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TOP TIPS: Successfully selling to Chinese tourists

London’s Chinatown Prepares For New Year Celebrations

In the last two years spending in the UK by visitors from China has risen by 50 per cent as the annual number of visas issued to Chinese nationals has broken the half million mark, according to tax refund company Global Blue and the Home Office. The expected wave of incoming tourists bring with them a range of opportunities and challenges. and in order to make the most of them boutique hotels must not only identify the changes, but understand what that means for their marketing strategy.

Domenica Di Lieto, chief executive officer at Emerging Communication shares her insight.

  1. Chinese Millennials may have ‘young money’ but they are far from nouveau riche.

Millennials are by far the dominant Chinese demographic in travel and luxury spend, but unlike previous generations many of these young people are ‘wealth inheritors’, having grown up around international brands and big names they are now redefining luxury by seeking out the niche, the quirky, the added value and the story behind their purchases.

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What this means for boutique hotels:

Expect to see tourists exploring outside of London as they look for new British experiences, from the south coast to the highlands. Hotels that can tailor their aesthetics to fit defined consumer segments will benefit from increasing niche markets. When promoting your destination, let your story lead the way.

These discerning consumers are able to quickly distinguish between those that have put careful strategy and thought into wooing them and those who has opted for ‘quick fixes’ in hope of pulling in easy money. Clumsy translations, hard sales promotions and pedantic or assuming marketing messages are among this audiences’ pet peeves when it comes to brand interactions, but too often a common approach in the UK tourism arena. To make your brand stand out, show the heart and sincerity behind your China-ready approach.

  1. Luxury travel is independent travel

High spending tourists tend to travel independently, either as a family unit, with partners or a small groups of friends. They plan itineraries and book hotel rooms well in advance of leaving home, and they want every part of their trip to be tailored to fit. Where tour guides are involved you are more likely to see custom-made itineraries provided by boutique travel agencies.

What this means for boutique hotels:

Chinese consumers are already well accustomed to on demand services at home, especially at high end establishments their expectations in terms of fluidity of services, flexibility and convenience will be extremely high. Meet expectations wherever possible by providing localised mobile payment options, added value services and translated signage and materials both online and on site.

As they research well in advance your current and previous guest are your best weapon and biggest potential pitfall. Reviews are one of the most influential factors that will be considered when selecting a destination.  For hotels new to the market KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders or Influencers) are a steadfast method to generate awareness and establish credibility among travel audiences as they are often well-respected for their impeccable taste and trustworthy recommendations. Premium KOLs are likely to have followers in the millions while ‘niche’ KOLs will have a committed group of fans in the hundreds of thousands.

Relevant KOLs can be identified and targeted to promote key messages, and though they usually require payment the benefits far outweigh investment.

  1. The Chinese customer journey is no walk in the park

Most of the accommodation research will be on social media, which isn’t surprising when you consider that in China more than 50 per cent of purchases of medium and high ticket items are made as a direct result of social media recommendation (with items such as Mini-coopers and designer handbags being bought in-app), however this isn’t to say a social media presence is enough to drive sales.

The average customer research journey prior to purchase is almost double that of UK counter parts, with Chinese consumers on average consulting 15 different touch points, both digital and offline, before making a purchase.

What this means for boutique hotels:

It is not a question of being on Chinese social media platforms WeChat or Weibo, but establishing a presence and monitoring your reputation on WeChat, Weibo, Mafengwo, Ctrip, AirBnB, Tripadvisor, Chinese travel blogs and whatever platform your key audiences utilise as part of their journey, to ensure that whichever route Chinese consumers take, they always find you with your best foot forward.

  1. If you don’t define your Chinese branding early on, you may find it a gruelling task trying to solidify your brand later.

Here at Emerging Communications we’ve worked with a wide range of destination focused clients and in the majority of cases we find that UK brands’ lack of defined Chinese branding has lead to a fragmented image within the market. One hotel can have four or more different Chinese translations, making it difficult for consumers to find information about the brand. Worse than that it damages brand equity in the long term, often by the creation of slang names. By the time a destination has carefully selected the name and brand image they want on Ctrip, their previous guests have already created profiles for them on various travel sites – projecting their own personal perceptions and preferences onto the brand.

What this means for boutique hotels:

Even if China is not currently your key market, or your brand is not actively marketing to Chinese consumers, making sure you establish a localised brand name on your terms and pushing it out early can help to prevent users from coming up with names for you.

  1. Chinese brand ambassadors are closer than you think

As well as tourists, the 95,000 Chinese students in the UK are another good prospective market for boutique hotels. They have on average double the disposable income of British students and during shorter holidays they enjoy extensive travel around the UK to visit KOL hotspots and heritage sites due to British culture being integral to their experience of studying in the UK. Not only that, but they also act as personal tour guides for wealthy relatives and friends that visit – each student in the UK will be visited an average of 3.3 times per year.

What this means for boutique hotels:

Students in the UK travel on a different calendar to their tourist counterparts and have different needs and expectations in terms of service and purchasing motivations. Reaching out to students early and treating them as their own unique consumer segment can go a long way to establishing a reputation that can be shared across campus and put you on the shortlist of recommendations for incoming student visitors.

Tags : Chinesetop tipstourism
Zoe Monk

The author Zoe Monk

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