Q: How many Chinese tourists does it take to make a travel business viable?

Mike Hayes, 02 Apr 2013 14:52


A: We’re about to find out

Although everyone knows Chinese tourists are going to become a major aspect of international tourism in the coming years, I wonder how many of us have done more than acknowledge the fact, log it in our memory banks, wonder momentarily what that might mean for our businesses in the future… then get on with our daily routine.

One or two of us may also be vaguely thinking ‘I should probably do something proactive’…‘get on top of this thing’…‘gear up for a new market’…

If you work within a large organisation, someone will almost certainly get themselves a nice job (if they haven’t already done so), writing reports suggesting marketing strategies and brand awareness campaigns…

Smaller outfits will need to work harder, with someone taking on the extra responsibility of ensuring the company is not left behind when the mindblowing numbers we’ve all been reading about turn into real people.

It’s probably worth having a quick recap on those numbers…

In 2002, Chinese outbound tourism stood at 16.6 milion.
By 2011, the number had reached more than 70 million.
If UNWTO estimates are to be believed, by 2020, there will be 200 million Chinese outbound tourists per year.

Yet, regardless of these stupefyingly large numbers, not everyone will benefit.

It’s incredible to think that this vast new market could literally pass us by if we don’t get ourselves in front of them in the right way.

The MENA region is doubtless going to be attractive to the new Chinese Middle Class, but having large numbers of extra tourists arriving is only half the battle; there is no divine right to make money from Chinese tourism.

Without having Mandarin-speaking staff on board, for example, it is unlikely you will make inroads.

But that’s just for starters… a strategy is required, based on a thorough understanding of Chinese likes and dislikes, in terms of food, service standards, preferred décor, facilities and methods of communication.

Many nations – including plenty in the Far East, who are already ahead of the game in terms of Chinese awareness – are putting huge budgets behind their tourism industry, with the capture of the Chinese market in mind.

It may be that, by 2020, those 20 million tourists will be spread pretty thinly across the globe; we’ll need to be on the radar of this incredibly important segment long before that date.

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