U.S. destinations and travel suppliers who promote their products to China now have another filter to help them target their efforts more efficiently—the five Chinese traveler personas. The latter are discussed in some detail in the recently released Chinese International Travel Monitor (CITM). Sponsored by Hotels.com, this year’s CITM 2016 is an analysis of data revealing that Chinese travelers can be divided into five distinct personas depending on their background, travel attitudes, preferences and behaviors. This is the first time this analysis has been included in CITM, which is generally regarded in the U.S. inbound tour and travel industry as the most authoritative, non-proprietary source of information on the Chinese travel market.
A quick preface for those wondering how the five categories configure with other key numbers: Even if the percentage of China’s population that is middle class and “travel capable” is small, about 8 percent—it still means, in raw numbers, that China’s middle class is now the biggest in the world, and growing much faster than that of the USA, according to research by Credit Suisse. There are 109 million Chinese with wealth of between $50,000 and $500,000. Since 2000, twice as many Chinese as Americans have joined the middle class. (Credit Suisse measured wealth rather than income to avoid temporary changes caused by unemployment, for example.) These aforementioned figures suggest that there a millions of travelers personas to be cultivated, marketed to, and sold to. More detailed profiles of the five personas follow.
- Detailed explorers: A quarter of travelers fall into this category, making it one of the two largest groups. People in this category respond positively to statements like “One should never be content but constantly explore new ideas” (innovation); “It’s important to push the limits and reach new heights” (ambition) and “I understand the power and potential of free thinking” (independence).
Detailed explorers see travel as a necessary element of life, a journey of learning and exploring and an exhilarating experience.
Their preference is for free and easy travel and semi packaged tours. Shopping and sightseeing are their favorite activities. Their source of travel information tends to be online travel and review sites, and travel magazines. They particularly value safety, easy access to transport and hotel services.
- Cautious connectors: This group makes up 25 percent of travelers, the largest group along with detailed explorers. They respond positively to statements like “I am safe and play within the rules” (integrity); “I am making more effort to reduce my impact on society and the environment” (responsibility); and “balance of different aspects of life is the true sign of my success” (wholesome lifestyle). They were born mainly in the 60s and 70s. Their proportion of annual travel spending to income is one of the highest, at 31 percent.
For cautious connectors, travel is more than anything about joyful moments with friends and golden moments with family. Theme tours and eco-tours particularly appeal to this group. Dining and shopping are their most popular activities. They tend to get their travel information from a combination of online review sites, social media, travel magazines and newspapers.
When it comes to selecting accommodation, these travelers particularly consider easy access to transport, reviews by previous travelers, free Wi-Fi, free breakfast, and eco-friendly.
- Experience Seekers: At 17 percent, this is the second smallest group. They tend to be young millennials. Their daily holiday spending is the second highest at $459. People in this group respond positively to statements like “I think I am right, I don’t worry about what other people think” (individuality); “I am willing to take risks because I believe in myself” (ambition); and “I have my own way of seeing the world – and feel the need to go my own way” (independence).
Traveling for them is exhilarating and an escape from reality. They prefer free and easy travel, private luxury tours and theme tours. Their main activities are local tours, backpacking and attending events like theaters and concerts. Experience seekers get their travel information primarily from travel guides and magazines and promotions/deals. When booking accommodation, they look particularly at room size, design and newness.
- Indulgers: Indulgers form only 12 percent of all travelers and therefore the smallest segment.
They respond positively to statements like “I value being recognized as someone accomplished with leadership power and influence” (power and influence); “Being able to fully indulge myself is a sign of my success and superiority over others” (indulgence); and “Success comes to those who show dedication and hard work” (perseverance).
They tend to be millennials and their biggest interest in travel is stepping out of their comfort zone. They go for theme tours and private luxury tours. Their main activities are local tours and taking part in sports. Friends and colleagues, travel guides and family are their main sources of travel information.
When selecting accommodation abroad, they particularly consider comfort/star rating/facilities, hotel services and room size. Their average daily spend of $474 is the highest of all the traveler types, reflecting the fact that as a group they are affluent.
Mostly born in the 80s, they travel to indulge themselves and to demonstrate their power. They stay at higher-star hotels and go on adventurous local tours.
- Basic Pleasure Seekers: This group makes up 21 percent of travelers. Unlike the other types, which consist pretty much equally of men and women, 57 percent of this group is female. They tend to be young millennials, born in the 90s. They respond positively to statements like “Slowing down my life pace makes me the happiest” (simplicity); “For me how things look is just as important as what they can do” (aesthetics); and “Comfort is knowing one has made the right decision” (contentment).
The proportion of their expenditure on travel to income is the highest of all the personas at a massive 37 percent. Travel to basic pleasure seekers is an escape from reality and their comfort zone, and to seek golden family moments. Their main preferences are for group and semi-packaged tours and their favorite activities are attending events and taking part in sports. They tend to get their travel information from friends, colleagues and family. The principal factors they consider when selecting accommodation are reputation/brand, reviews by previous travelers, friends, family and colleagues and review sites.
Notes: Ipsos determined the personas by using factor analysis to detect patterns in the responses of the travelers to a number of questions about their values. The result: vivid portraits of five different types of Chinese traveler. By taking into account these very different types of Chinese traveler, and particularly which segment is growing fastest, the industry will be well-placed to plan for the future.
The situation is dynamic. For instance, the largest segments are currently Detailed Explorers and Cautious Connectors, but the segment with the highest predicted growth, and therefore the one to watch, is Experience Seekers. This is a high-yield group, with high spending.