China Outbound Travel & Tourism Market 2012
This past week we attended the China Outbound Travel & Tourism Market in Beijing, China. While we have attended events similar in Beijing, this expo describes itself as “the only dedicated business-to-business outbound travel and tourism exhibition in China.”
The three day expo attracted not just countries around the world, but individual resorts and hotels trying to capture the booming Chinese outbound tourism market. Booths were setup throughout the expo floor, with the Philippines, Mexico, and Egypt located perfectly at the entrance to meet and greet every visitor. You can see the full list here.
Towards the back of the expo, both Venezuela and Ecuador had massive booths with general information about their countries. Mauritius had done a fantastic china job, much like the Philippines did, organizing different industries in the country (hotels, tours, golf courses, tourism board members)to group together and create a larger booth.
All the way at the end, next to the “VIP By Appointment Only” area, was a small room where presentations were being given by countries and individuals regarding their thoughts towards the Chinese outbound tourism market. The room was usually always full, although we did not have time to stay for most of the presentations.
It was incredible to see the diversity in approaches each booth took. Mexico, for example, had performances and a bottomless Guacamole bowl, and promoted their multilingual website hoping to capture Chinese interested in their culture. On the flip side, destinations like Bulgaria had spent a lot of effort on their booth but had no website or online marketing material in Chinese. Most resorts had a fact sheet translated in Chinese, focusing on the room size/specifications rather than attributes that might entice Chinese tourists to stay.
America had a great presence and a section dedicated to USA destinations, however the individual booths in this section approached tourism very differently and they did not band together as a team. For example, Guam (which recently has received a lot of attention as the next big stop for Chinese tourists) had no information besides three Chinese girls who spoke no English, while the Utah Office of Tourism had representatives from their official office sharing the best of Salt Lake City, an apparently already large Chinese tourist destination.
There were also tour services catering to mostly lower to middle-class tourists, but not much setup to cater towards middle to upper-class tourists. The only American-based hotel chain with a booth was Epoque Hotels (of course they have locations world-wide), however we were unable to find someone to meet with there. Las Vegas’s booth was plain however extremely informational and obviously already a large destination for Chinese tourists (when we were there last month, it felt like every 3rd table in the casino had a dealer who spoke Chinese).
The most interesting conversation came from our meeting with Ecuador. Ecuador apparently has the largest community of Chinese in South America – and they are trying to make it even larger. Representatives from the Ecuadorian government are meeting with Chinese representatives in order to establish a low-cost, subsidized “direct” flight from Shanghai to Ecuador via Rome. This would increase the amount of Chinese tourists to the country, something their marketing plan is dedicated to achieving.
The biggest shock came from most of the resorts that decided to attend. They flew from around the world, spent thousands of dollars on a booth and marketing materials, but didn’t have any online Chinese presence for those interested to research more. There was no website in Chinese that could be forwarded to tourists to entice them to go. Often times these resorts do not realize how much a website can entice them, and they want to wait until Chinese tourists are already coming before they initiate an online marketing plan…. even though they flew all the way to China to promote their destination. A curious case of the chicken vs the egg.
Some other notable booths were: Bangladesh, which is already receiving many tourists thanks to a direct flight from Kunming; Cambodia that already receives a lot of Chinese tourists to Siem Reap; and Egypt, which, like Cambodia, has decided to focus on their internationally recognized tourist destinations as their strongest selling point.
Overall it was a fantastic event to attend, however it was a bit obvious that some destinations had a strong marketing plan and knew what they were doing when it came to attracting Chinese tourists, while others had a minimal marketing plan that didn’t involve online engagement after the expo and relied exclusively on connections they could make during the 3 day event.
We look forward to attending the event next year, however in two months the Beijing International Tourism Expo should provide a similarly interesting scene and group of destinations eager to capture the Chinese outbound tourism market.