Hui-Wan Chua, APAC Director of Wholesale Sales of Hotelbeds, commented about the upcoming Chinese New Year, and how this affects the tourism industry.
How should hotels or travel intermediaries go about attracting these last-minute booking clients? Is it all about discount deals, or something else?
Despite the best intentions of travelers, they don’t always have control over how far out they book a hotel room – perhaps because of difficulties in confirming time-off from work. Therefore, an increasing number of people book hotel rooms in the days or even hours leading up to the start of their vacation.
Many hotels provide last minute booking offers and at Hotelbeds we do last minute promotions on discount or fixed rate based on the contracts and clauses of the 170,000 hotels we have on our platform. However, last minute bookings always come with non-refundable rates.
How much impact do visa restrictions have on where Chinese travelers will go during the New Year period? What can hotels or travel intermediaries do better to support this challenge?
The overall number of Chinese outbound travelers are increasing every year and this year the common estimate is that 7 million Chinese travelers will venture abroad during Chinese New Year and clearly a favorable visa policy will help boost the number of tourists that might consider a destination.
More and more countries offer a visa waiver or visa-on-arrival policy for Chinese travelers. In fact, the number of countries with a favorable visa policy increased from 60 in 2017 to 74 in 2019.
The “Voucher” and “Confirmation” are the terms specifically used to refer to the tourist support documents that must be provided to the Embassy when travelers apply for a visa. Hotels should provide vouchers with information, including the hotel name, address, phone number, and contact person, etc.
Sometimes, the immigration officer will call hotels to reconfirm a travelers’ booking. Therefore it is very important that hotels should get their operations staff trained to be prepared for those kinds of questions and calls.
Is it true that many Chinese travelers don’t have credit cards? What should Western hotels be doing when it comes to payments options such as WeChat Pay and Alipay?
More and more Chinese travelers hold credit cards, but only a limited number of travelers are used to using credit cards when they travel. Many hold a Chinese card called UnionPay though, and not cards issued by Western banks. But with the continuous expansion of Union Pay’s acceptance network, it’s more convenient for Chinese travelers to travel abroad than ever before. Chinese customers also often request multi-payment options, including a bank transfer, Alipay and WeChat Pay.
Additionally, UnionPay and Alipay Tax Refund service can help UnionPay cardholders and Alipay users receive refunds immediately after shopping in Chinese currency without the need for currency conversion and also saves travelers’ time – so by adding these options you increase the likelihood of a Chinese traveler purchasing with you.”
What is the single most important factor that Chinese travelers going away internationally for the Chinese New Year will be looking at when booking a hotel?
Although Chinese tourists are price sensitive, they are still willing to spend on their accommodation. Chinese millennials have emerged as a key customer group and they would like to buy the best they can afford.
Room type is essential too as normally Chinese travelers request a twin (double bedroom) and having a kettle and breakfast included are very important factors they would consider when booking a hotel abroad – so not only having these on offer, but also making clear in the booking process that you have them, is key for any hotel that wants Chinese bookings.
Tell me more about the social media channels that Chinese travelers are using to research their New Year trip abroad? How much influence do these channels have and what should Western hotels be doing to leverage this?
Western hotels must take advantage of social media platforms to display their hotel amenities and services. But, first of all, they need to translate their hotel information into Chinese.
Video always has a higher engagement rate than photos. Upload videos to top video platforms such as Youku – which is a bit like YouTube – will help to promote your hotel business.
There are lot of Chinese social media platforms for Western brands to explore – and it is a huge mistake to think that Chinese people are using Western social media platforms too, as they are not. WeChat is an all-in-one social media platform in China that is hugely popular. Sina Weibo is the Twitter of China. Dazhong Dianping and Meituan are the Chinese versions of Yelp. Meipai and Douyin are Chinese Instagram for video. Many tourism boards and hotels now have their official accounts on these social media channels.
Additionally, many OTAs, such as Ctrip and Mafengwo, have dedicated blog pages so that Chinese travelers – especially the FITs – can use the information to research their trip abroad. Hotels could learn from this approach.
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