CHINA Market & Trade Profile -

CHINA Market & Trade Profile -

10) Reaching Chinese Consumers

Deciding, planning & booking patterns

Decision making / destination progression

Recent qualitative research found that key sources of information when

planning international travel are word of mouth, the Internet (used at the

active search phase with “CTRIP” being one of the most successful

online travel companies) and TV (NTO advertising, travel programmes,

general programming, e.g. Korean soap operas).

Chinese consumers are bombarded with messages about travel from

print newspapers (with enormous travel sections), outdoor media (e.g.

moving LCD posters, subway / elevator ads) and ads in the windows of

travel agents.

Travel exposure also acts as a springboard to other destinations:

“I saw an Egyptian display in a museum in France – I’d like to go

to Egypt”.

Research suggests that there is a leisure travel progression through

destinations (from domestic, through Hong Kong / Macau to Short Haul,

Mid Haul, Long Haul) – largely linked to cost, distance and crucially

perceived accessibility. It is no co-incidence that the USA and non-

Schengen destinations (like the UK) appear at the very end of the

progression. We know from discussion on visas that the more successful

applications you have had will influence future consideration – and this

perpetuates the need to achieve “easier” visas first.

Group tours / reliance on travel trade

Chinese consumers are required to book through a licensed agent for

ADS leisure travel. Agents are the key to the ADS visa issuance process.

Government delegations and technical visits are not required to book

through a CNTA approved agent.

Most Chinese tourists book their holiday through an agent and travel by

tour groups, especially when travelling to Europe for the first time. Prior

to ADS, only those who are travelling to Britain for study, business and

VFR purposes (with a letter of invitation) could apply for a visa

individually. ADS group visas must be bought via a travel agent.

Group tours and agents are popular with travellers because they make

travel stress free and convenient and offer some element of cocooning

for new and difficult destinations (especially with language barriers).

Recent qualitative research (September 2005) suggests that consumers

like to book through larger, better known operators (“famous ones”) as

they are considered more reliable.

Indications are that the Chinese nationals who have more travel

experience and no language barrier would prefer to travel by themselves

after booking accommodation and air tickets. The number of bookings

online for domestic travel is increasing, but not so much for international

travel as yet. Chinese consumers require information in the Chinese

language (simplified version)

Travel Trade Knowledge of Britain

Chinese travel trade knowledge on Britain is limited. UK packages sold

in China are either London/Britain being a part (1-2 days) of a multi

European destination tour or a weeklong Britain tour visiting landmark

attractions (very often only photo stops outside). The experience in

Britain usually is just a characterless combination of photo stops and

shopping – unimaginative and standardised. Tourists are unable to

appreciate Britain fully.

However there are indications that consumers themselves perpetuate

the situation by wanting to see as much as possible in as short amount of

time as possible. In recent focus groups, although they expressed an

interest in relaxing and savouring cultural experiences, when asked to

design ideal itineraries these were invariably exhausting!

“A trip to Britain will be rushed and tiring but valuable”.

In recent qualitative research with Chinese UK-ADS accredited agents,

we found that they see Britain as somewhat different from continental

Europe – which on one hand is positive in that it is a differentiator, on

the other it relegates Britain as a second string choice for those wanting

to savour “the essence of Europe” in one trip.

As with consumers, the trade have a lack of general knowledge about

Britain and what knowledge there is – is somewhat dated (foggy

London, bowler-hatted gentlemen).

Britain also has some catching up to do with other European countries in

terms of the number of packages in which it features. Currently

Liechtenstein is included in more packages, and for every tour that

includes Britain, – four include France.


Consumers are price conscious and competitive pricing is a feature in

the market. Differences in available packages tend to be on price rather

than what the package includes. Some agents have started to launch

high-end programs.

Media Habits

Travel information is becoming increasingly available through a variety of

media: the Internet, travel magazines, books and television programmes.

VisitBritain’s Online Best Prospects research (2005) found that Chinese

prospects did the following at some point on a DAILY basis:

When we asked them to choose the most frequently accessed media

Read local newspaper 79%

Access national websites 76%

Watch local TV channels 72%

Watch national TV channels 71%

Watch cable / satellite channels 65%

Access international websites 65%

Read national newspaper 53%

Listen to national radio 46%

Listen to local radio 44%

from the list, the top 3 were: international and national websites, and

cable / satellite channels – indicating a very outward focussed

consumption pattern.

Access international websites 33%

Access national websites 26%

Watch cable / satellite channels 10%

Read national newspaper 9%

Watch local TV channels 9%

Watch national TV channels 7%

Read local newspaper 5%

Press Trips

VisitBritain hosts press trips each year, escorting selected journalists on

each trip. Hosting possibilities are available and if you are interested in

becoming involved, then please contact our Press and PR department.

VisitBritain also hosts many individual press visits over the course of the

year, aiding journalists from publications with over 100,000 circulation

and those that have definitive assignments.

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