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Five marketing approaches to aqquire Chinese Tourists travelling to Southeast Asia

Note: This is my newest post for – Talking travel tech

chinese tourist

All of us are aware of the fact that Chinese travellers are a strong force in Asia, especially from the outbound travellers.

NB: This is a viewpoint from Minh Bui, founder/blogger at, a Southeast Asia eCommerce blog.

The money spent by Chinese travelling abroad is $10 billion more than what they spend for domestic travel.

And China is already the world’s largest international spender with $102 billion in 2012, the first year to surpass the US and Germany. The growth rate is now 19% year on year since 2000, which is the result of two millenniums of staying at home.

Now the Chinese travel dragon is waking up and wants to discover the world.

According to, the top 5 trends in China are:

  1. Young professionals with high incomes are the major consumer segment driving outbound travel demand.
  2. Sightseeing and shopping are key purposes of leisure trips. It is highly seasonal with peak periods in May, October and December.
  3. Average spending per visit shows a double-digit increase, with 35% of the travel budget spent on shopping.
  4. Chinese travellers are moving towards an experience-based choice model from a price-based choice model.
  5. The new Chinese tourists are demanding higher quality services, and moving from traditional group tours to individual experiences.

This market is a hot but touchy one, and is much different from other markets, not only in terms of size and money but also in terms of behaviors, languages, and demands.

While marketing in Southeast Asia to attract Chinese travellers and observing what the OTA, hotel chains, and travel players are promoting their businesses in this area, I realized that this approach could be briefed in two words as “Localized marketing”.

1. Understand your local customers

There is a Chinese proverb that says:

“How can you catch tiger cubs without entering the lair of the tiger?”

So not only you, but also your marketing and customer services teams should experience travel in China to have a real feeling about what is happening in the domestic market.

While doing so, below are few key questions to be kept in mind:

  • Where are their favorite destinations and why?
  • How can they know about those travel services?
  • Who can endorse those services?
  • How can they pay?
  • Why would they want to return?

2. Recruit local guides

By “guide” I mean the person that can help you point in the right direction to acquire Chinese travellers. He or she might be a Chinese advisor, or, even better, a Chinese marketer to manage Chinese customers.

Kristi Xu, a young Guangzhou professional who just returned from a Thailand trip, said:

“I would like to say that many of us are looking for special promotions from various travel sites for a trip abroad. We also prefer travel companies with loyalty programs.”

The local people will easily understand what their friends have in mind. This must be the key to open the China outbound market’s gate.

3. Localize your product and service information

From a top OTA in Asia, 96% of bookings from Chinese customers occur on the Chinese language version of the website. This language-dependent booking rate is much higher than booking rates from any other language in Asia.

But localization is not only just translating your website content, email and other services into Chinese. Rather, it’s also about specifically creating content for them and representing the information in a way Chinese customers can easily understand, as they have a much different browsing style from Westerners.

A good example is, TripAdvisor’s China brand. Its homepage is displayed in a different way providing more information and photos than its parent site does. daodao homepage’s length is more than double that of homepage’s length.

Recent reaction from the market that picked up this trend include –

  • Tourism Australia launched a new Chinese consumer website
  • Experience Oz, Australia-based tour and activity provider launched a dedicated website for Chinese travellers

4. Serve with local style services

The big US hotel chains such as Starwood, Hilton, Marriott and InterContinental have announced programs designed for Chinese tourists. They are about food, and room amenities. Some hotels have also brought in a concierge who speaks fluent Mandarin.

Trusted sources from two leading OTAs in Asia shared that most of the complex complaints to their call centers are from Chinese customers who are very demanding. Since a majority of them can’t speak English fluently, a well-trained Chinese speaking team with an adaptable policy for this market should be considered.

5. Receive money through local payment systems

As mentioned, Chinese customers from the mainland always expect the global world to serve them in a local way. So a RMB currency and payment via popular China payment systems are big advantages to increase bookings.

Alipay, TenPay and Unionpay stayed as the top three with the market share of 46.6%, 20.9% and 11.9% respectively.

China online payment

Finally, promoting your brands on local social channels like Weibo, Renren and Kaixin with good prices and promotions are mandatory marketing activities to approach Mandarin/Cantonese speaking consumers from their home country.  But the above factors would likely be the underground infrastructure for any marketing strategy and tactics.

Read the post on Tnooz:  Five tips for marketers to tap into the Chinese travel industry