Mark Tanner
21 May 2014 0 Comments

Group travel has been losing its shine for some time with Chinese tourists. Research by TNS last August found that 62% of Chinese tourists would prefer to travel independently.  This has been backed up by countless anecdotes from tourism operators, and recent spending analysis from Union Pay which points to a healthy rise of independent Chinese travel abroad.

Whilst many less experienced tourists still prefer the security of travelling in tour groups, Chinese consumers, especially the younger ones, are becoming more confident with their journeys.  A slew of online information and tools are helping them get by on their own in faraway lands.  It’s also becoming easier as local operators increasingly cater to Chinese language and cultural differences – although there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

One of the promising signs from the Union Pay data is the 65% average annual increase on dining expenditure abroad between 2010 and 2013.  In the past, travellers in tour groups would often be shuttled between restaurants serving poor quality Chinese food. The rise in spending on dining indicates that travellers are becoming less likely to be eating at restaurants as part of their “all-inclusive travel package”, instead paying for their own meals elsewhere.

More varied dining, means there’s a good chance Chinese tourists are eating at restaurants that give a snapshot of the local cuisine and culture. In most cases, they’ll have a richer experience, and potentially acquire a taste for local food which may see them buy it when they return to the Mainland. That’s great news for food and beverage exporters.

Spending on recreation has also seen a significant rise in spending, at more than 60% a year, indicating Chinese tourists are becoming ever more adventurous and not just focused on shopping.  This is positive for overseas destinations.  Although independent Chinese tourists still travel with somewhat of a ‘pack mentality’, and are most likely to visit places marketed well and endorsed by their peers, they are going beyond the few stops serviced by tour groups, meaning their spending funnels down across a wider range of tourism operators. 

With Chinese consumers’ wealth increasing and visas becoming easier to obtain, the high portion of independent travellers making up the 200 million Chinese expected to travel abroad by 2017 will change the landscape of global tourism forever.

For our Shanghai readers, China Skinny’s founder Mark Tanner will be joining the panel talking about China’s mega trends next Thursday 29 May, as part of the Austcham Shanghai Business Forum and All Star Lunch – it should be a great afternoon if you can make it.  In the meantime, we hope you enjoy this week’s Skinny.

Consumers, Chinese Consumers

4 Unique Characteristics of Chinese Shopping Habits68% of Chinese consumers enjoy shopping versus 48% in the USA and 41% in the UK. Chinese consumers are more inspired and want to learn something when shopping, with digital channels being significantly more important components of their shopping experience, and instore being less so than in the USA and UK. Chinese also consider themselves much more likely to be an opinion former than a follower.

China’s Luxury Market Set For Good TimesOver one third of Chinese households will earn more than $50,000 a year by 2030. 10.3 million will make more than $150,000 according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The New Buzzword for Wealthy Chinese – Balance63% of young professionals in China think that their lives were “getting really busy” and 44% are worried that they weren’t taking good enough care of themselves because of it. 22% percent of China’s total population believe in separating work and leisure.

Overseas Chinese Tourists

Travel Boom Reshapes Spending70% of China’s international travellers are from outside of the Tier 1 cities Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Between 2010 and 2013, recreation and dining were the fastest growing categories for Chinese tourists, with spending up around 65% annually for both.

Here Are Top 12 Most Interested Topics of Chinese Online TravellersMore than a third of travel searches on Baidu are for destination, followed by locations at 29%, transportation maps at 13% and travel guide at 10%. Special local products were number 7, price at number 9 and travel agencies number 12.

Could UK Do More to Attract Chinese Tourists?France has nearly ten times more Chinese tourists than the UK and numbers are growing faster – over 23% in 2012, and expected to continue at a similar rate over the next few years. One of the biggest barriers for Chinese travelling to the UK are the difficult visa processes.

Online: Internet, Mobile, Social Media & eCommerce

WeChat Grows to 396 Million Active UsersWeChat’s active monthly users grew 11.6% in Q1 2014 to 396 million. Not quite the 30.6% the quarter before, but as WeChat changed its measurement techniques at the end of Q3, the two figures can’t be compared like for like. The number of users paying for WeChat games doubled in Q1.

China Top B2C Websites Market Share in Q1 2014Tmall and accounted for around three quarters of B2C eCommerce in China.

Electronic Word-of-Mouth Significantly Influences UK and Chinese ConsumersUK respondents are more cynical toward a positive review that follows a negative review online than their Chinese counterparts. Neither Chinese nor UK respondents’ initial purchase intentions improve when first exposed to a positive comment, while they drop significantly when first exposed to a negative one.

Top Ways to Maximize Your Online Brand Presence in China80% of Weibo users followed an average of 18 company accounts, but less than 20% reported paying much attention to information from them.

Chinese Find Number URLs Easier Than LettersWebsite addresses with numbers that loosely represent Chinese spoken words are often easier for Chinese to remember than Roman characters.

Premium Food & Beverage

Food Categories Lead Slowdown in Retail GrowthBiscuits followed an overall trend of slowing growth in China, yet premium segments, including gift cookies and innovative bite-size snacks, still enjoyed double-digit growth. Chocolate was another fast grower. The anti-corruption crackdown has reduced the cost of eating out, reducing spending on cooking by 6.6%, although premium ingredients such as oyster sauce and olive oil showed strong growth.

High End Fashion

How Burberry Has Fared in its First Days on TmallNews of Burberry’s new Tmall store had 1,500 reposts on Weibo within the first few hours. In 18 days, 132 items had sold, although 32 were returned – more than three times the average rate for similar items on the platform. Feedback was 60% higher than average.

Recreation and Entertainment

China Has 100 Million Brain-Damaged Online Gamers: StudyAn estimated 100 million gamers in the mainland have lost self control and developed an irrational dependence on games. There is a particularly high concentration in the northeastern provinces.

Pollution and Environment

New Government Report Shows China’s Air Pollution Worries Going from Bad to WorseA new Government report has found the average PM2.5 reading across China’s 74 main cities is 72, with just three cities meeting Government standards of 35. The report was published at a similar time to the World Health Organization raising its estimates of China’s premature deaths caused by air pollution from 3.2 million to 7 million.

Kooky, Weird & Wonderful

Fake Government Busted in ChinaJust when you thought you’d heard it all in China, a fake Government was set up in Dengzhou, Henan, complete with an HQ, fake government seals and issue papers, and even advertisements for staff.

That’s The Skinny for the week!  We’d love to discuss how we could help with your marketing, online initiatives or research to take advantage of China’s opportunities.  Just email us at or call us at +86 21 3221 0273 so we can learn more about your objectives and let you know how we can help.

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