Leading travel technology company Travelport published Global Digital Traveler Research 2019 based on responses from 23,000 travelers from 20 countries. The results indicate that Chinese travelers are world leaders in digital proficiency. Chinese travelers of all ages, including Millennials and Baby Boomers, are strong proponents of digital tools and innovative technologies.
Nine travel apps per person: The “standard” for smartphones
Chinese travelers display a high degree of enthusiasm and proficiency when it comes to digital tools. The survey indicated that most (84.2%) Chinese survey respondents tend to use their mobile devices when searching for travel information, higher than the global average of 22.6% and higher than Japan and the United States, both with around 30%. Additionally, 82.2% of Chinese travelers booked travel products with a mobile device versus the global average of only 54.2%. Over half (62.2%) of over-55 Baby Boomers in China was also happy to use a smartphone.
- It is worth noting that nearly three-quarters (73.8%) of Chinese respondents tend to research and book all their travel arrangements on their smartphone, which is high compared to the global average of 26.4%.
- The popularity of mobile payments in China has also had a positive impact on the travel industry. More than half (55.3%) of travelers are used to booking and purchasing travel products with their mobile device for every trip, versus the global average of just 29.1%.
- Furthermore, the average Chinese traveler uses nine travel apps. These include apps for booking air tickets and hotel reservations, currency exchange, translation, itinerary planning, electronic maps, weather updates, and calculating expenses. The global travelers, meanwhile, use seven apps on average, which is lower than the average number of travel apps used by over-55s in China. This further highlights the rapid pace of digitalization and mobile usage across all ages in China for tourism.
- 41.1% of Chinese respondents want a travel app with a feature that plans their itinerary, higher than 10% globally. The over-55s had the highest demand for this feature, with 44.6%, compared to 43.2% of respondents in the 20-39 age bracket.
From voice search to virtual reality: Technology facilitates personalized experiences
The survey indicated that Chinese travelers increasingly focus on the service details and product quality in their travel itineraries. Chinese travelers prefer a more convenient, comfortable, integrated and personalized travel experience, both with brick and mortar facilities and virtual services. They also expressed a high degree of enthusiasm for innovative technologies, such as virtual reality.
- Voice search has a distinct role to play in itinerary management, with 59.3% of Chinese travelers have used voice search to look up travel information, higher than the global average of nearly 16%.
- 66.3% of Chinese travelers prefer a digital key that allows them to unlock their hotel room from their smartphone, and 62.3% prefer to check-in to a hotel via an app than via reception. 76.5% of travelers think electronic plane tickets and digital boarding passes make traveling much easier.
- 44% of Chinese respondents across all age groups agreed that augmented and virtual reality are useful to the travel industry, nearly twice the global average (24.3%).
- 42.3% of Chinese respondents stated a good digital experience (e.g. the ability to check-in online and retrieve gate information) is “extremely important” when choosing an airline, far higher than the global average (31.9%). The 40-54 age range and over-55s showed the greatest demand for this, at 46.6% and 41.9%, respectively.
- 31.2% of Chinese respondents considered the ability to customize their experience (e.g. with add-ons such as baggage, Wi-Fi and VIP lounge access) to be “very important”, higher than for any other country or region.
- More than a quarter (26%) of Chinese respondents considered a hotel's in-room technology (e.g. smart TV, digital music player, Bluetooth speakers, etc.) to be “very important”, higher than for other countries.
Ming Foong, Vice President of Strategic Business Development at Travelport, had this to say on the survey’s findings for the travel industry: “As China's economy develops and consumer power increases, Chinese travelers are demanding more from their travel experience. It requires the travel industry to transform from a ‘broad approach’ to one of ‘intensive cultivation’. This means to optimize every point of contact and refine every segment of the process. Companies can appeal to Chinese travelers’ strong receptiveness to technology by enhancing their products and services via technology that satisfies travelers’ demands for greater personalization.”
Who influences consumers’ decisions? Social media travel professionals and recommendations from friends and family
Chinese travelers have a strong degree of trust in travel information gleaned from social media. This affects their selection and filtering of information and directly and indirectly influences their final spending decisions. In addition, they seek out more travel recommendations and suggestions from travel professionals, friends and family.
- 67.6% of Chinese travelers pay close attention to the videos and photos posted by travel brands on social media when planning their trip, nearly 20% higher than the global average. Social media content posted by friends and family was also an important source of information for Chinese tourists. 68.7% of Chinese respondents obtained information this way, 10% higher than the average in Asia-Pacific and over 20% higher than the average in North America.
- More than three-quarters (79.5%) of Chinese tourists search for travel information using social media. This was an obvious trend across all age groups but particularly for the 20-39 (84.5%) and the 18-19 (79.6%), also as high as 77% for the over-55s.
- The purchasing decisions of more than half (69.2%) of Chinese respondents are impacted by information on social media; whereas only half (50%) of respondents from around the world look up travel information on social media, and only 45.6% stated it would impact their purchase decision.
- Nevertheless, in common with respondents from other countries, Chinese consumers are skeptical of the authenticity of user reviews on travel websites, which is a feeling shared by more than half of Chinese respondents.
- When seeking travel destination inspirations, nearly 70% of Chinese travelers would consider recommendations made by travel agents and other such organizations in searching for travel information (the global average was 56.3%). Chinese travelers also place a high value on suggestions from friends and family when booking travel products, such as for accommodation, with nearly two-fifths (41.6%) of Chinese travelers saying it is “very important” to listen to the suggestions of friends and family (versus a global average of 32.5%). This was the most prominent among the 40-54 and over-55 age groups, at nearly 45% respectively.
Chinese travelers’ digital proficiency far exceeds the global average: Continuous, frequent and cross-generational usage
In summary, the results of this survey offer a representative snapshot of digital tourism among Chinese travelers. It is not hard to see that Chinese travelers are the world leaders in terms of their receptiveness to digital tourism, and their affinity for digital tools will continue to influence the travel industry. Mobile searches, mobile payments and voice search are all areas that travel service providers should focus on.
According to Ming Foong: “Travel consumers in China market have become pioneers of digital tourism. As a technology-led travel commerce platform, Travelport keenly understands Chinese consumers, and we will continue to innovate in the areas of digitalization to empower travel services to better respond to the needs of end consumers and thrive in the opportunity-filled Chinese market.”