A CONVERSATION WITH…
As part of the A New Tomorrow series of European Cities Marketing, Signe Jungersted of Group NAO interviewed Roy Graff, Managing Director (EMEA) of Dragon Trail Interactive on April 30th 2020.
In the interview, Roy addresses many of the pre-collected questions from ECM Knowledge Group members concerning the outlook of the Chinese market, the role and strategy of DMOs in market recovery and the expectations of future demand and preferences of Chinese travellers. Please see the interview to learn much more of what to do next, what to expect and perhaps most important when to expect it.
Sienna Parulis-Cook, Associate Director of Communications with Dragon Trail Interactive has also written the following article, which further expands on some of the answers and addresses a few Knowledge Group members’ questions not explored in the interview. Sienna has also included several links for further reading in follow-up on the concerns and interests of ECM members in relation to anticipating #ANewTomorrow of the Chinese tourism market.
Roy and Sienna also kindly proposed to put at our members’ disposal their May 2020 report on Market Intelligence. Please note that this report is exclusive to ECM members and should not be shared outside your organisation. Log in on our Intranet to read it.
Chinese Tourism Recovery and Prospects for Europe
By Sienna Parulis-Cook, Associate Director of Communications, Dragon Trail Interactive
May 1 marked the start of China’s five-day Labor Day holiday. This was once expected to be the date from which Chinese outbound tourism would rebound, but the public holiday instead only kicked off domestic tourism recovery. That there is any tourism recovery at all is good news, however, and we now look toward summer and the October National Day holiday as the new periods when international travel may begin again.
Once European destinations have emerged from their lockdowns, and lifted travel restrictions, will Chinese tourists want to visit? And what should destinations be doing now to keep or put themselves in the minds of Chinese travelers, and be best prepared for recovery?
The answer to the first question is a decided yes. In February, both a consumer survey by Chinese online travel marketplace Fliggy and a survey of the travel industry by leading Chinese travel media Travel Daily indicated that Europe would be the second-most coveted destination for Chinese tourists for post-crisis outbound travel, after Japan. Of course, this was before the pandemic’s epicenter moved to Western Europe, but even a late April consumer survey by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences found that half of the top 10 outbound destinations for Chinese travelers were in Europe (Russia, Switzerland, France, Iceland, and Germany).
Strategies for Destinations
So what should destinations be doing now, to maintain and grow this demand from Chinese travelers? Although no one is traveling now, it’s important to stay connected. Switzerland Tourism has stayed active on Chinese social media platforms with their #DreamNowTravelLater campaign, with good results (click here to read an interview with Switzerland Tourism’s Director China on the country’s current marketing strategy). VisitBritain is another European destination that has stood out on Chinese social media platforms WeChat and Weibo, for a variety of content, including a short video featuring Scottish landscapes, a 360-degree tour of London’s Houses of Parliament, and interactive quizzes on British history and culture. The German National Tourism Board used Weibo’s interactive poll feature to conduct some light market research, asking followers if they were more interested cultural travel or natural scenery in Germany (nature won with 67.6% of the vote).
Although no one is traveling now, it’s important to stay connected.
This downtime for tourism is also a good opportunity for training and self-study to learn more about Chinese tourism, especially for those who are new to the market. In China, the peak of the crisis brought about a boom in online training, as Chinese travel agents attended live webinars and completed self-study programs (read more about the surge in Chinese online tourism training here). The tourism industry outside of China has the opportunity now to do something similar, and there are numerous free resources available, such as the 2019 book, China, the Future of Travel, an essential primer on the Chinese tourism industry and market. On Wednesday, 20 May, Dragon Trail is offering a free webinar to introduce online platforms for Chinese digital tourism marketing, as a complement and introduction to our soon-to-be-launched China Outbound Tourism Academy (COTA) online self-study courses.
How Will the Market Change?
When Chinese do start to travel again, will Chinese tourism look the same as before? We do expect changes, but to a large extent, these will be accelerations of trends that were already happening before the virus. This includes the shift away from big tour groups to FIT and customized travel, the rise of self-driving tourism (click here to read more about Chinese self-driving tourism), and increased interest in natural beauty and getting off the beaten track (click here to read more about rural tourism for the Chinese market). This has the benefit of creating opportunities for new destinations, and encouraging the dispersal that’s key to the sustainability of tourism growth.
One question that European destinations might be asking is: Are Chinese travelers still going to shop, or will the COVID-19 crisis wipe out budgets? It’s true that the crisis is putting financial pressure on consumers all around the world, including in China, and forcing a reappraisal of shopping habits. But shopping is an important part of the Chinese travel experience, and those that have the budget to travel to Europe are still going to have money to shop – but here, again, there were changes happening far before the coronavirus crisis, as Chinese shifted their overseas shopping away from mass purchases of big-ticket, “must-have” items, and towards more unique purchases to display one’s personal taste and travel experience. (Click here to learn more about the evolution of Chinese tourist shopping.)
Hygiene and safety are Chinese consumers’ biggest concerns about travel, and this will significantly impact if and where they go abroad. Anything a destination can do to put common standards in place about hygiene standards for hotels (as Singapore is doing), attractions, and restaurants, will provide assurance. Chinese travelers will also want to know how a destination dealt with the crisis or is currently monitoring public health, so transparency in this area – communicated on official websites, social media, and to the Chinese travel trade and media – is highly advised. For example, Edinburgh got above-average views and many positive comments for a late-March post on WeChat about what people and businesses were doing in Edinburgh to slow the spread of the virus and support local health services and essential workers.
Dragon Trail Interactive is committed to the mission of helping global travel and tourism organizations reach and engage with affluent Chinese consumers through outstanding digital initiatives.