Promoting France as a traveling spot through Chinese social media
Thanks to a better standard of living and an access to a society of consumption, a bigger part of China’s population can now afford to travel abroad. In 2014, Chinese travelers were 100 million, becoming the first population of travelers in the world before the United States and Germany. It is also the most eager to spend money, with 60% of their budget only for shopping.
The evolution of the ways of traveling is linked with the new generation. In fact, more and more Chinese don’t want to go on tour package anymore. They gave up on night autobus journeys from cities to cities, nights in hotels far from city centers and Chinese restaurants at very meal. Year by year, they are more willing to get to know the culture and gastronomy of the countries and cities they visit. They also want to do activities that allow them to move out of their comfort zones and go off the beaten track. The call for nature is also stronger, with the need to leave crowded and noisy cities.
With a higher purchasing power and a taste for exploring new things, China’s population became a strategic point for the tourisme industry.
Thus, in 2015, France was the 3rd destination for Chinese travelers, according to the Resonance marketing agency. For Maxity communication and tourism marketing agency, France welcomed 2 million tourists in 2015. It is a record, especially considering the decrease of tourists after the terrorist attacks of 2015. To please and attract consumers, the country simplified the process to obtain a visa, shopping centers hired mandarin speaking vendors, etc. Moreover, Paris is not the only place of interest. Provence and its vineyards attract the middle class interested in oenology and French gastronomy.
With more than 700 million internet users, China is the country with the most people connected in the world. To counter the absence of Facebook, Twitter and other western social medias, China developed its own. These platforms fill the needs of users, who are also consumers.
In order to attract Chinese tourists, it is important to understand the way they travel, but also what happened before they do – that is to say, how they chose a destination and book a place to stay. Attracting potential customers through digital means is vital for the tourism industry. Indeed, China’s population is very connected and social media can be used as a vehicle for consumption.
What follows are the first elements of answer to implement a digital strategy to attract Chinese travelers.
To adapt one’s offer to Chinese standards
Before looking at social media platforms, you first need to adapt your image to Chinese standards, in order to establish a relation of trust with web users. To do so, you need to showcase your offer, through a website for instance.
This website has to be in mandarin and match the visual of a Chinese website. Indeed, there are differences between western and asian styles. The symbolic of color is important, but also the way to access the main information (place, price, contact, partners, reviews, etc.) that have to be on the first page.
An extension “.cn” will facilitate the referencing. Moreover, the SEO (search engine optimization) on Baidu is not the same as on Google. It can appear more difficult to western companies. But, thanks to SEO, you can have better traffic to your site.
Referencing on specialized websites
To refine your digital strategy, you need to be registered on booking websites and travel discussion groups.
The four most important platforms are Qunar, Qyer, Tuniu and Ctrip. They enable Chinese travelers to compare prices and services before buying flight tickets, booking hotels, leisures…all of this on a unique website.
With 70% of Chinese tourists organizing their journey themselves, those websites are more and more important. This tendency also shows a great change in comparison to the previous generation habits who were using tour operators and package tours.
These platforms are also a good way to know what travelers are looking for and improve your offer, thanks to the study of comments and discussions groups.
Once this step is achieved, it’s time to create your identity on social media.
To promote your offer through social media
91% of Chinese people have an account on at least one social media. They mainly read the news on those platforms, considering them more credible than on traditional websites.
In the Chinese business tradition, the interaction between clients and vendors is essential, but also the one between clients themselves. Indeed, they comment openly about any product on social media.
Nearly 80% of internet users talk about products and services they bought and used, whether or not the experience was positive. Consumers’ final decision is largely motivated by information they gathered through their “virtual” relations.
Currently, the most used and relevant social media to promote a travel offer are: Weibo and WeChat. They each have their own distinctive features and enable to target a large number of profiles.
Weibo, the #1 social media in China
Weibo is the best vector of communication for brands. It is a microblogging platform. Written posts are maximum 140 characters – about 70 words – and then, allow messages to contain several information.
In order to create a community of “fans” for your offer, publications need to be regular, or daily. For a tourism agency, it is important to demonstrate the assets of the city/the hotel…with pretty photos. A storytelling will also add authenticity and originality. Publications have to seduce Chinese travelers in search of unique experiences and eager to discover French culture.
Moreover, the obtention of the “verified” logo (a V on a blue background, down the profile picture) is a sign of quality and trust for brands and companies that can otherwise have a non-verified account copied. The process is not free and can take long (between 2 to 4 weeks), but it is a crucial point in a digital strategy.
WeChat, social vector
WeChat, or Weixin, is an instant messaging application, where it is also possible to publish articles, photos and videos. Unlike Weibo, profiles are not public. Users need to be registered, then validated to access publications. Many brands and companies have their own professional accounts. They update their fans on their whereabouts and organize contests to win the loyalty of their followers. The messaging features on Weixin reinforce the importance of the relation between vendors and clients. In fact, if a client has questions about a product, he can simply use the messaging function in the brand account. For this and because of time difference, you need to have a communication service based in China and be able to answer accurately to several requests at a time.
So, as part of a digital strategy bound for Chinese travelers, Weibo is used to the networking angle and Weixin for the social angle. These two platforms are complementary to retain followers and to promote an offer.
Influencers: A must-have to promote one’s product
Moreover, it’s important to establish a network by being closer to Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) working on your business sector. They often are leading figures with an important fan base and whose marketing messages are highly valuable. The aim is to partner with these KOLs. The partnership might include sharing the brand publication to their networks, or to let a KOL write a review about a product he used and liked. In the tourism industry, to partner with Chinese travelers posting numerous photos and their opinion on their blog and/or social media can be very efficient.
For example, some New Zealand tourism organizations partnered with the actor Yaochen – who is very active on Weibo, among other platforms. During her entire stay, she published videos and photos. Today, New Zealand attracts as many Chinese tourists as Australia.
The web became an essential tool for Chinese tourists who open themselves up to new ways of traveling, eager to discover new cultures and feelings. Considering the steady increase of Chinese travelers, enterprises of the tourism industry that are willing to attract Chinese clients should not forget to improve their presence on Chinese social media. In addition to create a brand image that is answering to the needs of those travelers, they also have to manage a good interaction with them. This can be done through contests, games, videos and various types of publications that are strengthening their authenticity and originality.
However, even though the digital dimension is essential, there is also an important Chinese community in France, which can be used as a relay of the assets of the country.