As personal disposable income increases year by year, Chinese people tend to spend more on traveling. The demand for China outbound tourism grows continuously. It is expected that the number of China outbound trips will reach over 200 million with a total tourism expenditure of about CNY 1.2727 trillion by 2022. Chinese tourists are undoubtedly an increasingly important source of revenue for overseas tourism service provider. Therefore, if you are a foreign travel agency, tour operator, hotel, Transportation Companies…, there is a high chance that you are looking for ways to approach and build partnership with Chinese tourism players to promote and sell your products.
Chinese travel agencies are just different
- Most of Chinese do not speak English. Even if they can, they always prefer to communicate in their native language
- Most of them do not use emails, and prefer to communicate on WeChat
- Google is blocked in China, so they search on Baidu
- Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are blocked in China, so they use WeChat, Weibo, LittleRedBook… (just to name a few)
- TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Agoda etc. are allowed in China but most are not as highly used as their Chinese equivalents. For instance, TripAdvisor is not as popular as Mafengwo or Qyer. Booking.com and Agoda are also not as popular as Ctrip, Qunar and Alitrip
In China, everything is Different. If you want to do business here, you have to Adapt to Chinese Rules.
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Why Chinese travel agencies do not want to partner with you?
1. You are invisible or have no reputation online
Branding is everything in China. Due to a long history of frauds and scams as well as quite loose regulations and laws, Chinese people in general have the mindset of trusting and prioritizing branded products or business partners.
This is also why “guanxi” is important to do business in this country. Properly you have heard about this phenomenal. Chinese people prefer to a great extent to work with friends through friends, acquaintance through acquaintance instead of totally strangers.
In the digital era and in such a digital native country like China, this “guanxi” element is less or more translated into online reputation. It means that before deciding to buy products or collaborate with a partner, Chinese people would definitely check them up on Internet such as on Baidu, Wechat, Weibo, relevant forums… Peer reviews are a critical element in their buying journey.
If Chinese people can’t find you on their popular digital platforms, they deem that you may not be that big and well-established company. So, they would be reluctant to cooperate with you.
If you are found on Internet with negative feedback or too few reviews and mentions, Chinese partners would doubt your capability.
We would talk about the most critical platforms for you to build up your online reputation later in this article.
2. You use wrong marketing tactics to approach Chinese partners
- A non-China-compatible website: not in local language, not hosted in China, not mobile responsive, not integrating Chinese social media
- Not right communication channels: you send your Chinese potential partners numerous emails like a spammer while their main means of communication, both personally and professionally, is Wechat.
- You send out PDF or paper brochures introducing your companies and products while Chinese businessmen prefer E-brochure – a HTML5 Page designed professionally and having interactive elements which they can forward easily to their network on multiple Chinese platforms
3. You don’t have the right support
Don’t solely rely on what you can read on Google and be confident to tackle China by yourself. China tourism and media landscapes are so unique that even global brands choose to work with local agencies to help them navigate through this market.
For you as a tourism service provider, agencies can assist you in finding, contacting and setting up partnerships with Chinese tour operators and travel agencies as well as marketing your brand on China media.
4. You don’t have attractive products
For the past 20 years, Chinese tourists have been constantly changing. More Chinese travelers prefer independent and flexible trips, instead of traveling with tour groups. Besides, those who spend a lot of money shopping account for only a small portion of the total now, and more people are willing to experience local events, food and culture.
Therefore, tailored tours or packages which cover only flights and accommodation (trip activities will be designed by customers themselves) are developing to serve these Free-Independent Tourists (FITs).
If you are providing tours and your tours are not updating to changes in taste and style of Chinese consumers, obviously it would be challenging to find partners who are willing to distribute your services.
Research needs to be conducted to figure out whether a new tour product needs to be created to better suit the needs of China market.
Tactics to attract travel agencies leads
How to attract Leads (askings) from Tour operators in China ? That a good question. You need to try to understand them first.
- The Search on Baidu when they want to find suppliers
- They use online Forums to find the best partners
- They want to be sure to deal with serious partners, so your Reputation is Vital
- They do not like spammer. They expect personalized Messages in Chinese
1. Create a professional website
This is the most basic requirement. A website is critical so that potential partners can at least read and learn about your company, products, and services.
- Websites in China should be hosted in China or Hongkong to load fast.
- Contents have to be in the local language, which is Mandarin and localized in a way that Chinese people can understand and find interesting.
- Websites should be integrated with Chinese social media such as Wechat, Weibo, Youku…; having a chatbot or a number to contact immediately
- Contact form doesn’t work in China. People want to chat or call which can stimulate response quickly
- UX/ UV is for Chinese’s navigating behaviors
- Online payment methods Wechat Pay and Alipay should be available
- Colorful and professional design that Chinese customers will find attractive
- Websites have to be mobile- responsive since 90% of Chinese Internet users are Mobile users
A proper website shows your potential partners that you are serious with China and willing to invest into this market.
Examples AigueMarine Paris.
2. Secure top positions on Baidu search engine for related keywords
Chinese travel agencies search on Baidu for potential suppliers. To attract quality leads, the best way is to appear on B2B search on Baidu, like Local Tour Operator in .
Example : Search “Thailand Travel Agencies ” on Baidu
- A preliminary audit is necessary to carry out in order to optimize your site for Baidu
- Constantly update articles and optimize them for relevant keywords
- Generate Backlinks. A careful selection of quality backlinks should be made to increase your SEO ability
- Set up your profiles on Baidu’s other products such as Baidu Baike, Baidu Zhidao… for better SEO
- Run SEA / PPC (Pay Per Click campaigns): buying advertising, selecting the best keywords, and tracking those keywords so that you are always as visible as possible.
- Regular monitoring is needed to measure the results of your SEO / SEA campaigns.
3. Take care of your e-reputation
Chinese Travel professionals will check the Reputation of your Agency on Chinese social media and forums, which means to check whether you have any positive comments or reviews. If they find nothing, they will just find another one. They do not like to take risks dealing with new players.
Wechat is the most powerful app in China with more than 1 billion users. It has messaging function like Whatsapp, social media like Facebook (Wechat Moment), online payment Wechat Pay and links to numerous other apps (mini programs operating within Wechat) that allow users to book movie tickets, order food online, paying for public transportation…
For businesses, Wechat offers Official accounts similar to Facebook fanpage to publish content and organize campaigns to interact with followers. You can cooperate with a specialized agency to help you create and manage your Wechat official account.
Chinese people update about their personal life on Wechat Moment regularly. When they are satisfied or dissatisfied with an experience, a product or service, they would usually talk about it on Wechat Moment.
When potential partners try searching for you on Wechat, your official account and any mention of your brand within Wechat ecosystem will turn up (maybe from a complaining post of a user, an article of a news media agency, posts of other official accounts mentioning you…). Therefore, you need to monitor how people are talking about you on Wechat.
Most of Chinese prefer E-brochures rather than traditional PDF.
E-brochure is an HTML5 Page that introduces your Agency in an interactive and interesting way compared to static PDF file.
Have a look Here
Communicate on travel forums
In China, a lot of forums are powerful and have a lot of visitors. Travel-focused forums such as Mafengwo and Qyer collect a great amount of user-generated content sharing about their traveling experiences as well as advice.
Chinese tourists search for travel guide, new places of attraction or recommendation for good hotels on these forums.
Therefore, having positive Reviews on Forums will bring you attention of Chinese Tour Operators.
MaFengWo is a social-media-travel platform in China where users come to share or read detailed travel guides, reviews, tips, and all kinds of information regarding a destination such as hotels, activities, weather, shopping, places of interest, and more.
Founded in 2006, MaFengWo has helped 120,000,000 travelers monthly and is considered as the “Travel Bible” of the young generation.
Qyer is a robust online community that has evolved into a “one-stop outbound travel platform” for the Chinese. Its products now include everything a traveler needs, from a travel community to a big data-based trip planning tool, to an e-commerce platform.
Qyer aims at making oversea traveling more convenient and cost-effective for the Chinese.
4. Have a Public Relations strategy in place
Depending on the market segments you are targeting, different types of media can be used.
Public relation is powerful in China since it impacts, controls and direct the public’s opinion on a certain topic and company.
Having a proper PR strategy also helps you reach potential partners and enhance your credibility.
It is therefore necessary to create and maintain good relations with Chinese journalists. These are the people who directly showcase agencies. They are the ones who will showcase your service offerings through various actions such as putting you on the front page of a newspaper or writing an article about your brand.
Some Big Chinese Travel Agencies
With our experience, we know the main Tour Operators and Travel agencies in China. We have a list with their contacts.
We can help our clients get in touch with them, but we know without good preparation, it does not bring results.
- CITS , Chinese Tours Holding Co., Ltd. (CYTS) is a subordinate company of the Chinese government.
- China SSS , alias Stringtour, they are a mass market low cost Tour operator.
- Tuniu is one of the leading online tour operator in China, founded in 2016 and its headquarter is in Nanjing
- Ly: aka Tongcheng is the leading online tour operator in China, founded in 2004 and its head office is in Suzhou
- U-Tour, one the leading Travel Agencies in China, the first private-owned company (Based in Shenzhen )
- Caissa : it is an old player ( founded in 1993, headquartered in Beijing.)
- CITS the leading tour operator in South China, they rebrand themselves as “Nice tour”
- Ctrip : Ctrip alias Trip.com is a leading Booking Plateform. They also have Travel Agency.
- HHtravel: is a High End Travel Agency. They provide Tailor-made travel for Wealth Client.
- Zanadu: they are a High End Tour Operator, and provide high quality Services
- Aoyou: they are a Mass Market Tour Operator in China
- Miutur: It is a online travel player, provide package for Chinese travellers
- LvMama: it is a Mass Market Travel platform, also organize trip for their Users
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