China’s Labor Day Holiday, spanning from April 29 to May 3, 2023, signaled a significant milestone in the country’s travel industry. Following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in late 2022, this was the first instance of the vast Chinese travel market fully bouncing back.
The period witnessed a remarkable surge in tourism, with a record-breaking 6.26 million individuals crossing borders, marking the highest level in the past three years. Notably, on April 30th alone, travel reached its peak with 1.38 million people, showcasing an impressive recovery of 59.2% compared to pre-pandemic levels and a substantial 2.2-fold increase from the previous year.
With the dawn of a new era post-pandemic, there is a noticeable resurgence in the wanderlust of Chinese tourists. However, businesses are faced with the challenge of effectively catering to this growing audience. The question arises: What strategies can be employed to successfully meet the needs and desires of this burgeoning demographic?
Embark on a captivating journey with us as we delve into the dynamic Chinese outbound travel landscape. Our exploration will shine a spotlight on beloved travel destinations, demographic patterns, and booking behaviors. Our ultimate goal is to empower travel brands and businesses with actionable marketing strategies that will enchant Chinese tourists and enable them to seize the abundant opportunities presented by this rapidly growing market.
China’s Outbound Travel Outlook 2023
What are the Post-Pandemic Travel Hotspots for Chinese Tourists?
Chinese tourists continue to show a preference for nearby or regional trips within Asia, while their anticipated return to European destinations remains eagerly awaited.
While there are numerous attractive destinations around the world, the predominant trend in international travel for Chinese tourists is presently focused on short-haul trips within Asia.
Among Ctrip’s top 10 most popular international destinations for China’s Labor Day 2023, six Asian countries dominate the list. Thailand, renowned for its captivating temple architecture and tropical allure, secures the top spot. Following closely are Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Korea, and Vietnam, all drawing Chinese tourists with their winning combination of accessibility and affordability.
Given its accessibility, Southeast Asia alone saw a 91% increase in flights booked by Chinese travelers on May Day.
As travel gradually resumes in the wake of the pandemic, European destinations may witness a slower recovery in attracting Chinese tourists compared to other regions. This can be attributed to lingering safety concerns and the fluid nature of travel policies, which may cause some hesitation among Chinese travelers.
Who Comprises the Initial Wave of Chinese Outbound Travelers?
The driving force behind Chinese outbound travel is Gen Z, who heavily rely on social media platforms for making travel decisions.
Gen Z has taken the helm as the dominant driving force in Chinese outbound travel. According to Mafengwo, during the May Day holiday, they accounted for more than 57% of the total outbound travelers.
With their fervor for travel planning and considerable purchasing power, younger generations have become a prime target audience for travel marketers. The influx of new college graduates and young professionals joining the workforce has amplified their presence in the tourism landscape, making it essential for travel marketers to capture the attention of Gen Z.
Social media platforms like Xiaohongshu, Weibo, and Bilibili hold significant sway in shaping their travel decisions, further emphasizing the need for a strong presence on these platforms when it comes to travel marketing.
What Kind of Travel is the Most Popular Among Chinese Tourists Now?
The Rise of Experience-oriented Travel
The surge in independent travel among Chinese outbound tourists is predominantly driven by the preferences of Gen Z, who seek customized travel experiences, including nature trips and road adventures. Consequently, there has been a decline in the popularity of large-group tours, with independent or small-group travel gaining momentum.
There is a growing demand for immersive tours, particularly among younger travelers who yearn for authentic local experiences and breathtaking landscapes. This shift towards seeking memorable and personalized experiences over destination-centric trips may be influenced by social media and entertainment.
Social media influencers play a significant role in showcasing experiential videos that highlight unique activities and awe-inspiring landscapes, diverting attention from traditional destination-focused travel. Remarkable cliff-side hotels in Bali or diving hotspots like Kota Kinabalu have witnessed a notable surge in popularity over the past few years.
Capturing the Emerging Chinese Travel Market
The immense population of China presents a tourism market of significant scale and immense potential, encompassing hundreds of millions of potential customers. However, in the absence of a well-crafted marketing strategy, brands and companies may encounter difficulties in effectively engaging their target audience and generating high-quality traffic.
Overcoming these challenges and successfully tapping into the Chinese tourism market requires an extensive understanding of China’s diverse media platforms, as well as an appreciation for Chinese cultural nuances and policies.
01 Identify Your Target Groups and Tailor Marketing Strategies
As mentioned, social media should be a top choice for targeting high-value Gen Z travelers, with each platform presenting distinct marketing nuances:
- Video platforms: Douyin stands out, with over 93.4% of Gen Z users engaging in online travel activities on the platform. Video platforms are ideal for influencer/celebrity endorsements and live-streaming, providing real-time engagement with users and enhancing the impression of your business.
- Pan-entertainment platforms: Xiaohongshu (RED) has gained popularity for its high-quality user-generated content (UGC). Xiaohongshu, often referred to as the “Chinese Instagram,” has even become the third most popular channel for young travelers to plan their trips, following traditional online travel agencies and airline or hotel websites. Featuring diverse multimedia content, this kind of platform allows brands to showcase their products and services in an immersive and engaging way. Utilizing influencers to create compelling and visually appealing content that resonates with Chinese consumers can be effective.
- Vertical travel platforms like Mafengwo, Ctrip, and Fliggy provide comprehensive travel information and services. Creating insightful and professional content that aligns with their standards can be beneficial.
02 Leveraging the Power of Influencers to Engage
Utilizing Chinese influencers, known locally as Key Opinion Leaders or KOLs, presents a potent method for engaging with the younger generations in China. These demographics tend to place greater trust in information shared by familiar individuals rather than traditional advertising methods. By collaborating with prominent influencers, brands can cultivate a sense of community and effectively target specific audiences with greater precision.
- To effectively market on Chinese UGC platforms, partnering with local influencers that align with your brand image is key. Creating appealing content such as original videos or images showcasing your products or services can increase your brand’s visibility and recognition among Chinese consumers.
- Collaborating with influencers and local creators on social campaigns, can also create buzz on social media and expand your brand’s reach. For instance, create hashtags that combine local activities with your products and services, or invite KOLs as brand ambassadors to promote tourist-related events and market your services during peak travel seasons.
- Engaging with your audience through celebrity endorsements or live-streaming can further boost audience activity and reinforce their impression of your products or services.
It’s important to tailor your approach to the specific platform or channel used for marketing, as different strategies may work better on each platform. Learn how Nativex can help you get started with influencers in China.
03 Stay Informed and Maintain Cultural Sensitivity
When crafting effective localization strategies, cultural nuances demand thoughtful consideration. It extends beyond mere translation to encompass understanding cross-cultural dialogue:
- Incorporate mobile payment options like Alipay or WeChat, as these are prevalent and favored by Chinese tourists.
- Make sure to have Mandarin-speaking staff on board for culturally aware communication and assistance.
- Ensure your content and messaging are drafted for a Chinese-specific audience
04 Partner with an Agency for Effective Marketing Strategies
Local agencies can be an invaluable resource, particularly considering the challenges of entry into the market when it comes to media buying and localization. They adeptly craft compelling messaging, pinpoint trends in user-generated content, identify influencers to match, and target your advertising audience
As a leading digital marketing agency covering traffic resources across all major markets in the world. Nativex provides clients with up-to-date platform policy and trends, professional campaign optimization, custom workshops, and integrated travel marketing plans. Our partners will benefit from dedicated technical support and product resources to boost client success, exclusive access to traffic resources of China’s top media platforms, and our strong influencer inventory, helping clients maintain a competitive edge.