Key terms: 2019 World Culture and Tourism Forum; Ctrip; entry and travel.
Travel Daily – During the 2019 World Culture and Tourism Forum, James Liang, Co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Ctrip Group, suggested China’s tourism to change its promotional slogan from “Beautiful China” to “Friendly China” to the overseas markets.
Responding to Liang’s suggestion, some commented that “Friendly China” was slightly polite and China should draw lesson from other slogans such as “Amazing Malaysia” and “Must Visit Korea”.
Some also suggested their own slogans. Among others, “Embracing China” and “Hospitable China”.
Whatever the slogans are, each travel company wishes to promote and market China. Thanks to the reflection and innovation of tourism businesses, China’s figures of tourist entry and travel broke through its bottleneck. And many more people across the world are able to witness the attraction of China.
The forum titled Promoting and Marketing Entry and Travel in China on October 24th brought together key figures of tourism industry for an in-depth discussion. Among others, Lin Zheng, Founder & CEO of Beijing Archetour International Travel Services Co., Ltd; Kris Van Goethem, Managing Director of Thomas Cook China; Kitty Huang, Vice President – Customer Loyalty & Revenue Generation, Greater China, Wyndham Hotel Group; Zhonghua Ma, Deputy General Manager of Xi’an Xianyang International Airport; and Thomas Zhang, International Business Office Manager of Capital Airlines. The discussion was hosted by Joseph Wang, Chief Commercial Officer of TravelDaily.
Low-priced travel to give way to more valuable services
During the forum, host Joseph Wang showed a piece of newspaper which read: “US$99 for 4D3N in Xi’an or 5D4N in Mount Hua.”
The audiences showed their contempt for such a low price. Lin Zheng put it directly: “You are the angel of justice, if you fight a war against cheap travels!”
Zheng also exposed that she was brought into five shops for shopping in one morning during a low-priced travel tour in Hong Kong. She did not get to experience the joy of traveling. “It can be said that low-priced travel is now a scar of the business of entry and travel.”
“It is not that the tourists are reluctant to spend money. It is just that they don’t want to spend money unnecessarily. Places which are worthwhile for them to spend money, they are still willing spend,” said Zhonghua Ma. His words could be revealing the thought of many.
If this is the case, what are the ways to promote tourism and what valuable services to be introduced to tourists? Can you do both while also helping businesses make more money?
According to Kris van Goethem, Thomas Cook had long abandoned conventional travel routes. The company basically sells customized travel packages to visitors entering and traveling in China.
“Individual visitors make up of much of the customized tour business. It is very tiring for us as each guest has his or her own travel routes. But we are excited about it. Guests on customized tours spend longer time in China. Governmental and business visit groups brought forth more consumption opportunities when they visit for meetings and activities and sporting events, which means we make better profits.”
Kris van Goethem’s idea about longer staying time struck a chord with Kitty Huang. Huang hoped to extend tourists’ staying time in the hotel by giving free experiences for top-rated members, or selling valuable and ready-to-use products to tourists coming into China.
Thomas Zhang offered his two cents on aviation part. Firstly, raise the price of air tickets, such as adjusting the prices of overall economy seats upward, or providing more business-class seats. Secondly, increase supplementary income on top of air ticket sale. Among services to earn more income, picking up and dropping off tourists; prioritized check-in services; transferring luggage; and selling gate tickets and one-day-tour packages.
New means to replace inefficient conventional promotional methods
Better products need to be promoted by better marketing means. “Basically it was done through phone calls in the earlier years, when it comes to conventional local travel marketing tools. But now, it is extravagant. Emailing is another method. I once did a research and investigation. When a tour group decided to go for a trip, from communication to making the trip itself, you need to exchange 100 to 200 emails. This is really inefficient. On top of that, there is a high cost to win customers, and you don’t have many channels,” Zheng felt slightly helpless.
Kris van Goethem also shared what he observed: the marketing effect of some travel mart events became weaker.
“A large number of people were busy working. But it was aimless. Previously, when you visit a country and you meet with three main suppliers. And you strike the business deal with that country. But now, the services become scattered and you need to see many small companies. This is a conventional way of running business. But still, it is more efficient than you standing on the stage promoting tour packages for three days.”
According to Huang, Wyndham as an international hotel group runs its own sales and marketing department. The company needs to educate their staff members about Chinese culture before they could promote and introduce China’s tour packages. And hotels could not introduce tourist spots by themselves. Cooperation is needed from the tourist spots’ authorities and government officials and airline companies. Huang said this is the way to market tourism of a travel destination.
Speaking of current marketing means to promote local travel, Lin Zheng thought of sourcing business through online travel agencies. Difficulty in luring customers is still the biggest problem faced by conventional travel companies. Even when they advertise through Google and Ctrip, the cost is still stubbornly high as advertisers charge higher and higher.
Wyndham gave more weight to reward program. “Customers are allowed to accumulate credits to exchange for a product in a local hotel. When you reach a certain grade, you can go for an experience trip. These are the methods to promote local travel in China and increase sale figures for our hotels,” said Huang.
Thomas Zhang also shared a method currently tested by Capital Airlines. “We opened a route plying Portugal and Xi’an. This is the only direct route between China and Portugal. Based the route, airport and travel agencies can work with each other to increase the chance of luring customers,” Zhang added. “But it is obvious that the chance to secure ‘the only direct flight’ is hard to come by.”
Borrowing the experience of neighboring Japan, Zhang said that Japan attract entry and travel tours by printing advertisements on newspapers, which are distributed to each household for free. They aimed to attract elder potential tourists. “The method looks conventional but the outcome seems to be fairly good.”
Slowdown of entry and travel isn’t a weakness: market the tourism by complementing good steel with knife-edge
During his speech on October 23, James Liang said that slowdown in entry and travel was a big weakness in the short run for Chinese economy. And the weakness reflected the overall lack of China’s soft power. But many begged to differ. Lin Zheng was one of those who had different opinion. “Did entry and travel industry slow down the development of Chinese economy? Is our industry that significant in the economy?”
According to Zheng, 2007 was the best year for China’s entry and travel. A reference to 2007 China’s Tourism Statistics published China National Tourism Administration provided an insight. In 2007, number of tourists entered and traveled in China: 132 million people. Income of international tourism: 41.9 billion US dollar. Number of local tourists: 1.61 billion people. Total income of China’s tourism: 1.1 trillion Chinese yuan.
“Within twelve years, China’s tourism saw a drastic change. We have skyrocketing local demands when people become rich. The demand is very strong. The portion of entry and travel becomes lower in overall ratio. This is normal. But it doesn’t mean the part has become a weak point.”
Given such a situation, the government should not play down the challenges by saying that “it is normal”. When the market has limited budget, they should spend money wiser on promotional and marketing tools.
From the perspective of aviation, Thomas Zhang opined that culture and tourism board could make good use of existing flight routes to work with authorities of the destinations. They should also cooperate with airline companies and airports, as well as foreign tourism bureaus and government institutes to promote more quality products.
From the perspective of airport, Zhonghua Ma has in recent years worked with culture and tourism boards of provincial and municipal levels. They organized press conferences earlier to introduce new air routes and invited media outlets of the destinations to do their promotional work. It did not spend much but the method is worthwhile in the long run as it brought together airline routes and tourism industry.
Lin Zheng offered a direct idea. “Invest your money on increasing GDP and tourist figures. Your marketing is a hoax when you earn the exposure but brings not actual economic benefits.”
Kitty Huang was also frank about her suggestion. She said: “Stick to the market. Spend some money on the positioning of a destination. Look for consultation company and local resources. Understand why your city is different from other cities.”
Kris van Goethem was spot on when he mentioned visa problems, the biggest headache of all. He said: “Foreigners are exempted from visa application when they enter and transit within 144 hours. But you need more than that. Transit visas are good for business travelers. But how about ordinary travel groups? Visa problem is the most important of all. Solve this problem and other matters will fall into place.”
A series of events are being held as part of WCTF 2019, including the “Night of Xi’an” — Promotion Conference for Cultural Tourism, the Opening Ceremony of the 2019 WCTF, Forum on Internationalized Development of Tourism in Xi’an, a Theme Forum on Inbound Tourism Development and Signing Ceremonies for Co-operation, Theme Forums on Intelligence-Driven Destination Marketing Strategy, on Contributions of Shared Accommodation to the Global Economy, and on Development of Culture and Tourism, Yo-Yo Ma — The Bach Project in Xi’an Concert, the Ctrip Gorgeous Autumn in China — Beautiful Xi’an Autumn Tourism Festival, and the Xi’an Simple Life Festival.
Almost 1,000 participants will attend the main events of WCTF held between October 22 to 25, including more than 100 international guests from 26 countries and regions, as well as over 200 representatives of domestic industries and enterprises, and a total of over 3,000 visitors across the entire forum.
The main part of the forum was held from 22 to 25 October 2019. With nearly 1,000 guests, the forum attracted more than 100 guests from 26 countries and more than 200 representatives from local industries and businesses in China. Accumulated visitors to the forum numbered at more than 3,000 people.