Innovation is the key to success in the rapidly evolving Chinese travel market and this means working with dynamic trade partners who are abreast of the changes driving consumer choice.
China Project Manager Harriet Ganfield and I visited China this month to meet with Tourism Australia, Tourism and Events Queensland, key distribution partners and online travel platforms to consider how we move forward with our marketing strategy.
We covered five cities in five days- Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai, Huangzhou and Guangzhou – to get a broad understanding of regional differences in consumer demand for travel.
As a marketing organisation we are acutely aware of the difficulty in keeping up with this market, but were surprised to discover some of the potential trade partners in-market were losing market share because they were not evolving.
Independent (FIT) travellers now make up 40% of the market, with the remainder groups. Just two years ago group travel was almost exclusively contributing to Chinese visitor numbers in our region.
Chinese travel inquiries are increasingly about hire cars and campervans with these travellers expecting local and unique experiences.
Agents like CTrip, ITrip and Alex Li are becoming market leaders, leaving behind some of our traditional trade partners through their dynamic ability to innovate and deliver what the new Chinese consumer wants.
Everyone we met emphasised that the economic slowdown in China is impacting the travel industry with President Trump’s trade confrontation believed to continue the downward trajectory for at least another two years.
The high-end luxury market is the only travel market not impacted in China, but we do not have the product required for this market which wants exclusive experiences like those showcased in the movie Crazy Rich Asians.
The best way forward for the Cairns and Great Barrier Reef region is to pitch for the high-value traveller market – independent travellers and high-end groups, not the traditional shopping tours.
Our region’s operators need to evolve their marketing strategies to capitalise on this. Working solely with trade will no longer work as FIT travellers are booking their airline and hotels and leaving the choice of remaining holiday experiences until they arrive in the destination.
TTNQ’s role is to inspire and excite people to travel to the destination. It is the responsibility of operators to capture their market share post arrival. Operators need to determine how best to do this.
Not one agent considered Cairns a mono-destination. We must be packaged with Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane for the Chinese market. We need to show we are an essential part of the Australian experience.
The Chinese market is our largest international market and TTNQ will continue to work towards increased expenditure from this market. We will visit the market quarterly to ensure relationships with key decision makers are protected and we are abreast of the market.
Itineraries that suit the FIT market will continue to be developed as product evolves and agents will be trained in the products that suit this market. Business events will continue to be a focus for shoulder periods. We are also looking closely at digital activity to service the FIT market.
Innovation is the key to succeeding in competitive markets and this is especially true for China.
Chief Executive Officer
3 July 2019