In 2005, the UN World Tourism Organization predicted that 100 million Chinese tourists would travel abroad by 2020. They have since revised that forecast, saying 100 million tourists will leave the country by 2015, to reflect the latest data.
As Chinese tourists become the biggest source of tourism income, the hospitality and retail industries of countries the world over are scrambling for a piece of the pie.
While many brands may maintain a large online presence via social media, much of this tends to be lost on Chinese consumers. Often their global marketing plan uses Facebook and Twitter which work for about 80 percent of the world. “The issue is that if you have a global Twitter or Facebook marketing plan, you need a separate plan for their Chinese equivalents,” said Roy Graff, founder and managing director of China Contact. This is because Chinese consumers are logged in to the Chinese social media sites Renren and Sina Weibo.
Personal contacts are key to success offline.
“The change in Europe and North America is going to be profound. Chinese are going places many tourists didn’t normally go, so it’s kind of like a blank slate. You can create the story that attracts the Chinese consumer.”
Simon’s Premium Outlets, the operator of 72 global malls, send their representatives to China annually to make sure their shopping locations are worked onto the itineraries of Chinese travel agencies.
Premium Outlets was one of the first to forge this kind of relationship. “For the past six years, representatives from Simon have traveled to China to attend the China International Travel Market in Shanghai and Kunming,” spokeswomen Michele Rothstein said. “We work with our area Visitors and Convention Bureaus to support their efforts to attract Chinese visitors and implement a wide range of marketing strategies.”
To accommodate the fastest-growing international market segment, Premium Outlets’ malls have added Mandarin speakers to their workforce. They have also installed appropriate language and currency exchange materials in their locations, making sure their guests feel included, represented, and valued – a strategy that international brands in general can benefit from.