Key tips for accessing the Chinese market

Keen for a slice of the Chinese tourism market?  Go To Places CEO Deirdre Wells travelled to China last month to help promote Kent tourism product and shares some valuable insights from the trip.

If you work in the UK’s inbound tourism industry, you won’t have failed to notice that Chinese outbound tourism is a vast, lucrative market with huge potential for growth.

Over the last few years, I have attended many seminars and conferences where the potential of Chinese visitation has been discussed and advice provided as to how to best target and access this market. So I was delighted that last month, I finally got to put this knowledge into practice.  Go To Places is responsible for managing Visit Kent and so it was in this capacity that I was invited by the University of Kent (along with other local tourism organisations) to join their annual Kent Global Showcase to China last month.   

And what an amazing experience it was!

First stop was Beijing (followed by Shanghai) where we heard from former Chinese ambassador to the UK and former alumni of the University of Kent - Madam Fu Ying about the importance of cultural and educational links between China and the UK.  It is interesting to note that 19% of all inward investors first engaged with the destination through tourism.   The visitor economy’s capacity to support soft power and new trade links is huge – and more important than ever for our post-Brexit economy.

Encouraging international students to study in the UK has many benefits for our tourism industry not least because they share their positive experiences and memories on return to their home country but also because of visiting friends and family who generate substantial revenues for our economy every year.

There are over 100,000 students from China currently studying at UK universities and last year visiting friends and family spent an estimated £43 million.  Understandably, there is fierce, global competition for this highly lucrative market.  One way in which universities can differentiate themselves from their competitors is through the promotion of their destination. Being excited about where you will live is as important to many students as what they will study.  Kent has a unique opportunity to provide not only a beautiful and fun backdrop to academic study but one which is directly relevant to many key subjects.   For example, history students can visit Dover Castle, Leeds Castle and Hever Castle, as well as visiting the seat of the Reformation at Canterbury Cathedral.   Politics students can visit Churchill’s family home at Chartwell and those studying natural science can visit Darwin’s house in Downe.   

The Chinese market is hugely exciting, but can be daunting for businesses new to this market.   Key tips for success which we identified during our trip include:

  • Do collaborate with other tourism businesses and organisations in your destination when marketing to China
  • Do use highly visual presentations, promotional and marketing materials that feature our gardens, our history (‘the ‘romance’ of our castles is a theme that came up repeatedly), shopping and picturesque landscapes.
  • Don’t assume geographical knowledge of the UK
  • Do offer at least 4* hotels with a minimum of 10-20 rooms (most groups are between 10 – 20 people) and hotels should have the ability to turn rooms into twin rooms
  • Coaches are still predominantly used so parking is critical
  • The Chinese love their mobile phones even more than we do! WeChat and Weibo are the channels of choice (Facebook, Google, Twitter and Instagram are banned in China).
  • Although they love our afternoon teas, Chinese visitors are still a little wary of European food so destinations will need to ensure access to good Chinese food

If you would like to collaborate with any of our destinations on a showcase to China or to find out more about how we could help your tourism business or organisation, please email enquiries@gotoplaces.co.uk