As one of the fastest-growing countries in the world, China is in constant evolution in terms of tourism. Chinese people now have higher incomes and more days off than before which allows them to travel even more. In fact, the hotel industry in China has grown steadily in size and in revenue over the past decade with the total number of hotel accommodations surpassing 300 000 in China. This industry offers a wide variety of accommodation options spanning from budget inns to luxury resorts. In 2019, China recorded more than 10 000 star-rated hotels, most of them located in tourist cities and holiday destinations. However, as with every single aspect of life in China, smartphones are at the core of Chinese lives. In fact, more than 90% of them are booking their hotel online. This is why we are going to see what the hotel industry is like in China and we will give you some tips in order to establish your online platform for booking hotels in China.
- 1 The Hotel Industry in China
- 2 Online booking companies
- 3 Promoting your Hotel to Chinese Travelers
- 4 Our services for hotels and tourism professionals
The Hotel Industry in China
In recent years, online booking for hotels has become a very lucrative business in China. Many companies saw the potential of this industry and were able to seize this opportunity in order to attract not only the younger generation but also the older ones. Booking a hotel in China is not only easy but it is also more convenient and faster than before.
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Online Hotel Booking: A Very Lucrative Market
The hotel industry in China has developed rapidly from 2004 to 2019, driven by greater numbers of domestic and international tourists, increasing living standards, and per capita spending for tourism. Higher room prices, greater demand for services and quality, and industry deregulation have also supported revenue growth over the period. The 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2010 Shanghai World Expo boosted the industry’s development by spurring significant investment in fixed assets and network expansion. Then, the use of the internet and smartphones have greatly contributed to online hotel booking websites.
In 2019, the transaction value of China’s online hotel booking market reached 195.25 billion yuan, up from around 176.5 billion yuan in the previous year. About 939 million hotel room nights were estimated to be booked online that year.
The Chinese Rating System for Hotels
From small, simple hotels (1-star) to giant luxurious hotels (5-star), the size, quality, and brands of hotels in China are as variable as the customer’s demand. With such a variety of hotels, star ratings give us an idea of what to expect. In fact, what often gets by as a five-star hotel in China would rarely rate as a four-star anywhere else in the world.
However, standards cannot be judged precisely from star ratings, as they approach and manner of rating in China and that in the West might not be the same. All around the world hotels are rated from one to five stars by official national and international bodies, but there are various systems, like the HOTREC star system in Europe. In China, hotels are officially rated by the Chinese National Tourism Association (CNTA). You can see the CNTA star ratings on some websites like hotels.com for example.
Lastly, even if a hotel in China would usually not have the same facilities, services, or specification as an identically rated hotel in the US, with tourism being one of the fastest-growing industries in China, hotels are fast improving their facilities to Western standards, especially in the major cities.
The Hotel Industry During the Covid-19 Pandemic
The hotel industry has been one of the most strongly affected industries as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many small hotels have been struggling to remain viable during this period of economic uncertainty. However, during the Covid-19 lockdown, Chinese people were able to save money. After the lockdown, people started to go back to a “normal” life again and wanted to travel after these long months of restrictions. Indeed, as they were only able to travel inside China, it allowed the Chinese hotel industry to gain more Chinese tourists instead of foreign tourists. And, as you probably already know, people in China are using their smartphones for everything, from delivering food to booking a hotel. So, online booking websites have seen a rising demand during these last few months.
Online booking companies
A few online booking companies have emerged in China, distinguishing themselves among thousands of websites. Their success was possible because of Chinese society’s digitalization. Chinese are using their phone for everything, and they have access to millions of hotels on the internet, which is cheaper and more convenient for them.
In the second half of 2019, more than 50% of the online hotel bookings were made through Meituan in China. Following Meituan, the Chinese online travel agency Trip.com held more than 1/4 of the online hotel booking market based on the number of bookings.
Chinese Online Booking Companies
The competition is fierce between online booking companies as more and more companies adopt the platform model, where users are able to access a wide range of services and products on just one site or app. Meituan, for example, offers everything from food delivery, to group-buying deals and movie tickets, on top of its hotel-booking platform – all of which can be accessed via its mobile app or on its mini-app in Tencent’s WeChat.
- Meituan (美团)
Meituan is not only famous for its food delivery, but it is also the most popular online hotel booking platform in China. However, Meituan is different from Ctrip as it is more popular among smaller cities, and offers cheaper hotel rooms, whereas Ctrip tends to attract more affluent consumers from big cities like Beijing and Shanghai with its inventory of high-end hotels around the country and internationally.
- Ctrip (携程)
One of the most popular online bookings for hotels in China is Ctrip. Ctrip is a comprehensive travel website providing hotels and flight booking in China. You can also find some tour packages booking and more travel services for China. It has been a large company since its establishment in 1999. You can book most hotels in Chinese cities on this website. Its strategy is to focus entirely on travel. The company already provides an array of services required for a holiday – from transport, such as flight and high-speed train tickets, to hotel bookings, package tours, and attraction tickets. Users can also book car rentals or an airport transfer service on the site.
- eLong.com (艺龙)
Elong is a professional website for booking hotels and flights in China. You can find thousands of hotels on this website from the most luxurious hotels to the cheapest budget hotels. Elong has become one of the biggest hotel booking providers in China. There are many discounts on hotels on this website. They also have some hotels abroad for Chinese people who want to go abroad.
- Qunar (去哪儿)
Qunar can be considered as the most popular travel website for those who want to book flights and hotels with a discount price. This website provides the lowest price hotels compared to other websites.
Foreign Online Booking Companies
Trip.com is in fact the international booking site of Ctrip (see previous part). Compared to the other analyzed hotel booking websites, Trip.com seems to clearly have the most hotels in their Chinese portfolio which is not really surprising since China is the homeland of Trip.com. You have to take into account that Trip.com includes the hotel reviews of Ctrip. Therefore it’s obvious that Trip.com outranks the other booking websites when comparing the number of reviews.
Since acquired by Booking Holdings more than 10 years ago, Agoda, one of Asia’s best online travel platforms, has been pursuing a stronger position in Asia Pacific and China. It already has a strong brand awareness in Asia Pacific markets like Singapore and Thailand, but the company’s presence in China, the world’s biggest outbound tourism source market, remains relatively small. Agoda is in fact an online travel agency and metasearch engine for hotels, vacation rentals, flights, and airport transfer. While Trip.com Group stays close with Booking.com as a distribution partner, Agoda works with Meituan and Fliggy.
Headquartered in Amsterdam, Booking.com is a Dutch online travel agency for lodging reservations and a subsidiary of Booking Holdings.
Expedia is an online travel agency owned by Expedia Group, an American online travel shopping company based in Seattle. The website and mobile app can be used to book airline tickets, hotel reservations, car rentals, cruise ships, and vacation packages.
Promoting your Hotel to Chinese Travelers
Having a Chinese Website
As you probably already know, having a Chinese website is essential for your business in China. In China, the majority of the population is not fluent in English so if you don’t have a Chinese website, it will be impossible to attract Chinese tourists. On your website, you will be able to display your services and present your company, but also to promote some hotels by giving a discount for example.
Considered as the “Chinese Google”, Baidu is the most popular Chinese Search Engine and stands as the 5th most consulted website in the world. As of 2021, it represents 71.9% of the Chinese market share. In comparison, only 4% of internet researches is done with Google in China. So, to put it simply, Baidu is a step you can’t skip in China if you want to promote your hotel or online booking website.
- Traffic Acquisition SEO & SEM
If you want to use Baidu, the best solution is to have your website hosted in China, for faster loading. It is crucial to have visitors on your website to arouse their interest, and it must attract visitors by SEM (pay per click, banners …) or SEO, talk about your website on forums.
Social Media: A New Way of Advertising
With the rising use of social media in China, it is undeniable that you will have to use these platforms if you want to boost your reputation. However, if you’re not familiar with these apps, you can contact us for more information and tips.
Launched by Sina Corporation in August 2009, Weibo is one of the biggest social media platforms in China. This platform has been a huge financial success, with surging stocks, lucrative advertising sales, and high revenue and total earnings per quarter. Boasting over 600 million users with 224 million daily users, it would be considered as offensive to merely label Weibo as the ‘Twitter of China’ (although the name literally means Micro Blog). In fact, this innovative platform is tailoring itself to E-Commerce marketing options more effective than the bulk of its competitors. By using Weibo, you will be able to advertise your company and give and share content with your consumers.
As the first Social Media in China, Wechat allows you to open an official account and publish news, like a Blog or newsletters. As experts in this field, we can help you to create an official Wechat account and explain how to manage it.
In order to do business in China and promote your brand, you will need to have an official account and a WeChat H5 brochure. Then you should create content on Wechat and share it in groups.
The best tools on Wechat
- You will be able to create a brochure presenting your company
- Spread marketing content
- Send vouchers / discounts to your followers
- Work on your Community Management
- Use Wechat mini-programs
As one of the most popular short-video apps in China, Douyin is expected to reach 555 million daily active users in 2023. Both Douyin and TikTok are owned by Bytedance, a Chinese tech company. Douyin literally means “vibrant music” and we can say that its name perfectly matches the short-form videos (less than 60s) allowing users to combine it with dynamic background music and creative filters. This short-video content format immediately distinguishes Douyin from traditional Chinese social media platforms like WeChat and Weibo, in which the content still focuses on text, images and longer videos. Douyin can be a strong way of advertising, especially if you hire a KOL (Key Opinion Leader) to do the promotion of your company.
Chinese travel platforms are really useful as they can give you a lot of information, on what to do, where to go, where to do shopping, what you should see, where to sleep…
Lvmama.com is a very popular website for those who want to travel alone. If you don’t want to travel with a travel agency on a group tour, you can go on this website. There are tons of travel tips for self drive travel all around China. You can also book some of the most famous attractions’ entrance tickets through this website with a reasonable price.
- Mafengwo.com (马蜂窝)
Mafengwo is also a website that provides professional travel advice. If you want to find the local tips and advice, this website will suit you. There are millions of travel tips for most China’s tourist destinations. You can find destination brochures, attractions tips, and many more useful guides on this website.
- Baidu travel（百度旅游)
Baidu Travel is one of the best travel guides online and you will be able to find all the Chinese travel destinations brochures.
Lvping is a travel forum in which most Chinese tourists are posting their reviews and feedback on flights and hotels. It can be compared to the Tripadivsor.com website.
Daodao is the Chinese website of Tripadvisor.com. Since its launch into the Chinese market, Daodao has made a great contribution on correcting comments and advice on China’s hotels and destinations. You will find the real advice and comments on this website. Some of their advice are useful when traveling to some place that you are not familiar with. They don’t provide direct hotels booking services, but their comments on hotels are valuable for you to book a good hotel in your destinations.
- e-PR (Press Relations)
Doing PR in China is very important. It allows you to promote your service to a wide variety of Chinese citizens. This communication is primarily based on appealing visuals, but also on feedback and testimonials from tourists.
You have to remember that online public relations in China and particularly in the travel industry, are increasing at a rapid pace.
Our services for hotels and tourism professionals
As pure players, we have been working with hundreds of Chinese and foreign companies over the years. You can contact us for more information, so that we will be able to talk about your projects.
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