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The world scrambles to attract Chinese travellers

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PHOTO: pri.org

Spending US$277 billion worldwide last year, Chinese travellers are the world’s top tourism spenders, by a long margin. Now the global travel industry is scrambling to capture its slice of the lucrative ‘bamboo dollar’, and falling out of Chinese travellers’ favour can have a dramatic impact on tourism figures.

For example, Phuket has suffered as a result of the fall-out following last year’s Phoenix boat disaster when 47 Chinese tourists drowned after the tour boat capsized and sank south west of the island. The incident was poorly handled by local officials and Chinese social media urged fellow tourists not to travel to the Thai island.

But now Chinese tourists have caught the international travel bug, the rest of the world is desperately hoping they never lose it due to their high spending – up to two or three times the amounts spent by their US and European counterparts – and enormous potential as a travel market.

Jane Sun, the CEO of Ctrip, says that with more than 300 million registered users, they are China’s largest online travel agency and the world’s second-largest in terms of the gross value.

CTrip.com Group Limited is a Chinese provider of travel services including accommodation reservation, transportation ticketing, packaged tours and corporate travel management.

So what are Chinese travellers looking for in a holiday?

Jane said that times have changed and the type-cast Chinese Tour Group following a tour guide waving a flag is long-gone.

“Younger Chinese travelers are shunning the flag-waving group tours that once dominated the market in favor of independent travel.”

“In the old days, people spoke very little English.”

“They tended to travel with the big groups, but now the new generation study English when they’re young. Even before they reach high school, they probably already studied a couple of years in the US, in Australia, or the UK.”

This growing segment of younger, English-proficient, FIT (free and independent) travellers is looking for something beyond your usual cookie-cutter itinerary.

“The young generation is even more adventurous – skydiving, scuba diving, skiing, abseiling. Anything exciting for them, they want to do it.”

Sun says she usually visits an up-and-coming destination a few years ahead of time to look for unique services and work with local tour operators before offering the products to Chinese travellers.

Sun says that most Chinese travelers value places that make them “feel at home.”

The world scrambles to attract Chinese travellers | News by Thaiger

Jane Jie Sun is a Chinese businesswoman, and the CEO of Ctrip, the largest online travel agency in China, since November 2016.

“Once the customers are on site, if you offer something special and friendly, that’s very helpful. For example, hot tea, slippers, some Chinese speaking staff. It costs you very little but makes the environment very friendly.”

But Sun acknowledges that some bad tourist behaviour from Chinese travellers is continually hitting world headlines.

“It will take time to change global perceptions of Chinese travellers”.

“For lots of people, it’s their first time going outside of China. So, a lot of times they are very excited. They talk quite loud, taking pictures in the middle of the road, but as they travel more and more, they become more and more sophisticated. For example, when they go to Japan, they see people are very orderly. When they come home, they bring these good traits back.”

Ctrip also has its own hugely popular social media platform where Chinese travellers share their experiences overseas.

“The company’s Trip Moments is an Instagram-type platform that allows travellers to search for fellow tourists’ travel tips and book similar experiences. Our customers will post their pictures, write their journals, and these pictures attract a lot of customers.”

The company acquired UK-owned flight booking website Skyscanner in 2016 and US company Trip.com in 2017, among other ventures.

Chinese travellers are now recognised as the world’s most generous spenders for per-day spending in the countries they visit.

The world scrambles to attract Chinese travellers | News by Thaiger

GRAPHIC: Luxe Digital

 

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