The Complete Guide to Winning Over Chinese Tourists in Europe


Tuesday November 26, 2019 - Posted by:

Over the past decade, there has been an increase in Chinese tourism to the West. After Asia, Europe is the second most popular continent for Chinese tourists to visit, with France leading the way as the top holiday destination for Chinese travellers.

Chinese tourists

As tourism from China continues to increase, we wanted to explore why Chinese tourists are choosing Europe as a prime holiday destination and how brands can appeal to Chinese holiday-makers.

What’s driving the growth in Chinese tourism to Europe?

This growth in tourism from China is primarily driven by its booming economy and the exponential increase in the spending power of the Chinese middle-class. In 2002, China’s middle-class comprised only 4% of its population, whereas they made up over 30% in 2018. The nation’s middle-class is set to further expand from 430 million people to 780 million in the mid-2020s. Urban households in China (where most of the middle class is concentrated), spend about 20 trillion yuan annually (just over $2.8 trillion in dollars), almost equivalent to the average spend of a Japanese household.

Along with this explosion in the middle class’ purchasing power, the Chinese appetite for foreign travel is growing. According to a Mintel study, 81 per cent of Chinese consumers show an interest in fresh experiences, such as buying a product they have never bought before or travelling to a new holiday destination.

Granted, overall only 10% of people in China own passports which is low in comparison to other countries. But in a country with 1.4 billion people, in absolute numbers, this is a huge market. It is predicted that by 2020 there will be 240 million passport holders and 220 million Chinese people travelling worldwide, which presents lucrative prospects for foreign countries trying to appeal to Chinese spenders.

European governments are keen to capitalise on the boost that Chinese tourism could give their economies, with the European Commission and European Travel Commission co-launching the 2018 EU-China Tourism Year to promote Europe as a holiday destination. In 2018 more than 2.8 million Schengen visas were issued to Chinese tourists to travel to Europe.

How Chinese tourists spend their money

Looking at spending, more recently, China overtook America for total tourist spending. To compare how fast Chinese tourism has grown worldwide, in the year 2000 Chinese tourists only spent $10 billion overseas and in comparison, by 2018, Chinese tourists spent $277.3 billion overseas.

Culturally, Chinese tourists differ from Western tourists in that they mostly travel in groups to discover Europe, generally visiting three or four countries per stay. Although individual travels and customised itineraries are increasing, 42% of Chinese travellers to Britain were part of a tour group. Most Chinese tourists stayed in the UK for between eight to ten days and spent roughly 10,000 yuan ($1,589) each while in the country. Across the pond in America, the Chinese make up the fifth-largest bloc of tourists visiting the USA and tend to spend an average of $7,000 per trip, which is about 50% more than the average international traveller to USA.

As we outlined before, Chinese consumers are increasingly seeking out “richer experiences and quality of life.”  Luxury retailers relying on tourist spending are benefiting significantly from the boom in Chinese tourism, as Chinese tourists spend most of their travel budget on shopping, followed by accommodation and catering.

How brands can attract Chinese tourists

If a brand wants to succeed in China, it cannot adopt a one size fits all approach and must factor in specific cultural and market nuances.

Chinese consumers are “very much content-driven” and more likely to follow and engage with brands whose content demonstrates values and beliefs that resonate with Chinese consumers and understand their expectations. For instance, when localising into China, businesses need to consider how things such as their brand names or general marketing content will translate into copy that will not only work in the Chinese language but across local dialects as well.

Brands should look beyond direct translations of copy into Mandarin or Cantonese and focus on localisation. Retailers need to research the target audience and invest in expert services to ensure the content is fully relevant and appropriate. Chinese consumers are more likely to connect with retailers that present a compelling brand message and provides content that elicits an emotional reaction. 

Brands need to consider that in China, the digital channels and platforms used to connect with their customers are completely different from those in the West. Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are all blocked,  and consumers in China generally use Baidu for web search, WeChat and Weibo for social media, and Youku for video. European businesses need to use these platforms to attract  Chinese customers.

Many retailers are also expanding their point of sale and payment options to include Chinese mobile payment apps like Alipay and Wechat Pay to accommodate for Chinese spending habits.

Chinese tourism looks set to significantly increase in the next decade, which holds enormous potential for European business. China is a unique market that presents its own set of challenges to consider, but marketing to Chinese tourists could prove to be highly lucrative.

Find out more

Locaria can help you plan and execute your international marketing efforts with focused research, translation, localisation and other strategies. To find out more, call us on +44 (0)20 3948 6800.

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