What do you think to happen when you are too passive in the tourism business? Well, the Chinese tour operator f*ck you.
We’ll give you here an example of Morocco. A wonderful country with 2.5 million people involved in the tourism industry, and a growing number of Chinese tourists, but no positive results on the local economy.
When they realized Chinese people were becoming a great opportunity for their tourism industry, Morocco decided to exempt Chinese nationals from a visa. And therefore, facilitating travel between Morocco and China and developing their economy.
But things didn’t really work out as planned…
Of course, they increased a lot the number of Chinese visitors:
- First-year of visa exemption: went from 700 to +7000 visitors
- In 2018: 200,000 Chinese nationals visited Morocco
Plus, they made an agreement with the biggest online travel agency in China: Ctrip. Which is huge and a great opportunity for the country. Giving them the chance to reach their objective of half a million visitors.
And considering the amount of money spent by Chinese tourists during their travel, it could be indeed a huge opportunity.
- An average of $1,300 per visitor
- $120 billion was spent in total by Chinese tourists in 2018
- Over 200 million travelers expected in 2020
However, they ended up realizing that cooperating with a Chinese tour operator was a huge mistake… a great deal for the Chinese, but as for Moroccans, they ended up with almost nothing…
Hemingway said one day: “the best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them”. Well, in our case many companies made the mistake for you, don’t do the same. Don’t trust them before they deserve it.
Consider the action of the Tour Operators as follow:
- They have their own Chinese-speaking guide
- They manage absolutely everything from the moment visitors arrive in the country
- Tourists have no freedom of action at all
- Most of the time: except for plane ticketss and hotel fees, locals don’t get anything from it.
But how did they manage to operate like that in Morocco?
Well, let’s say that they didn’t understand how Chinese people work. They got too passive and relied too much on their Chinese partners.
Chinese Agencies are there to do business. And as for Chinese tourists, they want something conformable: high ended services.
A guide can speak English, Arabic, French or German, they don’t care. They want someone speaking Chinese. And they want services explained in Chinese. Otherwise, if they don’t understand anything, of course, they’ll rely on Chinese tour operators. There’s no surprise.
So, if local companies provide hotels, but do not do anything about employees talking Chinese, and services or trips explained in Chinese, well… As we say, if you do the minimum, you get the minimum.
Consider that Chinese Agencies do not need help. Finding hotels for them is not an issue. Planning visits and everything related to the trip is not a problem. And if they can make money on everything and let you out, they’ll do.
In China, it’s not considered cheating. But more about the strong taking advantage of the weak… which seems normal for them. In the end, the goal is to make money.
What are the main concerns of locals?
Locals perceived these agencies as unfair competition.
Firstly, most of Chinese-speaking guides who come with Tour Operators do not have a legal license to proceed with any visit to the country. While locals should pass some tests and get certificates testifying of their credibility.
Secondly, the Chinese guide services are cheap with few service depth offers, in the result of what the customer experience in the country getting really bad. As a consequence, customers do not encourage tourists to return or recommend the destination.
What are the main concerns of Chinese tourists?
Because tours operators are not only overwhelming for the local economic agents but also for tourists.
As you may imagine, a trip that is 100% controlled by an agency with no opportunity for improvisation/adventure and poor-quality services… it’s not what we can call the best travel experience. More something like: you pay a high price, take pictures and go back home.
Furthermore, when visiting local markets, as these Chinese-speaking guides do not speak the local language (for most of them), there is a high risk of being cheated or finding scams. Which, one more time, does not take part in a great customer experience.
How to avoid this kind of issue when developing your activity with Chinese customers?
Even though building a successful business through Chinese customers is not something easy to do, the steps are pretty simple. And understand here, that the problem is more about the way people deal with Chinese culture, rather than Chinese guides and Tour Operators by themselves.
Here is a list of tips and solutions for you to develop your business safely and with the maximum results.
- Speak Mandarin
It’s a basic. As they use to spend a lot of money for their trip and on site, Chinese will expect high-ended services. And it starts with someone talking with them in Chinese, and writing services offer in Chinese characters.
About Morocco, very few guides are able to speak Mandarin which is a big issue for their business. Therefore, if you aim to avoid being undercut by Chinese companies, you’ll need language training.
- Chinese website
Imagine if when willing to do a trip in China, you would not find any information on Google but only local agencies from your country offering you basic services. It would then be normal to go through them, right?
In China, it’s the same. They have a close communication system, meaning that they have no Google, no Facebook, no Instagram, etc. So, even if you spent thousands of dollars marketing your activity on Google and Facebook, it will be completely inefficient toward Chinese people.
You need to adapt to their culture and habits. Don’t rely on your partnership with tour operators.
But instead, build a website in Chinese, with a Chinese domain name, on a Chinese server. Make something nice following their trends and local features. Explain your products and your services, what kind of tour and activities you offer. Show them pictures, videos, and positive reviews from your clients.
- Chinese social media
Chinese people are probably the most connected people in the world. There are always on their phone or computer, ready to look for information about a product/service they want. They’ll be checking your company and comparing it with others. They’ll be looking for feedback and materials giving them the opportunity to know where they plan to go. And if they won’t be cheated…
Nobody likes scams. And because there were a lot, the Chinese are now very careful who they deal with. And before doing anything, you’ll need to gain their trust.
And in China, trust is made through social media and digital information.
Understand that the Chinese tourism market is very specific. They spend more, but they also expect more, especially premium clients.
To build trust with Chinese customers, you’ll need:
- WeChat: the Chinese Facebook
One of the most popular Chinese social media. It represents around 900 million registered users. It’s a messenger app offering different features such as group chats, moment sharing, comments, and reviews. Basically, Chinese don’t use mail, they use WeChat. So, to keep in touch with your customers and potential clients, you’ll need WeChat.
As a company, what can you do on WeChat?
- Official account creation
- Groups sharing
- WeChat promotion
- Community management
for more information:
check on “the most popular platform for tourism”
- Weibo: the Chinese Twitter
Number 1 social media in China. It’s the perfect tool to target a large audience and build strong visibility. You can spread information about your company and your products/services. You can spread content such as photos/videos/music and use KOL or influencers to level it up.
- Be present online in China (or Die)
As we explained before, your future customers will look for information online before selecting the agency they’ll travel with. So, if you have your website with information in Chinese and it’s a very good start. If you can engage with your customers through social media, it’s great. But you’ll need a little bit more effort to finish convincing them that you’d better than any Chinese Tour Operators.
And all that goes through Baidu.
Baidu is the Chinese Google. With a 70% market share of the Chinese internet, you have to be referred on it. And here’s what you can do:
- Baidu Zhidao & Zhihu: a great way to deliver information
- Baidu Baike: the Chinese Wikipedia. Very important in china, you can make your own page and gain good credibility.
- PR: Chinese love what is famous and demanded. So, having articles talking about you is the best way to show them that you’re a reliable company.
- Forums: as we said, they’ll compare your offer with your competitors. But more than corporate communication, they trust in people. Meaning that having online discussion about your services, is a great to show them how happy were your previous customers.
- Comments/reviews: same principle as for forums. If you’re a high-quality hotel or agency, it means that people should have gave your great comments online. You’ll need plenty of positive one.
The Royal Mansour Hotel in Marrakech chose to work with us: the GMA agency, and got a significant increase in Chinese clientele. We did a strong PR campaign to reinforce brand trust. But also, the hotel invested heavily in increasing its online presence, particularly on Chinese social media and Baidu.
- Be active: a golden rule to make money in China
Too many hotels and local tour operators got a partnership with random Chinese agencies, and though the job was done. They just waited for clients to come, which is a big mistake.
If you do so, you can expect your partner to take the lead of the activity and take care of everything. But we’re not at school anymore… and in real life, the one doing the job is the one who’s paid for it. Don’t expect Chinese to share anything with you or to give you any clients for your tour.
You have to plan everything:
- Airport pick-up
- Hotel organization
- Market and souvenirs
- Food & beverage
You literally need to think about everything your future clients will need. And you need to answer it before they even think about it. That’s how great customer experience is made: initiatives.
Furthermore, if Chinese tourists can see all your offers online with nice details, pictures, videos, and storytelling, they won’t need any tour operators. They’ll go straight to you.
In case you still want to operate with Tour Operators, you can still let them bring clients and make money on booking reservations and various fees, but you’ll take care of all the rest on site. Meaning the restaurants, shopping, different visits, etc. And with the commission you can make while establishing deals with local shops, it can be a very profitable activity.
You’ll get the advantage of Tour Operators: tourists; without the disadvantage: they take over your business.
We’re here for you.
Of course, any successful development requires investment, in both: time and money. We can help you to develop a strong marketing campaign to enhance your activity and give you the visibility and the reputation you’ll need to attract Chinese customers.
We have various offers, from the most ambitious plan to the startup basic plan suitable for SME businesses.
If you’re serious and can work on your reputation by yourself, we also have travel agencies’ contact lists for sales for cooperation development.
Case Study Example
If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.
We are the GMA. The Gentlemen Marketing Agency.
- Expert in Digital Marketing in China
- Professional in the tourism industry
- We know your target’s behavior
- 30min free call
- Flexible plan
We drive for success.
Check on our case study for more information.