Looking beyond the big cities to attract Chinese travellers
Today, China has become a “must have” market for Western-based online travel sites seeking to attract and retain a proportion of Chinese travellers to their brands.
Western online retailers and brands have benefited from the massive growth in China’s online consumers, and so too are the early moving travel sites tapping China’s international travelers.
NB: This is an extract from a white paper by CD Networks on the opportunities for foreign travel companies in China.
Three factors make the China market so attractive:
Explosive growth in both domestic and international travel. In addition holidays are seen as the highest rated category for trading up.
Strong consumer demand for informative travel sites which provide an immersive experience providing Chinese travellers with that extra reassurance. Online sites are viewed as a trusted resource for recommendations, information and reservations. Social media also plays a huge role with 80% looking at a review for half their trips and 50% seeking out reviews when planning a trip.
A void in customer loyalty due to a lack of major travel brands with research showing that 95% of travellers say their needs are poorly served by existing companies and that few foreign and domestic companies even understand their needs. A small amount of investment in marketing and brand awareness could reap big rewards for international airlines and other travel suppliers.
Some have wondered if the surge in international travel from China is temporary, but a slew of recent studies demonstrate that we are witnessing just the beginning of the China travel market boom.
In fact, multiple researchers have found that the China travel market, including international outbound travel from China, will experience steady growth through 2030.
For a market that has already reached the number two spot worldwide in terms of travel GDP, fifteen more years of growth means few online travel companies can ignore this opportunity.
Online travel sites entering the market engage a Chinese community that is markedly different from those in the US and Europe. China’s consumers are web and mobile app savvy, heavily reliant on social media for travel decisions, and demand that travel sites provide a wealth of information. Social media is already seen as a potential distribution channel and services such as WeChat have already added the ability to book flights via the channel.
But for many, particularly those consumers located in China’s critically important tier two and tier three cities where two-thirds of travellers are predicted to be based, those demands are going unmet by most travel brands.
However, to even begin to meet those demands, international travel companies need to think about having their websites hosted in each of the six networks within China. Most foreign websites hosted outside the country perform badly and suffer high abandonment rates as a result.
Most international companies that have made inroads into China have concentrated on the expatriate community or the affluent segment – the low-hanging fruit. This has left the door of China open to foreign travel sites seeking to win China’s travel consumers.
This paper will discuss the unique opportunity that exists for foreign-based travel sites, as they seek to benefit from the burgeoning market for online travel in China.
Leveraging key market and consumer data, this paper will also explain the most effective ways for winning over Chinese travel consumers for early mover advantage.
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