China Skinny attended the debut of ITB China, the latest B2B trade show specifically for the Chinese Travel Market. Growing on the success of the travel industry’s largest trade show ITB Berlin as well as ITB Singapore, ITB China looked to service growing demand for the world’s most important tourism market with its inaugural year in Shanghai. Below are our takeaways among the Chinese travel market.
With the inaugural year celebrating Europe as the first partner destination of ITB China, European presence at the event was strong. Approximately 40% of the exhibitors were from Europe, 10% from the Middle East and 10% from the Americas. Germany, Austria, Portugal, Turkey and Ukraine were among participants that were not only marketing their country but also the unique regions within each. This reflects the move towards Chinese travellers going further afield than the regular hot spots. These efforts are likely to support the EU-China Tourism Year in 2018, which is expected to bring more focus and Chinese visitors to various destinations throughout Europe.
Finland made a good showing, with the Finnish participants celebrating 100 years of independence. Attendees were suggested to “Party like a Finn” at the evening affair organized by Visit Finland, Finavia, and Finnair. And no Finnish party is complete without Old St. Nick in the house which provided the all important opportunity for attendees to take selfies and spread the word on China’s social networks.
Europe wasn’t the only locale making their destinations known. The presence among Middle Eastern countries reflects the efforts by specific countries and the growing interest of the destination among Chinese tourists. In 2016 Abu Dhabi received over 226,000 Chinese travellers and have plans to attract 600,000 by 2021, a 265% increase. Dubai received 83% more Chinese tourists in 2016 compared to 2015 as they started allowing visa on arrival for Chinese tourists in late 2016.
The Americas presence was smaller than expected, but had reps from places such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Georgia, Bolivia, the Dominican Republic and Argentina present. The small presence among U.S. destinations was surprising as the U.S. saw a record number of 2.6 million Chinese visitors in 2015 according to China’s National Tourism Administration.
Along with Las Vegas and L.A., a surprising discovery was the Myrtle Beach contingent, who is looking to attract and accommodate Chinese travellers with tailored itineraries for both FITs and groups.
A notable aspect was the increased efforts to attract and engage buyers and attendees at the show. Typically trade fairs exhibitors pay a few bucks to minions to translate materials and represent the brand to Chinese speakers. These representatives typically lack the knowledge and skills to fully display a company’s offering. In the past it would be common to approach an exhibitor and receive little more than a name card and brochure. This did happen but not as often. Exhibitors at ITB China were more engaged and interactive, with several using VR in their displays. Notably WeChat was seamlessly incorporated into a handful of brands’ presence with lucky draws and free picture printing. This can be a highly effective engagement strategy, as 83% of WeChat users use the app for work.
It is great to see how destinations are positioning themselves for the Chinese travel market and their initiatives to attract the number of Chinese tourists. Chinese travellers have more options than ever with many new flight connections launched monthly and over 60 regions and countries offering visa-free travel for Chinese. Whilst many travellers are still relatively unsophisticated they are increasingly going further, taking more trips and exhibiting much more sophisticated traits. Like much else, the Chinese travel market is competitive and only going to get more so. With the right branding and approach destinations big and small can participate. Get in touch if China Skinny can assist you in understanding and reaching Chinese travellers.