China: 120 million international travelers and just getting started

In 2016, more than 120 million Chinese traveled internationally. which is roughly the entire population of Japan (or Canada, Italy and Australia combined).

And only 10% of the country has a passport.

Imagine the travel industry when 25% of Chinese residents are traveling abroad. Where will they go? What will they want to see? To help shed light on these questions, Hotels.com recently interviewed 3,000 Chinese residents who traveled internationally over the past year.

It published these findings in the 2017 edition of the Chinese International Travel Monitor report. If you want to better understand Chinese travelers, where they’re headed and why, this report is a must read.

Here are a few items that jumped out at me:

  • China is already the largest source of international travelers for many countries.
  • Yet only 10% of the Chinese population had passports in 2016.
  • Shopping is no longer the prime attraction for a growing number of travelers
  • Nor is group travel, which is quickly losing favor among older travelers. Translation: Chinese travelers are tiring of those buses.
  • Independent travel is very popular among millennials.
  • And eco/green tours are becoming quite popular, particularly among older travelers. I’m very happy to see this.
  • The most welcoming countries to Chinese travelers, based on survey respondents, are Thailand, Japan, Australia. The USA made the top 5, though I suspect that ranking might be slipping based on current events.
  • The top landmark in the US:  Grand Canyon.
  • The top landmark in Australia: Great Barrier Reef.
  • And in France: the Louvre.
  • Chinese visitors spend more in the US than visitors from any other nation, approximately $7,200.

So what does this mean for hotels and other travel segments? It means you have be curious, nimble, and you had better support Chinese — both on your website, in your call center, via social media, and with in-house Mandarin speakers.  Survey respondents ranked poor hotel localization as a top 5 problem.

Chinese is also not as well supported across many of the global travel websites I reviewed two months ago. As shown here, based on our new report Destination: Marketing, Chinese is found on only 64% of the leading tourism websites.

Also, accepting Visa or Mastercard is not good enough. Most Chinese travelers prefer to pay with UnionPay.

Click here to download the report.

And if you’d like to know which tourism and destination websites are the most world-ready, check out our new report Destination: Marketing.

Finally, if you want insights into localizing your website for China, check out Think Outside the Country.

When looking at Asia, look beyond China, Japan and South Korea…

Historically, when a Western company planned its Asian expansion strategy, it primarily focused on three markets (or fewer):  China, Japan and South Korea.

Today, any company with eyes on Asian expansion should not limit itself to these three markets. There are many opportunities in the emerging ASEAN countries.

ASEAN stands for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and it represents 10 member states that reflect a diverse range of fast-growing and multilingual markets. The member states are illustrated by country codes below. I’ve included full list of country names at the end of this post; see if you can guess them by country code alone…

 

Nielsen recently published a report, Rethinking ASEAN, noting:

…that ASEAN’s middleweight regions with population between 500,000 to five million are the region’s next big bet for growth, debunking the commonly held belief that mega-cities such as Jakarta, Manila and Bangkok are the region’s sole engine for growth.

I’m excerpting an interesting graphic they produced that illustrates a few key data points, namely that smaller markets (and regions within these markets) are experiencing faster rates of growth than we’re seeing in much larger markets. In other words, it’s not a bad idea to look beyond the largest markets (and cities) when planning your Asian expansion strategy.

From a web localization perspective, I’ve seen significant investments in a number of these countries over the past few years. According to the 2017 Web Globalization Report Card, here are three emerging Asian languages among the leading global brands. Thai is now seen on more than half of all leading global brand websites.

These is still plenty of room for growth. Languages such as Malaysian and Filipino are still not supported by most global companies. But it’s safe to say that this will change in the years ahead.

And now let’s see how you did on aligning country codes with country names…

 

ASEAN  members:

  • .BN: Brunei Darussalam
  • .KH: Cambodia
  • .ID: Indonesia
  • .LA: Laos
  • .MY: Malaysia
  • .MM: Myanmar
  • .PH: Philippines
  • .SG: Singapore
  • .TH: Thailand
  • .VN: Viet Nam