Hotelie Magazine

Hotelie Fall 2012 no classnotes

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World Views Tapping the Chinese travel market O by Jens Thraenhart, MMH '00 and George Cao, MMH '96 With Sandi Mulconry ver 70 million border crossings were recorded from mainland China in 2011, and the rate of travel grew by another 20 percent in the first half of 2012. The United Nations World Tourism Organization projects that 100 million Chinese will be global travelers by 2020. Chinese travelers are visiting Peru, the Middle East, the Antarctic… it's really quite amazing. The top destinations are still Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, and Thailand, followed by Australia. The United States is now in the top ten, while Germany and France top the list among European destinations. Still, more than 90 percent of Chinese travelers visit destinations in Asia and travel in tour groups. As the China travel market matures, however, that will undoubtedly change. At Dragon Trail Interactive, we are already seeing a shift from the pricesensitive, tour-focused consumer to the experiential consumer. More affluent consumers are looking for individualized travel experiences and demanding higher-quality services. There will always be a place for traditional tour groups—China has 1.4 billion consumers, and most of them have never traveled. But among those who have traveled, 95 percent report being dissatisfied with the experience, whether domestic or international, according to a 2011 study by the Boston Consulting Group. They want something different. We're working to provide that difference by driving interest in more sophisticated travel experiences that give tourists a greater appreciation for a destination's culture. The numbers of Chinese tourists visiting a high-end destination like the Maldives, for example, may be lower percentage-wise than for other destinations, but China is now the number-one source market for the Maldives. The Chinese are predisposed to receiving brand messages on social media. Photos courtesy of and 28 School of Hotel Administration In China, the rules of engagement are different than they are elsewhere, so marketing to the Chinese traveler is different, too. As of June 2012, China had 538 million Internet users, more than anywhere else in the world, and that number is expected to surpass 800 million by 2015. The Chinese trust social media and word-of-mouth more than they trust traditional media—both because of the way the media are structured and because the Chinese are inclined to trust the experience of others. That's why digital and social media are the most influential media in China, and even more influential here than in Europe, Australia, or North America. In China, 85 percent of consumers trust the content they find on the Internet, versus 22 percent of consumers in the United States. Similarly, 95 percent of Chinese consumers, as opposed to sixteen percent of U.S. consumers, are more likely to trust a company that microblogs. While Twitter is blocked in China— as are Facebook, YouTube, and Foursquare—Weibo (wei means micro; bo means blog) takes its place. Weibo started out as a Twitter clone, but microblogging in China has now morphed into a combination of Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter all in one. It's a very powerful platform, and the most important provider is, which is run by Sina. had more than 365 million registered users as of November 2012, including affluent consumers and key opinion leaders as well as celebrities, and is a major source of news and influence. Thirty percent of the Fortune 500 companies and at least half of the tourism destinations and hotel brands seeking to market themselves in China have Weibo accounts. Those companies that are not microblogging in China are not considered relevant—microblogging is extremely powerful and important. Here are some additional tips, born of our experience, to help hotels and destinations reach the burgeoning Chinese travel market.

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