If the mooncakes and candle-lit lanterns weren’t enough of a giveaway, Mid-Autumn Festival is upon us tomorrow. The 3,500-year-old festival paying tribute to the moon and harvest season also marks the start of a popular vacation period for Chinese. The festival can fall within a week of the October Golden Week, which together have become one of the busiest times for international travel out of China.
At this time three years ago, we were celebrating the 94 million Chinese travellers expected to jet abroad in 2013. Only three batches of mooncakes later, and that number is expected to grow to 133 million – an extra 39 million travellers spending up large overseas.
In 2013, the big tourism stories were the nightly TV clips from Beijing to educate Chinese travellers about behaving better and the ringing tills of luxury retailers abroad. This year, a good shopping experience still remains the top reason for choosing a holiday according to an HSBC survey. Yet when the top three reasons are factored in, nature/hikes and tasty food are more important than shopping to travellers overall, representative of the increasingly diverse Chinese tourist.
The attraction of nature and hiking is reflective of China’s youth growing more interested in healthy exercise, and the ability to escape the polluted concrete megacities that most Chinese travellers come from.
Mín yǐ shí wéi tiān: “Food is the God of the people” is an old Chinese idiom that is as relevant today as ever. Increasing exposure to foreign cuisine in the Mainland has whet consumers’ appetites to experience more on their holidays. On previous tourism-related marketing campaigns, China Skinny has found that food and beverage are some of the most engaging communications for Chinese.
Destinations are increasingly going beyond just talking about food and beverage to Chinese, and are enhancing related attractions to appeal to them. For example, New Zealand’s vineyards are hoping to tap into China’s growing taste for wine with one vineyard hiring the greensmaster from the “Lord of the Rings” movies who helped design the Hobbiton set to advise on landscaping around the winery and cellar door.
Food-related tourism is not just great business for attractions, but is also good for building sustainable sales of food back in China. A study earlier this year found that Chinese tourists to Australia spend 40% more on Australian products after returning home to China. But it’s not just the travellers who will buy more. The obligatory social sharing on holidays is also influencing their family, friends and colleagues back home to buy those products in addition to influencing their travel decisions.
So make the most of Chinese visitors over the mid Autumn Festival and coming Golden Week to inspire more travellers and product sales in the Mainland. And enjoy the mooncakes! Go to Page 2 to see this week’s China news and highlights.