China is the third largest number of tourists to visit Sri Lanka. There were 52,230 Chinese tourists to arrive to Sri Lanka in the first six months of 2014 compared to 22,023 in the same period in 2013. According the national Tourism Development Authority of Sri Lanka, this jump equals to a 137.2 percent rise.
Since 2009, Sri Lanka received more and more tourist each year and reached over 1.2 million last year which created revenues of 1.7 billion U.S. dollars. The island intends to attract 2.5 million arrivals by 2016, and is greatly counting on a fast increase of Chinese tourist arrivals.
Here are the main keys for Sri Lanka to attract more Chinese tourists:
The increase of Chinese tourists coming to Sri Lanka observed between 2012 and 2013 is mostly due to massive campaigns to advertise the country in China made by the Sri Lankan government. Those campaigns were in the form of publicity programs and bus branding.
The Sri LankanTourism Development Authority also organized an event to celebrate the arrival of the 100,000th Chinese tourist in the country. The tourist named Ha Yeon and who is General Manager of a beauty products company was especially welcomed at the Aiport in Katunayake. The lucky winner was offered an accommodation in a local luxury hotel and air tickets to come back to Sri Lanka.
Diplomatic relations are the key for Sri Lanka to attract more Chinese tourists. It will enable the country to obtain more visibility into China. But the Sri Lankan Tourism Promotion Bureau seems to have already begun this step. Indeed it signed an agreement with Zhongshan Municipal Tourism Bureau. This Memorandum of Understanding between the two parties will help develop cooperation between Sri Lanka and Zhongshan City. They will indeed support each other’s tourism promotion events in both cities.
For Sri Lanka to attract more Chinese tourists, the country has to supply them with quality infrastructures. It will be therefore necessary to provide more direct flights between the two countries as for now there is just 1 weekly 7 hours flight from Beijing to Sri Lanka. Most of the other flights usually make one stop in Abu Dhabi.
As for the Hotels, Chinese tourists who can allow themselves to travel abroad usually like to stay in upscale accommodations. It is then necessary for the country to make sure they will have enough of this accommodation type to please the Chinese tourists.
Chinese love to travel abroad but most of them also need to feel a bit at home while they are far from their actual one. This is why it is important for Sri Lankan Tourism Professionals to detect the needs of their Chinese customers. Learn mandarin is now a must in order to provide them with quality service because most of Chinese tourists do not speak English. They will also like to have Chinese food included into menus and kettles in the rooms to make their tea or hot water.
And since shopping is the main hobby of Chinese abroad, the country will also have to provide Chinese tourists with payment facilities that accept Chinese credit cards.
Digital marketing : a sure way to reach the Chinese tourists
We can therefore see that the Sri Lankan authorities understood the importance of promotion. Their actions are however mainly directed to offline targets.
With 634 million Chinese going online and 70% of the travel booking made through e-tourism platforms and website, Sri Lankans tourism agencies must also have an important digital presence
A Chinese website
If you want to reach Chinese tourists, it is important to have a Chinese website. A lot of Chinese tourists do not speak or read english. so it is very important for you to create a Chinese website with mandarin language. Moreover, you have to be visible on Baidu, the first Chinese search engine with 82 percent of the market.
SEO on Baidu
Baidu is the source of 81% of the research made in China. Before buying everything, Chinese consumers will first spend time on Baidu to have more information about your brand. The Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a strategy that works to rank your official website in the natural search results over time. If your ranking on the natural search results is good, you will be more visible and Chinese consumers will trust you.
PPC on Baidu
Banner ads on Baidu or Pay Per Click will create traffic on your website; this is by increasing your visibility as well as giving you more confidence in your prospects, who will see you better referenced on the web and will be more inclined to give credit to your offer.
Wechat is used by companies to advertise. This is in the form of an official account, where Internet users subscribe and can receive some information per month on the company (promotions, exceptional event …), but also in the form of ambassadors (also known as influencers). Internet users who, for remuneration, agree to solicit other Internet users by advertising the company on discussion groups and their own Wechat profile.
Using Wechat to make yourself known is a fairly popular method because it has the advantage of not spaming; Ambassadors target targeted discussion groups where Internet users are specifically looking for this type of product, and Wechat can be used as a small search engine to find official brand accounts. It is the Internet users who are looking for information, not you who invade them in their personal space. Therefore, you just have to do everything to be visible in the first results on Wechat, sharing content and being actively engaged on groups.
Public Relations is one of the key points on which any digital marketing strategy should be based. More than attract Chinese visitors to your website, it is important to raise your brand awareness and to make your brand more visible for Chinese buyers by using online Public Relations. You have to keep in mind that your message needs to be carefully tailored for your target. Indeed, all the content that is released must be in line with the brand’s positioning as well as with its intended customers. Moreover, it is important to choose the right media for your Public Relations. You should avoid offline media because the most par of PR activities are now taking place online.
Your reputation on Chinese social networks is essential to reassure your customers. The first reflex of the Chinese netizens will be to look for information about your account, that is why you must look after your image on the net and master the disclosure of the negative opinions, in particular by responding cordially and professionally to the degrading comments on your activity.
IWOM Internet Word of Mouth
The user experience is what Chinese tourist trust most. So, prior to booking their holidays they will check other users experience. Once that is done they will plan them accordingly : go to the well-reviewed resorts, avoid the heavily criticised places.
With 90% of the Chinese netizens having a social network account, Sri Lankan tourism agencies must make sure to have a presence on Chinese social networks and tourism-focused platforms to have a better chance at attracting the Chinese tourists
KOL : Key opinion leaders
The KOLs are people with a high level of influence amongst the internet user community. If e-tourism companies control the KOL they can control the opinion of thousands. As a consequence they can easily focus Chinese tourists attention to Sri Lanka as a premium destination.
Gentlemen Marketing Agency
We are the most visible marketing agency in China and specialized on the digital field. We have promoted many successful projects, thanks to our team of experts, and because we know the Chinese market situation. We can help you to effectively develop your business in China by using the latest digital tools. Do not hesitate to contact us!
To go further:
- Sri Lanka Travel
- Our services to help you understand Chinese tourists
- E-tourism success factors in China