And Other Notes on the WeChat Age of the Chinese Traveler: As William Ding, deputy general manager of the Shanghai-based CITIC Travel company, was nearing the end of his remarks concluding a “China Ready” session at the recent Connect Travel Marketplace in Orlando, he paused briefly to explain why Chinese travelers take with them on their journeys items such as tea cups, chili sauce, instant noodles and preserved pickles: “Because American food is unedible,” he said to a roomful of chuckles.
As U.S. travel suppliers try to tap into what will soon be USA’s largest overseas source market for international visitors, Ding’s breezy collection of factoids and do’s and don’ts seemed just what attendees wanted to hear for upcoming one-on-one business meetings with tour operators—some 35 of them from China—on the following days.
WeChat Means Wi-Fi is a Must: There is no overstating the importance of WeChat, the “app for almost everything,” for its more than 900 million daily users—the overwhelming majority of whom are Chinese. Said Ding, “we no longer use e-mail.” Perhaps it was a bit of an exaggeration, but every Chinese operator that INBOUND met with preferred to see a WeChat QRC before he or she talked about anything else.
What this means, Ding said, is that free Wi-Fi at one’s attraction or property is a must so that Chinese visitors can access their WeChat accounts.
- In China, when a family takes a vacation, women rule: 70 percent of decisions on vacations are made by women.
- Budget airlines are now taking on a more important role in outbound travel from China.
- Cruise trips are becoming more popular with Chinese travelers.
- Outside of price point considerations, Chinese prefer upscale hotels on their travels; this is evident by the fact that the number of five-star hotels in China reached 809 by the end of 2016.
- America, which used to be the “Holy Land” of destinations, is still popular, but travelers are now aspiring to go other places abroad. It is easier to get a visa to go to Canada than it is to get a visa to visit the U.S.
- While the notion exists that Chinese travelers prefer luxury shopping, Costco has become a very popular stop on U.S. itineraries.
Most of our tourists start their outbound travel from Southeast Asia. Here is an example of those destinations that are popular, and why.
- Thailand, Vietnam (inexpensive, close)
- Japan, South Korea (visas are easy)
- EU, Russia (group visas)
- Australia, USA (make sure not to be denied)
The Four Treasures taken along “on the way” for Chinese Travelers (Remember: American food is “unedible.”)
- Cups (for tea)
- Chili sauce
- Instant noodles
- Preserved pickles