The Three Types of New Chinese Traveller


This is a viewpoint by Brian Chien, general manager, Amadeus China.

If you asked me to describe a typical Chinese traveller ten years ago, I could have done it in less than five minutes. Back then, most travellers in China could be placed neatly in just two or three categories. It takes a lot longer to answer the same question today.

More disposable income and a curiosity to explore the outside world have given rise to the huge surge in Chinese travellers we’ve seen in the past decade. Their sheer volume makes them a force to be reckoned with, and I believe the world – whether through more welcoming visa policies or through Chinese-speaking retail assistants – has made leaps and bounds in recalibrating itself accordingly.

But that is yesterday’s conversation. Today the question is whether the industry is ready for “Chinese Traveller 2.0”  Make no mistake – they’re not who they used to be.

Bolder, more empowered and increasingly independent, gone are the days where the only Chinese travellers you see were group tours. Chinese travellers are complex and diverse, although group tours remain important.

Today we’re seeing for example, a shift from observation to participation – a growing desire to seek once-in-a-lifetime experiences and immersion in local culture rather than just ticking ‘must-see’ landmarks off a list.

Also on the rise is a rejection of brands attempting to silo them into demographic groups of age and income.

Our Future Traveller Tribes research identified six traveller tribes based on psychographic traits – such as lifestyle, needs, aspirations, behaviours – that will shape the landscape of travel between now and 2030.

Out of those, we believe we will see more and more of three tribes in particular among Chinese travellers:

Cultural Purists

Travellers who will look at holidays as a chance to immerse themselves in an alien culture, where enjoyment of the break depends on the authenticity of the activities. Many of these will be young, travelling independently.

Simplicity Searchers

Travellers who want to avoid managing too many trip details themselves. They may look for bundled activities with a reasonable price tag from a trusted travel agency. These would be represented by the traditional tour group travellers, which we believe will continue to be an important Chinese market.

Reward Hunters

Travellers interested in a more indulgent form of travel. They see travel as a return on their hard earned investment of time and energy in their working lives and crave a premium experience. These are otherwise known as the luxury travel segment in China, which our research shows will grow at 12.2% annually over the next decade.

What we will need to remember is that no two Chinese travellers are the same, and even more so, no two journeys will be the same. Each of them is on a quest for what we call the ‘Journey of ME’, a journey defined by the infinite number of unique elements that make up the traveller’s DNA. Hyper-customisation will become the default expectation by 2030.

Old assumptions of what Chinese travellers want from their trips to how they plan it, who they go with and how they talk about the journey after, need to be reconsidered. This will be the biggest challenge for the industry – to facilitate this “Journey of ME” for millions – if not tens of millions – of Chinese outbound travellers.

It will also be its biggest opportunity.

Travel players that can understand travellers down to the individual level and cater to their needs in an intuitive, timely manner will earn steadfast loyalty in an increasingly competitive landscape. Knowing the traveller, inspiring them, delighting them, talking to them, connecting them and caring for them will be the six key mandates for the industry.

And technology will be our best ally.

The advent of new big data and mobile technologies, as well as smart, intuitive user interfaces are enabling promising new opportunities for travel companies and travellers alike. Chinese companies today are already making great strides.

Alitrip has launched a 360-degree panoramic virtual reality viewing of hotels listed on its platform, aimed at inspiring consumers and giving them a taste of the experience even before the trip.

Ctrip announced its refreshed chatbot application which can respond to consumers’ various requests such as hotel booking, ticket reservation, refund, or flight changes within one or two seconds, delivering the almost-instant response that travellers today demand.

At Amadeus, we are working with a number of customers to deliver a more inspirational search experience that goes beyond the traditional city pair/travel date box.

Using Amadeus Extreme Search, for example, you might ask for details of trips combining flights and hotels that will cost between a certain range of prices, between a certain range of dates, with summer temperatures. This delivers a much richer and more tailored experience to Chinese travellers, whatever their budgets or needs.

Let’s not forget mobile. China is expected to become the world’s first mobile-led travel market this year, as many millions of new Chinese travellers make their first digital travel [purchases not on a desktop, but on a mobile device.

Use of mobile for destination research, travel shopping and booking is already widespread among Chinese travellers.

But beyond that pre-trip phase, mobile presents many opportunities for travel players to connect, serve and manage travellers across the travel journey – whether through pushing in-destination offers, sending alerts on any travel risks, or collecting post-trip feedback.

The good news is there is so much innovation happening here. Amadeus has participated in the THack China event for three years and we are always incredibly impressed with the ideas we see – most of which are mobile app-based.

In fact, we see huge potential for the next major innovation in travel technology to come from China. Major national initiatives such as Internet+ and huge investment into the Internet of Things, the sharing economy and smart cities create the context for the innovations to come.

Ultimately, we should remember that the biggest disruptors to the travel industry are travellers themselves. And with China now holding status as the world’s largest outbound travel market, even with only just 5% of its population holding passports today – the Chinese traveller is the one we all need to watch.

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Founded by two travel and technology professionals with years of experience in Asia, Representasia specialises in sales & marketing representation throughout Southeast Asia for travel/hospitality technology providers and travel-related startups, as well as providing marketing consultancy services for hotels and travel businesses in the region.

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