According to a 2017 Nielsen survey, Chinese tourists spend more per capita than many other international tourists — $762 per person, as compared to the global average of $486. Therefore, it makes perfect business sense for international hospitality brands to localize their digital marketing efforts to target this important segment.
In the course of our consultancy process, our team found out that many of these hospitality brands adopt a three-step process in terms of this localization: First step, translate a hospitality brand’s existing content into Chinese, secondly, establish a brand’s Chinese digital presence, with a Chinese website, WeChat and Weibo accounts and thirdly, undertake paid social media promotion of the translated content.
In reality, it isn’t practical to follow such a one-size-fits-all approach – with good reason! Let’s take a quick look at the Chinese digital marketing ecosystem that our team has put together below:
From the above, you may have noticed that a Chinese website and social media are just two parts of a sprawling and dynamic Chinese digital marketing ecosystem. For a brief on this unique ecosystem, please check out our earlier introductory article. If your hospitality brand is only present in two out of eight fragments of this ecosystem, it is no wonder that your ROI isn’t optimal!
Many hospitality brands continue to be mystified by why their ongoing Chinese digital marketing efforts are not performing. Here are some of the common feedback that we have heard:
- Untargeted Marketing: “I have been investing in Weibo marketing but though my brand receives a lot of clicks, there is no increased Chinese tourist footfall.”
Fact: The folks who are clicking on your Weibo posts may not be in your country and contribute to additional revenue.
- Lack of Social Proof: “I translated my website into Chinese, why aren’t additional tourists coming?”
Fact: It is great that your content has been translated but have you considered whether it is a match for what the Chinese tourists in your country are looking for?
Three Steps to Greater Relevance and Success
Repeat after me - It begins with content, original relevant content that is based on what the tourists are searching for, not your existing marketing materials. To gain greater relevance, brands have to do some competitive analysis and figure out what the Chinese tourists are searching for in relation to your destination. This is increasingly important as 58 percent of Chinese tourists are choosing more independent travel options. Driving this shift is an increased demand for a more personalized travel experience. This also means that these FIT tourists are likely to be searching on Chinese platforms in your country to fill up spare pockets of spare time. To get a sense of what Chinese are searching for on WeChat where 90% of the Chinese tourists are using, you may wish to leverage NewRank (Chinese language only), where you can shortlist keywords relevant to your destinations and study existing WeChat accounts opened by other hospitality businesses in your country.
Win digital word-of-mouth. Across the world, positive word of mouth is key to attracting new visitors. Chinese OTAs and Yelp-like apps such as Dianping provide forums for Chinese tourists to leave feedback and review their experiences. Over 60 percent of Chinese netizens said they considered word of mouth in their purchasing decisions. Another way to for F&B businesses to engage with Chinese tourists post short videos on Douyin (Tik Tok) to win shares and digital word-of-mouth among the 200 million Chinese watching these videos daily. These short 15-second videos may showcase your chefs’ unique skills and specialities while using the relevant keywords to attract Chinese tourists in your country. For inspiration for this ‘virtual feasts for the senses’, you may get inspired by this compilation of excellent Douyin videos.
Douyin video sharing watermelon carving skills in 15 seconds!
Experiment and invest in channels that work for your business. After developing targeted and relevant content featuring multimedia content, the next question to answer is which channel to use to reach your target group of Chinese tourists? Our advice is to do your research on NewRank and shortlist relevant New Media channels with a moderate reach (say 10,000 – 50,000) followers. You can start with advertorials on one of these channels for a reasonable fee (usually less than $500). We recommend these New Media channels as they will place your branded content on various medium such as Baidu, WeChat, Weibo, and other Chinese news apps that recommends content to users based on their in-app behavior, such as searching for Thai attractions for example. This helps you optimize your content reach while figuring out which channel works best for you.
Winning content, digital word-of-mouth and additional business
Many international hospitality businesses are adjusting their target persona in terms of the Chinese tourists. In our recent article, we wrote about how smaller Tier 2 cities, female decision-makers and tourists born after 1990 are becoming increasingly important. Therefore, your content strategy should also be attuned to these developments. The good news is that these tourists are definitely worth a long-term investment as outbound travel is projected to remain strong. For example, the number of Chinese tourists travelling to the Gulf Cooperation Council region expected to increase 81 percent from 1.6 million in 2018 to 2.9 million in 2022.
In our opinion, it is pretty intuitive to understand how Chinese tourists are considering their travel options. Like the rest of the world, they seek relevant information in line with their interests and sceptical about any information that they find online and are more inclined to trust this information upon seeing videos (greater transparency) and third-party reviews.
The tricky part is for an international business is to possess a professional grasp of the Chinese language and culture to navigate the Chinese digital ecosystem to find out tourists’ specific interests, create the corresponding content and share in the appropriate digital channels. Our team specializes in a customer journey approach (inspiration, planning, booking, experience, and advocacy) to build a bridge to your target segment of Chinese tourists and boost your hospitality brand’s business.