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Tourism 101: online marketing to China

06/12/2015| 7:15:15 AM|

Chinese tourists represent quite a juicy market – 100 million tourists in 2014, rising to a whopping 200 million by 2020.

Given that Chinese are very inclined to buy gifts, whether for themselves or for relatives, you can easily imagine how important their spending is.  In 2014, Chinese tourists, whose favourite activity is shopping, spent on average $3200 per trip. The Chinese are the biggest spenders when they travel.

Often, foreign destinations, big or small, do not know how to attract Chinese tourists. So here’s a few ideas to get started.

There are two target markets: Chinese holidaymakers themselves – independent travellers – and the Chinese outbound tourism agencies sending tourists to any given destination. We’ll look at the former.

Prequel: Be clear about who you are/who you want to be to Chinese tourists.

China is the land of the internet, for better or for worse, so you have to have a very clear and striking position. Why for better or for worse? On the one hand, information spreads very quickly and very difficult to keep control of as it spreads among users.

On the other, referral is a very powerful instrument in attracting Chinese tourists and is easy to do.

So be clear about what you are and how you want to show it.

So say, for my own country, France, something such as “Go To Bordeaux for the most exquisite place for wine tasting on earth“.

It’s easy, clear, and in tune with what some Chinese are fond of doing – wine tasting in this particular area.

The B2C route to becoming a star destination

When you are a destination that has no reputation or appeal in China, at first glance it might seem difficult to reach tourists

Where do you have to go?

SEO is the first stop for this.

Start with a well-designed website, located in China and then have some SEO done on the most relevant keywords.

Baidu is still ahead of the pack in China, so you had better have your website particularly optimized for this one.

Follow this by getting involved with social platforms and travel oriented communities such as:


As elsewhere in the tourism industry, where travel forums are, an OTA is lurking in the shadows and vice versa. Lvmama is no exception.

In addition to being one of the oldest e-tourism platforms it is also a quite popular place to be on. Alexa ranks it number 250 in all of China, not bad!

The forum lists the most recent questions, right below targeted advertisement. Here’s a translation of one of the questions:

“With a world so big, where do you want to take your children to?” You could start the conversation by suggesting why your own region is great for children, and then make sure you remain involved.

lvmama’s OTA channel is a DIY service selling component-based travel, mostly to single tourists or small independent groups such as families.   If these are your target markets, contribute to the discussions.


One of China’s leading internet businesses, its forums are very influential in their own industries. Fashion.sohu is a go-to for the fashion industry, travel.sohu is also a must-read in travel.

Again, decide where you want to start and keep managing the discussions so that travelers start thinking about your destination. Users can post the diary of their trips, just like this one below about a trip to a small village in Bali.

As you see, you can get a pretty impressive number of viewers.

Posting a diary and targetting the content to the audience maximises your reach. Images and the storytelling are compelling for the Chinese. Indeed, Chinese spend a third of their weekly 25 hours online watching multimedia content.

The aim should be to get onto the first page of the travel.sohu site.

If you do this a few times, your destination will definitely attract attention.

Be social, be trendy, have a Weibo account!

Weibo is an open social network often wrongly called “the Chinese Twitter”. Weibo  has more features than its Western so-called counterpart.

If you’re a tourism office in charge of promoting your region to China, try a Weibo page similar to this one, with engaging pictures and videos available for  followers to share.

Through your Weibo your account you can post a video on Youku, the biggest Chinese video-sharing site. This should generate more shares, saves and likes, all increasing your presence in the market.

In addition to this you need to be present on Tuniu, a large travel community where both travelers and would-be travellers alike share insights and advice about  destinations.

However, Wechat is difficult to use it as a B2C marketing channel for tourism. The only efficient way to do so would be to use “influencers”, but the ROI is not so great partially due to the high cost involved and the difficulty in measuring it.


The advice above only brushes the surface – the next step for destinations is to reach the tech-savvy, high earning Chinese would-be travellers.

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TAGS: Chinese tourism | marketing | expenditure
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