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Lessons from AMCHAM: Waking the Sleeping Dragon’s FIT market

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: Few, if any, of those in the hospitality industry are unaware of the importance of high-end free independent travellers (FIT) from the ‘Sleeping Dragon’. In order to better understand the Chinese market and adjust marketing strategies sufficiently, the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) Thailand will host an event tomorrow at the JW Marriott Mai Khao Ballroom.

“It is all down to communications. The perception in China is that Phuket is a very commercial destination where the price is slightly high. Resorts need to communicate the value, beauty and authenticity of Phuket, as these are the key draw cards that will attract more high quality Chinese travellers,” says Vanessa Zhu, Delivering Asia Communications’ (DAC’s) Shanghai-based director of communications for China, who will be speaking at tomorrows event.

“They are not all about shopping and tours. These are sophisticated, experienced travellers who are looking for quality experiences and time to relax from their usually very hectic business lives.”

This has not always been the case. Five or 10 years ago, wealthy FIT Chinese used the island as a quick stop.

“But now they want to come for a longer stay, to stay in one place and to relax in a resort with great food and great service that can understand their needs. Phuket has got strong appeal across all segments – family, couples, adventure and sports – and upscale Chinese travellers have money in hand,” Ms Zhu explained to the Gazette ahead of the AMCHAM showcase. “The next step will be the investment this market will make in property as they become even more frequent visitors. It is just a five hour direct flight.”

During the event, Ms Zhu and David Johnson, the managing director of DAC, will address the use of media engagement, from traditional print to the digital world of online reviews, with Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and bloggers with millions of followers, and the critical social media space where ‘WeChat’ and ‘Weibo’ rule.

“New media is the key communication tool – and by this, I primarily mean social media. It plays a central and important role in everyone’s daily lives and is a key influence in decision making, information gathering and making purchases,” Ms Zhu said. “Most social or new media are banned in China, but WeChat is the main one with over half a billion users and this is an essential communication tool to understand and utilize in interaction with high end, independent booking consumers from China who have strong spending power.”

Readers are invited to join the session, which runs from 4:30pm to 6pm tomorrow, to have a better idea of how to navigate the Chinese tourism landscape and influence the purchasing decisions of the new brand of FIT.

As always, there will be a Q&A session with networking drinks to follow (more details here).

— Isaac Stone Simonelli


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