The Chinese are travelling in record numbers. More than 75 million people are likely to travel abroad this year (150 million if you include Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan), compared to the approximately 65 million Americans who travel abroad annually.
Around 10 million Chinese are now traveling to Europe each year, according to the European Travel Commission, barely 2% of total international arrivals to the continent. Consider that 18 million British people travel to Spain each year. China’s middle class will grow to more than 500 Million by 2022, according to most estimates.
To fuel consumer spending, the Chinese government has extended public holidays. Western governments have also taken measures to attract Chinese visitors through bilateral cooperation and advertising campaigns. Industry groups are also helping, aware of the economic benefits. In some struggling areas in Europe, Chinese tourism offers a glimmer of salvation.
Beyond the money, though, there are two overlooked ways the West can benefit:
1.The West can learn to use new, powerful tools that will shape the future of marketing and business. Western companies need to learn new tricks to attract and service Chinese customers, beyond learning Mandarin. The Chinese use different travel tools. This means designing for mobile (vs desktop) - and learning how to harness WeChat (for communication and social media, instead of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter), Alipay/WeChat pay (for mobile payments, instead of credit cards), Ctrip (for travel, instead of Expedia or Booking.com), and Dianping (for local guides, instead of Tripadvisor or Yelp).
2.The West has a unique opportunity to influence China. China’s growing global influence is inescapable. Growing media restrictions within China make global tourism one of the few ways Chinese can get a full picture of what the West can offer. Western governments need to create the conditions under which Chinese tourism can flourish: easier access, a safer environment, more convenience.
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