China has overtaken Germany and the USA as the world’s biggest spenders on travel, with Chinese travelers spending US$102 billion on international travel in 2012, an increase of over 40% on 2011.
The second annual Chinese International Travel Monitor released today reveals significant insights into the changing behaviours of Chinese travelers and how the global hotel industry is adapting.
Surveying more than 3,000 Chinese international travelers and more than 1,500 hoteliers around the world, the report found 75 percent of hoteliers globally say Chinese travelers now account for up to five percent of their business and 45 percent say they have experienced an increase in Chinese guests over last year, with the greatest increases coming in APAC (61 percent). Hoteliers see China as a positive growth market over the next three years with one in 10 expecting to see an increase of more than 50 percent and almost half (47 percent) anticipating an 11-50 percent rise.
According to the report the majority of overseas Chinese travel (96 percent) has been for leisure purposes, while just over half (52 percent) have also visited other countries for business or education.
Top 10 destinations interested in traveling to in next 12 months %
New Zealand 27%
Hong Kong 21%
In a growing trend, nearly two thirds (62 percent) of Chinese travelers say they prefer to travel independently and not as part of a group. This development has been confirmed by the hoteliers surveyed, who say 70 percent of Chinese guests now travel independently, compared with a much more even split in 2012.
Other changes in behaviour noted by Singapore hoteliers included Chinese travelers spending more money, increasingly speaking more English and over all being less sensitive to price.
Johan Svanstrom, Managing Director of Hotels.com Asia Pacific, said, “The 2013 Chinese International Travel Monitor (CITM) shows the move to independent travel identified in the CITM last year is now preferred by the majority of Chinese travelers. While in-roads have been made in this area, governments will have to take this into account when organising their visa application infrastructure and processes.”
In addition, the CITM highlights areas for continued improvement for accommodation providers. The ability to accept Chinese payment methods is seen as the single most important offering from hotels and over a quarter (26 percent) of Chinese travelers feel this is a key area for improvement.
Three quarters (75 percent) of Chinese travelers say hoteliers need to improve the provision of translated items, such as welcome literature, websites, TV programs and newspapers, while almost half (42 percent) say that they would like more Mandarin speaking staff in hotels.
Highlighting a disconnect between the desires of Chinese travelers and provisions made by hoteliers, a quarter (25 percent) of hoteliers say they offer cultural awareness training to staff but only one in ten (11 percent) offer welcome materials in Mandarin. Additionally, globally, just over half (56 percent) of hotels have invested less than $10,000 in developing programmes and products specifically catering to Chinese guests over the past 12 months.
When it comes to researching and booking travel, personal recommendation plays an increasingly vital role, with almost a third (30 percent) of Chinese travelers saying they rely on advice from family and friends, followed by online travel booking and review sites.
Pierre Gervois, CEO & Publisher of China Elite Focus, said “Hoteliers realize now that it’s very important to advertise in specialized travel magazines, segmented by country (for example Luxury Hotels of America), or by activity (for example VIP Golf USA)”.
“The new generation of Chinese travelers trust these specialized travel magazines in Chinese language much more that a recommendation made by a travel agent or a generalist travel website. Even if Chinese guests will do the booking through booking engines, such as CTRIP, they will make their choice of hotel by reading specialized magazines and social media networks, and then, go to a booking engine.”, Mr Gervois added.
More than a quarter of Chinese travelers (27 percent) use social media to help them make decisions on holiday destinations, with this figure rising to 33 per cent among younger travelers under 35.
These insights highlight the need for hoteliers to adapt their marketing strategies, with a particular focus on online and social media channels, to attract Chinese travelers. While the CITM shows hoteliers are making positive steps towards catering to an increasingly mobile and savvy Chinese travel market, it also shows the need for the global hotel industry to adapt facilities and services to more extensively cater to the world’s largest market of travelers.
In addition, programmes being implemented by many governments and tourism authorities to attract and facilitate for Chinese travelers are a positive step in the right direction, but the pace of growth in the volume of Chinese travelers appears to be outstripping the pace of change in the hotel industry.