The impact of Covid-19 over China
As the first country to be affected by the pandemic, China is now considered a special case in the impact of the Covid-19. Indeed, China was able to react quickly, both in terms of government directives and by the population, which took initiatives by themselves in order to overcome the epidemic.
- teleworking if possible,
- limitation of movements,
- self- confinement,
- wearing of an automatic mask,
- safety distances,
So, while part of the country was immobilized because of the pandemic, a large part of the country adapted as much as possible to keep the economy running and their businesses growing. Today, it has almost returned to its normal state, with even new advantages and opportunities.
Indeed, the Western world is still in the midst of the crisis or at best trying to get out of it. It has been brutal, and the adaptation has been difficult, so the western economy is suffering a lot.
On the contrary, the Chinese have been able for many of them to maintain their purchasing power and has been unable to travel during the new year, they are for many very motivated to travel.
Why you should not miss this Opportunity
As mentioned earlier, the Chinese have been for many of them able to maintain their income. Also, they have been saving for a long time because they had planned to travel for their Chinese New Year which was disrupted with the Covid-19.
The situation in China has improved significantly, so many Chinese want to travel to finally take a vacation and relax after this crisis.
Source: Fliggy 2020
For the moment, most borders are closed, and transport links are limited, but once this has returned to normal, the Chinese will be the first to want and be able to travel.
So, there are great opportunities for you as a tourism company: all you have to do is to be present online, visible, and reputable to the Chinese.
How to be reputable on the Chinese internet
Get good reviews
The first thing Chinese customers would look for before booking anything (hotel, restaurant, activity…) is the reviews. The Chinese customers need to be reassured: the more reviews your services have, the better it will be. The reviews must be many, but also good and detailed.
However, if there are no bad reviews or no mixed opinion, it might look suspicious.
Also, the reviews on the official website are not the one Chinese will rely the most on because they are looking for objective feedback and the one on your website might be from you and not from real customers. Indeed, they would believe more the one on platforms where customers share their opinions and feedbacks.
Therefore, if you want to reach the Chinese market, you will have to start with undercover marketing, by making fake reviews so it would attract the first customers and if they like your services then real reviews will come with time. For this type of process, it takes 5 months more or less to set up the fake reviews so they look real (without undercover marketing it should take around 2 years to reach the first customers).
Use relevant KOL
The second important thing for Chinese customers is the prestige and the social value of what they buy, of what they do, and for this, you can rely on KOLs.
The KOLs in China can play a very important role in the valuation of a place because Chinese customers are really into having the same picture, the same item, the same experience as their idol to show to the others that they can have it as well. This is all based on the concept of “mianzi” (face), which is about showing your social value, your wealth, and importance to others.
The only thing with KOL is that the most important ones are more and more expensive because they know that the impact can be very important. For example, a famous Chinese couple went to New Zealand and communicated on it, the year after New Zealand’s reputation got multiplicated by 3 with Chinese customers.
Nonetheless, the new trend is on micro-KOLs which are becoming very popular in 2020. Indeed, these micro-KOLs often have a highly committed community, who trust them and who is very loyal. Since they are still quite small (their community often numbering in the hundreds of thousands) compared to the main KOLs, they are therefore less solicited and have more time to present your brands, products and services. They are logically cheaper than the big KOLs who now charge exorbitant amounts due to their influence.
How to be visible on the Chinese internet
As you might know, due to the Chinese governmental regulation, the Chinese communication channels are totally different from the Western ones. This is why we can help you to be visible on these platforms and therefore reach the Chinese customers.
Boost your SEO on Baidu
Baidu is the Chinese Google, working with the same system of SEO. Your website has to be on Baidu, written in Chinese, hosted in Hong-Kong, Singapore, or Mainland China, and without using any Google plugin in order to be well-referenced and to generate traffic. The Chinese will most of the time not use your website to book anything (they will prefer to use the platforms and apps that will be presented later), but it is necessary to have one so they can find all the information centralized in the same place.
However they will not really pay attention to the reviews on the website because as mentioned before, Chinese customers do not really trust “official” reviews, (here the reviews on the official website), they would prefer the one coming from independent customers who have no interest in doing fake reviews.
Be present on every Chinese platform and social media
Chinese people spend their time on social media and this where they will first go look for information about your company and your services. They will also look at platforms, so this is why you have to have good visibility on both of them.
You should have pictures that show the services you are offering, and the Chinese customer should be able to project itself using your services. They are really into aesthetic and good-looking things so they can take pictures as it is an important part of their trip.
Chinese customers should be able to contact you through these platform/social in case they have any question or they need any additional information. These platforms often have tools to make the brand communicate with the users (“contact us”, review section,…), but once again, you have to make sure that you are not using any Google plugin such as Gmail or Youtube.
Your page/profile on these platforms should give the main information such as the location, the price, the details of your services, but also and especially reviews. As mentioned before, Chinese customers rely mainly on reviews to make their decisions, and the platform and social media are the sources of information they trust the most.
What are the essential platforms?
Mafengwo – the Chinese travel forum
This is the Chinese Tripadvisor: with more than a million entries of travel guides and more than five million ratings and reviews, Mafengwo is where Chinese customers share their travel experiences. There is information on hotels, flights, travel routes, museums, …anything useful for travelers.
If you want to promote your brand on Mafengwo, you can
- do some undercover marketing
- use KOLs / micro KOLs
- pay for ads
- create an appealing official account
The reviews on the platform have a lot of value for the Chinese customers because they are not given by the companies themselves but by travelers that they can trust. Therefore, having a good image on a platform like Mafengwo is a key to success.
Fliggy – part of the Alibaba Ecosystem
Fliggy is the tourism app developed by Alibaba. There are hotels, flights, museums, activities that can be booked on the platform, and since it is connected to Alibaba so to Alipay (one of the main payment platforms in China, used by millions of Chinese daily), the payment will be very easy.
For each brand, there are useful information, pictures, ratings, and reviews so the Chinese customer can wisely make its decision.
One of the innovative aspects of Fliggy is its live streaming service. The customer can discover some places (mainly in Europe), thanks to live-streaming which makes them visit the place they are about to book, so they really know what are they paying for.
Your own website on Baidu
Having your website on Baidu is a must. It will centralize all the information on the services you are offering and even though it might not generate traffic or Chinese customer will not often book through it, you can not be trusted without it. It has to be optimized for smartphones and tablets because the Chinese do not usually use their computer to book tickets or hotels: they prefer their mobile phone.
WeChat – more than a messaging app
It used to be considered as the Chinese Whatsapp but now it is so much more: it is the main social media in China, used daily by millions of users for different purposes.
The Chinese people use it to pay (pay in stores, pay online, transfer money…), but also to have access to mini-programs or official accounts where they can have the latest news of a brand and therefore be able to book for their services.
The mini-program is a mobile-optimized version of your website as if it was a mobile app, but it is directly accessible through Wechat. The official accounts will allow you to transfer the latest news to your subscribers, and you can provide them some loyalty programs, or even insights or your company.
WeChat groups – using word-to-mouth
In China, it is all about communities, and feedback from relatives, friends, acquaintances,… So the good deals are communicated via groups and being one of them can be a real advantage to get customers and their trust.
This is why being mentioned on the travel groups and using UGS can have a big positive impact on the popularity of your brand.
Qunar is a Chinese-language online travel information provider and mainland search engine for web-based and mobile users. Aiming to help travelers make suitable choices, Qunar organizes enormous information and provides thorough and instant search results for flights, hotels, packages, group-buying deals, visas, and other travel-related information through its accessible, humanistic, and avant-garde technology. Qunar also provides group-buying deals in more than 100 Chinese cities.
Therefore, since Chinese customers like to make good deals when they buy a product and a service, having competitive prices on this platform can attract them a lot.
This app is the largest OTA in China market and it is used to book train tickets, flights, hotels, or any type of activity or service during a trip: everything to “provide inspiration for tourists all the way along their trip“.
They base their system on what they call “Point of Interest” (POI) which can be hotels, popular destinations, tours, malls, scenic spots, restaurants… which will interest the user before (planning stage), and during its trip.
Each POI has
- immersive and attractive illustrations (photo or video),
- reviews from precedent users,
- the latest news of the POI
- the features and useful basic information
The user can have access to Top POI List but can also make its own list and save the POI which will be useful for its trip to find them easily later.
To promote your brand (your POI) on C-Trip, you can first make sure to have an appealing POI page with good design, complete information, and many positive reviews. You can also pay for ads so your POI can be put on the top.
To conclude: How to make sure Chinese customers will know your company
Be multichannel to be visible
The more Chinese customer will see you, the more they will remember you and think about you while planning their trip. The more they see something, the more they want to have it because the Chinese are mainly followers and they follow the trends.
Thus, being on only one or two of the channels mentioned above is not enough to attract and convince the Chinese customer. By seeing your presence on many platforms and social media, they can also see the different types of reviews and the more they are and the more diverse they are, the more they will trust you (and choose to book your services).
Make sure that your brand has good reviews because it is the key to get the trust of the Chinese customers and make them book your services.
In terms of prices, the Chinese are willing to spend a lot of money when they travel, but they do not want to over-pay.
Therefore, you should be competitive enough to succeed:
- Chinese customer would not like to book the cheapest because they do not want to lose face and they would think that quality is not good
- but they do not want to pay for the most expensive because they want to make good deals.
Be trendy and good looking
Chinese follow the trends so if you are too innovative that would scare them or simply not attract them. Make sure that your brand image is good and that the products or services you are selling are aesthetic because this is what seduce Chinese customers, so they can make good pictures to share.
From tour operators to restaurants, GMA travel division has been helping professionals of tourism since 2012 now.
We have been developing solutions non stop to adapt to the Chinese market and offer the best results to our clients, and we have been active in every area of the industry. Contact us to get a free consultation on your project.