bought a Tiffany diamond in New York City or a Louis Vuitton bag in Paris”
On the list of potential casualties is Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea to retailers in Europe. Hong Kong could be particularly vulnerable given 28 million mainland tourists visited last year (four times its population) and its huge concentration of luxury retail brands — Louis Vuitton has seven stores in the city, one more than Paris.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, Article by Craig Stephen