NB: This is the first in a series of articles provided by Haiwan, the leading tours and activities marketplace for the Chinese outbound market.
The Chinese outbound market is an innumerable force to be reckoned with and the upwards trend in this demographic creates more opportunities for lesser-known destinations that have yet to get a piece of the Chinese pie. If you are serious about tapping into this market, you can find 10 helpful tips below to help your products become “China Ready.” As the Chinese proverb goes: Don't wait until you're thirsty to dig a well.
Be Price Competitive
Chinese customers don’t mind spending money – 215 billion USD was spent abroad by Chinese tourists in 2015 alone – but they need to feel they get value for their money. Chinese travelers want to feel they got the best possible deal so when possible, offer more basic products at accessible price points with optional add-ons. They will have carried out extensive background internet research, and bargain-hunting is commonplace.
Stay Connected (Wi-Fi, the Holy Grail)
Travel guides, travel blogs/forums, social media and chatting with friends and family provide the top few sources of influence on destination choice. Having access to Wi-Fi will instantly turn your client into a brand ambassador among their peers in China. Many venues now offer complimentary Wi-Fi and guides should be aware of these locations and be able to ensure easy access to these services. Tour buses and attractions would also benefit from offering courtesy Wi-Fi. Consider having login instructions and details written out, preferably in Chinese.
Offer Hot Water
Under the precepts of Chinese medicine, balance is key, and hot or warm water is considered essential to balance out cold and humidity; in addition, it is believed to promote blood circulation and toxin release. In China, being offered hot water is common. In fact, you might be hard pressed to find a restaurant that serves it cold. If hot water is not available, room temperature water will do. Avoid cold water! And don’t forget to schedule in toilet breaks.
Make Things Visual (Pictures, Pictures, Pictures)
Design your tour with a camera- (or smartphone-) wielding client in mind, and be sure to schedule more dedicated picture time than you think you need at the most photogenic spots. While your Chinese client might not always have the full cultural and historical background to fully appreciate and take home your guide’s stories, they will definitely be able to treasure the many pictures they will take. High-quality photos of your tour or activity are also a great way of generating interest from prospective customers.
Rely On Your Clichés
Off the beaten path is good, but for Chinese travelers, directly on the well-worn path can be better. While there is certainly a growing subset of Chinese travelers itching to explore more unique and experiential products, a core majority of Chinese travelers enjoy exploring what is iconic, well-known, and expected of a destination. Also keep in mind that the tapas style of travel may be more fitting – allow customers to “sample” many staple experiences versus going in depth.
Keep It Digital
We are in the age of speed and technology and make sure you do not keep them waiting for too long. In order to ensure the best experience for your Chinese guests, it is important to minimize the time spent on bookings and joining an activity. Also, more Chinese are using mobile phone to search and buy products, so make sure your products could be successfully found and bought through mobile phones.
Expect to do Some Handholding…
Many of your Chinese guests may be traveling abroad or traveling independently for the first time and can be relatively inexperienced in the more nuanced aspects of travel. Therefore, be prepared to answer many, sometimes surprising or obvious, questions pre-departure, clarify and re-clarify meeting and departure points, and over-emphasis meeting times as to avoid straggling customers who lost track of time amidst enthusiastic photo-taking. Lastly, guides should be mindful that regular reminders of local customs and norms may be necessary.
Hand Out Free stuff
Everyone loves free stuff! Sending your guests off with a free souvenir, no matter how small, will really leave them in high spirits as well as keep your product in the forefront of their minds when they return home – it is an excellent way to spur positive word-of-mouth reviews. When brainstorming what to give away, try to stay away from generic items such as pens and notebooks, and try to send your guests off with something they’ll feel is authentic to your region.
Provide Chinese service
Never underestimate the benefit of Chinese-speaking staff, or at the least Chinese language audio guides or materials. While Chinese FIT’s are becoming more travel-savvy and comfortable in English, a tour given in your client’s native language will allow them to truly enjoy and understand the experience particularly important for activities that focus on historical and cultural tidbits. Even if the service is in English learning a few Chinese catch phrases can go a long way.
Lastly, while heeding the above-mentioned advice, remember, take a deep breath and be flexible. With a demographic so new to the world of international travel, there are bound to be growing pains. In order to soften these here are a few key pointers. Offer call centers, in advance of opening times, to handle any emergency issues or requests. Be sure to keep time for last minute shopping – remember Chinese travelers love a good deal! Lastly, guides should take care not to be offended if guests aren’t paying their undivided attention – they are in new exciting places and the urge to document these memories is strong.
Haiwan.com is an Online Tour and Activity Distributor with its head operating office in Beijing and branch offices in Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Singapore and Paris with more on the way.
The company was founded in the fall of 2013 and has after only 2 years in business grown to pass the 200 employee milestone. Young worldly professionals are managed by travel, online sales and IT industry veterans. Together, we aim to make the world easily accessible to the Chinese travelers.
Haiwan.com has both B2C and B2B functions and thus has a very extensive reach both online and offline throughout China. With a special focus on unique experiences for the Chinese FITs, Haiwan.com offers a wide variety of day tours, activities, attractions, shows, restaurant visits. Etc. that enable Chinese travelers to experience new destinations like a local.