China-based social media to unlock door to FIT Chinese

PHUKET: Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) and Chinese-based social media applications are the key to unlocking access to the high-end Free Independent Travellers (FIT) for Phuket, experts told a packed room at the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) Thailand seminar last week.

The in-bound Chinese market for Thailand is booming with more arrivals between January and June this year than all of 2014, putting the country on pace for more than 12 million arrivals.

Though the Chinese market is often painted with a single brush – zero baht package tours – the key speaker at the event, David Johnson of Delivering Asia Communications (DAC), estimates that 7-10 per cent of these arrivals are FIT.

A fresh wave of FIT travellers is splashing across Thailand, explained Vanessa Zhu, DAC’s digital marketing specialist and communications director for China.

“There is an increasing number of FIT travellers from China because Thailand has become famous among these visitors over the past ten years. The first waves of them who came to Thailand already understand and like the country, so they are willing to do a deeper trip,” Ms Zhu told the Phuket Gazette.

According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand Guangzhou Office, Chinese travellers now want golf tours, diving, honeymoons and Muay Thai training camps. Medical tourism is also on the rise, while soft adventure, such as ziplines, rifle shooting, ATVs, snorkelling and trekking, and hitting shopping malls and restaurants, continue to be big.

Higher-end Chinese are, however, starting to aim for beauty, health and wellness.

To market themselves to these clients, Phuket businesses need a completely new set of tools, explained Ms Zhu.

“It is a great opportunity to let Thai people know how the media really works in China. Like the ‘great wall’, the Chinese firewall censors almost everything; people do not know what really works and what doesn’t,” Ms Zhu explained.

“A lot, or probably all, of the social media platforms that we are using here do not work in China. Therefore, they [tourism industries outside of China] have to realize that there is a parallel universe existing in China. They have to share information with different tools.”

There are clear equivalents for mainstream products such as Facebook inside China: Weibo (Twitter), Baidu (Google) and DaoDao (TripAdvisor). However, the big pusher is WeChat, which comprises the functions of Facebook, LINE, Instagram,Twitter, PayPal, Skype, Pinterest and more.

“Outbound Chinese travellers are more likely to consider a product they see referred to in social media. They are in general skeptical of information from news sources and advertising,” according to the Hurun Report.

This makes it essential for companies wanting to access the high-end FIT Chinese market to understand how to use the ‘new’ social media platforms effectively.

“Chinese people right now are really eager to travel abroad. The important thing is to let them know where to go, what to play and how to access knowledge about the destinations,” Ms Zhu added.

One of the many ways suggested during the seminar was to dial in on KOLs, such as famous Chinese bloggers or other Chinese celebrities, encouraging them to visit a destination and push product on their followers.

Also highlighted as essential for those wanting to successfully tap into the market are recruitment of good Chinese speaking staff, menus and itineraries; setting up WeChat accounts to allow more convenient interaction with guests; development of specific itineraries for the market; offerings of press trips to get Chinese social media buzzing with your brand; and encouragement of guests to indulge in posting selfies online.

— Nattha Thepbamrung

Phuket News

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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