Despite the current political situation in the UK, tourism is one of the strongest sectors of the UK’s economy. Of course, we can’t discuss tourism without talking about Chinese tourists …
The Chinese Tourism market in the UK
With over 120 million Chinese tourists traveling abroad, the Chinese outbound market is the biggest in the world. Not only are they numerous, they are also high spenders. The Chinese tourism market alone is worth more than US$60m with each Chinese traveller spend on average US$4,160 on one trip.
What about Chinese visitors in the UK? Well, according to VisitBritain, the national organization in charge of promoting the UK abroad (the official tourism organization), the number of Chinese visitors going to the UK skyrocketed by almost 40% during the first three-quarters of 2015. The volume of Chinese tourists totalled 200,000 at the end of last year. In terms of spending, Chinese visitors spent a total of US$580m last year accounting for a growth of 4% compared to 2014. Finally, China represents one-fourth of the total tourist spending in the UK!
Forecasts are pretty optimist for the UK. VisitBritain is expecting Chinese visitors to spend double the current amount by 2020 and reach the £1billion mark. The UK is gaining popularity among Chinese tourists but it isn’t without effort. Chinese visitors have to face issues such as a different currency from most of the other European countries, visa requirements and so on. With the UK leaving the European Union the pound sterling has decreased slightly in value. This may help in boosting export as well as inbound tourism. However, most Chinese tourists will naturally go to the capital, London. Some other big cities in the UK can and want to benefit from this flow of Chinese tourists who love to spend.
Greater Manchester, the first direct flight from China
Greater Manchester wants to do just that. Chinese visitors flying from Beijing can now enjoy a new flight offered by Hainan Airlines ( A Chinese local airline) travelling directly to Manchester. The number of flights is not yet huge but this route will be operational four times a week and reflects a growing demand for UK travel outside of London.
According to official UK tourism data, this new flight between Beijing and Manchester will allow the city to attract over 20,000 Chinese visitors traveling for either business or leisure every year. This is expected to bring generate a revenue of £250m for the UK economy by 2026.
Why do Chinese tourists want to go to Manchester instead of London for example? They are mainly drawn by the famous football teams who have attracted millions of supporters in China, the prestigious universities, and it’s shopping experience.
In order to capitalize the arrival of Chinese tourists to Manchester, Visit Britain decided to create a specific training program for any tourism figures and any businesses that will be interacting with Chinese visitors (shopping stores, service providers and so on). This is called the ‘China Welcome Training’ and is part of the Great China Welcome Charter Mark certified by the COTRI (China Outbound Tourism Research Institute). It will be run and delivered by the reputable Capela Training.
This training will help businesses learn more about the Chinese culture, market, needs, customs, traditions, behavior as well as digital marketing practices.
For the tourism director of Marketing Manchester; “China is a rich and complex country and this training will give tourism organizations an insight into how to appeal to tourists and business travelers. I encourage as many organizations as possible to sign up so we can make Manchester the most China-friendly city in the UK.”
Talking about digital marketing, Manchester could attract even more Chinese tourists if it focuses more on digital marketing just like Visit Britain did for the whole national tourism strategy to reach the Chinese market. From social media to using opinion leaders, going digital in China is the way to go and Visit Britain understood this well.
Social media and opinion leaders
With over 660 million Chinese internet users, China is one of the biggest online communities. It is estimated that 90% of Chinese netizens use their mobile phone to access the Internet and own at least one account on a social media platform. The main Chinese social media platforms are WeiBo, WeChat, QQ and Ren Ren. WeChat is an instant messaging mobile app developed by Tencent (Creator of QQ). It has more than 690 million active users worldwide and China is the main market. WeiBo, with more than 222 million active users is a Twitter-like platform, the name literally translates as micro-blogging.
New Zealand partnered with a famous Chinese artist named Huang Lei. He is an actor, teacher, producer and screenwriter and has more than 40 million followers on Weibo. The collaboration with New Zealand started with the TV show called: “Dad, Where are we going” in its second season. Several places in New Zealand were pictured in several episodes giving more visibility to the country. The last time he went to NZ was in 2015 with his wife and 2 daughters. They were sponsored by Tourism New Zealand and other media platforms. Their trip draws a lot of attention on Chinese social media and generated more than US$27 million of equivalent advertising material as well as over 1,600 publications on various media platforms.
Manchester could also use the Visit Britain strategy on WeChat and Weibo by engaging with their followers. Visit Britain launched a marketing campaign on both platforms asking their fans to choose a Chinese name for the main attractions in London. This worked quite well and they now have about 620,000 followers on Weibo.
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— Olivier VEROT (@Olivierverot) 29 june 2016