ChinaTravelNews, Ritesh Gupta – ITB China 2018's Opening Dinner turned out to be a stupendous show, marked by an opulent setting and a series of fabulous performances in Shanghai on Tuesday. The show, held on the eve of the 3-day B2B travel trade show, aptly complemented the staggering growth the ITB China has achieved just in its second edition.
The show is set to commence at the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition and Conference Center from Wednesday.
"ITB China is set to get bigger," stated Dr. Christian Göke, CEO, Messe Berlin.
One of the major highlights of this year's edition has been the diversity and the number of buyers, with the total figure crossing 800 this year. Dr. Göke shared that out of 700 exhibitors, one-third each are from Europe, and Asia and China. The Americas and the Middle East, too, have chosen to keenly target this market. "Also, 2700 attendees are expected to attend the ITB China Conference, which is being co-hosted by TravelDaily China," he said.
The sheer size and potential of the Chinese outbound travel category are luring companies from all over to have a piece of this market. Chinese travelers made about 130 million outbound trips last year. It is being projected that outbound trips would touch 200 million trips per year by 2020, as indicated by the China National Tourism Administration. So be it for tourism boards, travel technology companies, distribution specialists or stakeholders, the buzz around China is inimitable.
Paavo Virkkunen, Executive Director, Business Finland Oy and Head of Visit Finland, mentioned that around 25 partners and 50 delegates from Finland are to participate in this year's ITB.
Bigwigs set to share their plans
The ITB China Conference has fascinating sessions lined-up.
The day one is going to feature James Liang, Chairman of Ctrip. Liang asserts that the company is still learning and has plenty of room for growth. Post its acquisitions to step up its presence internationally, the Ctrip group garners 20% of the total revenue from outside China. The goal is to take this figure to 40%-50% over the next 5 years.
In addition, other top companies such as Alibaba, Tencent, Meituan-Dianping, CITS American Express Global Business Travel, Carlson Wagonlit Travel and BCD Travel, Merlin Entertainment, Mafengwo, Lushu, Abercombie & Kent will offer insights into their expanding markets.
One of the strong points of China's growth has been how the entire fraternity strives to keep pace with consumerism. For example, technology specialists continue to facilitate search and completion of travel-related transactions on platforms owned by the likes of Tencent and Meituan. Foreign hotel companies are working out connectivity with WeChat’s mini-program, integrating their central reservation system or CRS to feature real-time available rates and inventory. Plus, the same can be done via the Meituan Travel app. No dearth of exciting developments here in China.
Scope for improvement
This year's edition has witnessed the entry of ITB China Business Travel Day (sessions on Thursday).
China has re-defined the rules of travel commerce in a number of ways. But one area where this market needs to make progress is business travel management. This category in China remains an attractive proposition for the industry, marked by sustained business confidence and opportunities presented by policies such as the Belt and Road initiative. But China still has a fair bit to catch up to refine their overall travel and expense management (T&E) by re-looking at inflexible travel policies and low policy compliance, and complex reimbursement processes.
Several specialists including BCD Travel and Carlson Wagonlit Travel among others are scheduled to share their expertise.
In another first, ITB China is holding a dedicated Education & Job Day on 18th May in partnership with Fudan University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI).
Knowing the pulse of the Chinese customer
Amidst all the talk around personal data and how well established ecosystems “know us”, the likes of Alibaba and Tencent continue to strengthen their prowess.
When you think of why Alibaba is scrutinizing customers’ behavioral data via grocery stores, the answer would be: they are focusing on crafting one id of the shoppers, naming it as “Unified ID”. Based on the activity within the ecosystem, the team is offering an online dashboard that shows brands who is interested in their products and where they are in that product lifecycle.
What’s next then? How is Alibaba bracing itself to facilitate experiences never experienced before? Say, a consumer regularly orders a fresh food item, a dessert via an online retailer, and this same item is available on a flight. Can it be served to the same consumer on a flight? “With data, connectivity and the ability to map data, anything is possible,” said a source.
But realistically speaking, describing a lot about a particular customer to a merchant isn’t going to happen, and privacy issue is one of the major reasons. “The information is going to be shared in a subtle manner, what a consumer’s likes and dislikes are,” a source said. “These dashboards, as Alibaba asserts, are going to help in identifying, targeting, reach and retain buyers. All of this would be powerful enough to come up with relevant product recommendations, personalize the storefronts in the digital domain.”
It would be interesting to learn how travel companies and tourist boards are taking note of such developments during the ITB China Conference in Shanghai this week.