To best tap the potential of the Chinese market you need to understand its calendar was the advice from travel analyst ForwardKeys in a session at WTM today.
The dates of key Chinese festivals move around, making it more difficult to track the peak times when travellers will use public holidays in combination with annual leave to maximise their time away.
“Understanding the Chinese travel calendar is key for anticipating Chinese visitors and making sure you have the right people there to welcome them,” said FowardKeys’ vice president of Insights Olivier Ponti.
Tourism years – when the Chinese government works with that of another destination to create a mutually beneficial boost in tourism, are another unique success factor he highlighted.
Access is, of course, also vital in wooing Chinese visitors. Recent successes include Ireland, where gaining a direct flight has seen it swiftly become a standalone destination rather than an add-on to a UK trip, and Serbia where a visa waiver scheme has prompted a 173% increase in Chinese visitors.
The contrasts in what is important to those Chinese travellers compared to their western counterparts when it comes to luxury travel were discussed this afternoon in a session hosted by IE Madrid.
Chinese luxury travel expert Erica Giopp explained that a good experience is broadly the same for the clients she guides from the UK, US and China, but, she added: “The difference is how we present it to our customers. When I suggest, for instance people go horseriding, westerners want to connect with the feeling – that they will relax. The Chinese will want details of when, how and the procedure…. the Chinese want to use the time that they have as much as possible.”
She also explained how in the West, Western travellers will pick up on local moods and inferences even when there is a language barrier. Guides need to work harder to interpret such situations to their Chinese groups so their role is more integral.
Hedera director Ivy Aiwei Jenkins meanwhile commented that Western luxury travellers were more used to sharing personal preferences in advance of travel. The Chinese market will tend to answer such questions the day before arrival, making forward planning of special touches more difficult.
In a session on the ‘Secrets of India’ meanwhile, a panel agreed that the importance of conveying the diversity of the country’s tourism offering was sometimes overlooked.
“India is not one destination. It’s a combination of many, many destinations, themes and activities… it’s a case of understanding the products not product and using local knowledge,” said Prateek Hira, managing director of Tornos Travels. He advised Indian travel companies creating itineraries to look at what is not easily replicated elsewhere.
“We are worried about repeat travellers but we should also be worried about repeat destinations,” he added.
“I’m not against the Golden Triangle but people should have things there to rediscover… that’s why, for instance, we come back to London time and time again.”
Rajeev Kohli, joint managing director of Creative Travel stressed the importance of tapping into niches. “You can buy the Golden Triangle experience in Tesco but you could do an itinerary on dance, on music, on religion in the same three cities…” he said.