With the increase of disposable income and longer holiday periods, Chinese tourists are looking for more ways to spend their vacation time. To better attract these potential tourists, companies must meet them where they are – the Internet. In 2013, the number of Internet users jumped 2.3% from 618 to 623 million users. Of that 623 million, 83% or 527 million were online via mobile devices.
For most Chinese travelers, their search for travel destinations begins online. Therefore, one of the first ways to begin attracting Chinese tourists is by launching a website written in Mandarin and hosted in China. Because Baidu holds 62% of the search engine market share in China, having a website that is compliant with Baidu’s standards can help enhance a company’s visibility in the Chinese market. To capture those Internet users on the go, it is also helpful to provide a mobile-friendly website.
Chinese tourists trust and use their network as a resource. Knowing how to effectively use popular Chinese social media sites such as Weibo and WeChat can further assist with connecting with potential tourists. However, it is important to understand how to appropriately use each platform. What is great about both sites is that they can reach the intended audience in different ways.
With 66.6 million daily active users, Weibo serves as a micro blog that presents material and initiates discussion. Weibo is China’s version of a Facebook and Twitter hybrid. Similar to Facebook and Twitter, companies can launch marketing campaigns on Weibo. While Western social media sites offer traditional advertisements such as promoted posts or side column ads, advertising on Weibo is reliant on strong partnerships with KOLs, key opinion leaders, and several other avenues. KOLs have a large following and because of their fame, are influential over the general public. Because users are more likely to purchase products that are recommended by idolized KOLs, several multinational companies have jumped on the Weibo bandwagon as a way to promote their own business and products.
Tourism New Zealand is one of the frontrunners in strategically utilizing this platform. Tourism New Zealand launched a campaign called ‘Experience South Island’s Excellent Activities FOR FREE’ in July 2013, which offered product giveaways to various New Zealand excursions in order to target free and independent travelers. Weibo users simply had to retweet the post offering the free giveaway to be entered into the drawing for vouchers. This campaign received 1,108 retweets and 186 comments.
Tourism New Zealand also saw the importance in partnering with a KOL and appointed Yao Chen, a Chinese film and television star, to be its Tourism New Zealand Brand Ambassador. Yao Chen has more than 71 million followers on Weibo and was ranked as one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2014. During the time of her wedding, Yao Chen posted photos of her stay in New Zealand to her Weibo account leading to comments and discussion of New Zealand as must-go holiday destination.Millions of posts and articles related to her wedding circulated the web. People gained interest in New Zealand as either a vacation or wedding destination. Tourism New Zealand directed this interest to a landing page where people could find out more information about Yao Chen’s wedding, New Zealand attractions, and vacation deals. Following her nuptial, more than 226,000 Chinese tourists visited New Zealand.
With 396 million monthly active users, WeChat is a social messaging application that facilitates one-on-one relationships. While WeChat may have been created to connect friends, it now allows brands to connect with consumers. Businesses are getting creative with WeChat and are developing games, offering coupons, and distilling information on their official corporate WeChat page to encourage users to interact with their brand. To gain fans, a company can post its WeChat QR code for people to scan. Adding an incentive to scan can increase the number of followers and boost the brand’s appeal. One method of advertising that WeChat allows is the opportunity for businesses to send one message per day to their followers. These messages can include coupons, promotions, or other various marketing activities.
During London Fashion Week 2014, Burberry launched a WeChat campaign to connect with its international fans. Fans were able to text the brand to receive a virtual personalized piece from the Burberry A/W 2014 runway collection. Burberry also sent texts to fans, which allowed them to text back to unlock runway looks, receive audio descriptions of the pieces, and access behind the scene photos and videos. Burberry’s goal was to give their fans a front row seat to the show.
Chinese social media provides an exciting opportunity to connect with tourists across several captivating mediums. Learning how to effectively utilize these platforms can encourage tourism and boost business. Ignoring these channels is a surefire way to succumb to competitors and get lost in an already saturated market.