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China Outbound — Executive Summary

China Outbound — a trend report from The Innovation Group at J. Walter Thompson — explores the fastest-growing group of global travelers and what it means for your brand.

Chinese international travel has tripled in the last 10 years to 130 million trips in 2017, with affluent, increasingly adventurous consumers setting the pace of travel retail, hotels and hospitality.

Traditional molds are changing. Singles, younger generations, and those from smaller cities are traveling, making this cohort a powerful, and moving, target.

Our report unearths the new motivations and aspirations behind Chinese travel and identifies 12 emerging types of Chinese travelers, from medical tourists to women travelers to foodies and adventure seekers. There are also filial travelers, treating their aged parents to an overseas holiday, and geopolitical travelers, who are inspired to visit places along the One Belt, One Road network of trade routes in the region.

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China Outbound — Executive Summary

  1. 1. The New Face of Chinese Global Travel EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Understanding the fastest-growing group of global travelers – and what it means for your brand China Outbound:
  2. 2. Contents 3–4 . . . . . . . . . . . Introduction 5–7 . . . . . . . . . . . Context 8–27 . . . . . . . . . . Survey Results Top findings Drivers and deterrents 12 emerging traveler types 28–42 . . . . . . . . Case Studies Mobile payments: Alipay Online travel bookings: Ctrip Boutique travel: Beshan by WildChina Country campaign: Indonesia’s “10 New Balis” Destination weddings: Four Seasons Oahu, Hawaii 43–52 . . . . . . . . Emerging sectors Medical tourism: Hope Noah, Ctrip Love tourism: Daocaoren, PFLAG Soul tourism: Ctrip, Glo Kitchen + Fitness 53–54 . . . . . . . . Takeaways 55–83 . . . . . . . . By the Numbers 84 . . . . . . . . . . . . . Acknowledgements Cover image: Wild China in Morocco Top image: Airbnb Bottom image: Wild China in Morocco CHINA OUTBOUND 2EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
  3. 3. Context Wild China in Morocco
  4. 4. “The industry used to do a very cookie-cutter 10- day Europe kind of product. These tended to be retired workers, retired teachers.” MEI ZHANG FOUNDER, WILD CHINA Chinese international travel has tripled in the last 10 years, with affluent, increasingly adventurous consumers setting the pace of travel retail, hotels and hospitality. Traditional molds are changing. Singles, younger generations, and those from smaller cities are traveling, making this cohort a powerful, and moving, target. It’s hard to believe that until fairly recently, travel abroad was considered a bourgeois practice and beyond the reach of the Chinese masses. Until China’s opening up in the late 1970s, and even into the 1980s, overseas travel was mainly reserved for visiting friends and relatives, and for government delegations. It wasn’t until a second wave of economic reforms in the 1990s created a manufacturing boom and a substantial middle class, that Chinese began venturing out in large numbers. Between 1980 and 2016 China’s gross domestic product per capita rose from $194 to $8,123, according to the World Bank, with wealth concentrated in the big cities. Starting in the early 2000s, China’s travel industry began to bloom, with Chinese heading initially to nearby Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, and then to well-known tourist destinations beyond on bus tours for photo ops and shopping. In the early days, “the industry used to do a very cookie-cutter 10-day Europe kind of product,” Mei Zhang, founder of WildChina, a boutique travel agency, tells the Innovation Group. “These tended to be retired workers, retired teachers.” Between 2000 and 2010, the number of outbound travelers grew from 10.5 million to 57.4 million, according to the National Bureau of Statistics of China. By the end of 2015, that had more than doubled, and Asian investment firm CLSA predicts about 200 million Chinese will travel abroad annually by 2020. Countries began making it easier for Chinese to visit, waiving visas or issuing them on arrival. The sheer numbers going abroad for the first time, and the possibility of culture clashes, prompted Beijing to publish a guide—“The Chinese Citizens’ Guide to Civilized Behavior Abroad”—which included advice such as “Do not force foreigners to take pictures with you” and “Do not pick the flowers and fruit.” CHINA OUTBOUND 4CONTEXT: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
  5. 5. National holidays In China, private sector workers get an average of two weeks’ annual leave while the approximately 20% of China’s employed who work for state-owned enterprises get a minimum of five days’ vacation in a year. That’s why many tend to travel during China’s two major holidays: the week- long Chinese New Year celebration in January or February and Golden Week in October. Travel businesses target these times for promotions. This year, Airbnb released its first Chinese New Year campaign, “Celebrate It My Way,” localized for the Chinese market. Airbnb invited celebrities, influencers and selected users from hundreds of applicants on the popular WeChat blog “The Fair” to take their parents on a trip abroad instead of traveling to hometowns and villages to celebrate Spring Festival the traditional way. International luxury brands such as Lacoste and Harrods also reserve those dates for major campaigns and collaborations with China’s mobile payment and e-commerce giants. These days, Chinese travelers are getting younger and more adventurous. They are journeying further and in smaller groups, in part inspired by others on social media. When, in 2009, Robbie Gong and his partner founded the Shanghai-based, culture-focused boutique travel group Daocaoren, their aim was to let travelers have real-life, immersive experiences. “Nobody was doing this in China,” he tells the Innovation Group. “Young travelers definitely love to travel just so they can show off on their WeChat Moments, but more people want to have a connection with the real world and get to know different cultures,” Gong says. “We want to help them build bridges and find truth.” “Young travelers definitely love to travel just so they can show off on their WeChat Moments, but more people want to have a connection with the real world and get to know different cultures. We want to help them build bridges and find truth.” ROBBIE GONG FOUNDER, DAOCAOREN CHINA OUTBOUND 5CONTEXT: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
  6. 6. Between March 13 and 21, 2018, the Innovation Group conducted a survey of 1,500 adult travelers (over 18 years of age) from 16 cities across China using SONAR™, J. Walter Thompson’s proprietary research unit. Respondents were those who had traveled outside the country in the past 18 months—49% were male and 51% female. Eastern Southern Western Northern Tier 1 Shanghai Guangzhou Chongqing Beijing Tier 2 Hangzhou Changsha Chengdu Haerbin Tier 3 Wuxi Liuzhou Xining Qingdao Tier 4 Fuzhou Lijiang Leshan Handan Broadly, travelers are increasingly seeking something they can’t find back home—this could be food, culture, spirituality, nature, adventure or even love—yet still want the conveniences of home such as language and familiar payment systems. Cities covered: N=1,500 adults living in China (n=375 per tier, with at least n=75 per city) Beijing Haerbin Qingdao Shanghai Hangzhou Fuzhou Changsha Guangzhou Chongqing Lizhou Chengdu Handan Leshan Xining Lijiang Wuxi CHINA OUTBOUND 6SURVEY RESULTS: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
  7. 7. Filial travelers (51% have been on such trips, 37% have not yet been on such trips but are interested in them) Travelers are heading abroad in multigenerational groups, sometimes as an alternative to hometown reunions during Chinese New Year. These include business people traveling with their retired parents as well as their young children, and millennials traveling with their parents. Travel operators are learning to cater to multigenerational groups of six or seven people. (See “Case study: Beshan by WildChina” pg 34) • Over index on meeting new people, learning about new cultures, quality time with family/friends, and being amazed • Especially likely to say that traveling is a great way to bond with family, learn about new cultures, and that they spend more on travel than they used to • More likely to prefer a loose itinerary when traveling Foodie travelers (48% have been, 41% interested) Where Chinese tourists once stuck to the predictability of Chinese restaurants while abroad, they are now more likely to enjoy local cuisines, whether it’s sushi in Japan, oysters in New Zealand, crispy duck in Bali or durian in Malaysia. For an increasing number of Chinese travelers, local delicacies have become something to be sought out rather than studiously avoided. (See “Voices: Liu Tong” pg 23 and “Voices: Linfeng Li” pg 25) • Skews more urban, more likely to be students • Over index on meeting real local people, shopping, self-discovery, and meeting new people • Especially likely to say that they would rather travel internationally than within China, that people ask their advice about traveling, and that they spend more on travel than they used to Emerging traveler types We combined our survey results with original interviews and desk research to identify 12 emerging types of Chinese travelers. “Trying out new foods is an important part of traveling.” LIU TONG (CARRIE) FOODIE FROM BEIJING “All the travel they plan is with their families.” MEI ZHANG FOUNDER OF WILD CHINA AND ITS OUTBOUND UNIT, BESHAN, REFERRING TO THE TYPICAL CLIENT CHINA OUTBOUND 7SURVEY RESULTS: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
  8. 8. Linfeng Li, 31 Shanghai Solo male traveler, foodie Linfeng Li took a trip to Stockholm, Sweden last September to visit a friend and celebrate leaving his corporate job to become a full-time photographer. But being a food tour guide in Shanghai, he couldn’t resist checking out the capital’s food scene. He found Food Tours Stockholm and signed up for a three-hour tour giving visitors a sense not only of local concepts such as “fika,” a Swedish term for coffee- and-pastry hour, but also how locals go about their daily lives. Li says he usually uses TripAdvisor to find food while abroad, saving Dianping for finding restaurants in China. “If a food tour is available, I’ll find out about where to eat in a destination through the tours, but if not, if I have friends living there I’ll ask for recommendations,” he says. He loves making his own discoveries as a solo traveler. “Overall, each trip is more liberating and rewarding than the previous one, especially when I travel alone,” he says. “Past travel experiences were solely dependent on group tours, which was my parents’ first choice, and I find independent trips are much more flexible and positive. Without rigid plans or forced shopping, I can do whatever I feel like.” “Each trip is more liberating and rewarding than the previous one, especially when I travel alone.” LINFENG LI SOLO MALE TRAVELER, FOODIE 8CHINA OUTBOUNDSURVEY RESULTS: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
  9. 9. In 2000, Mei Zhang started WildChina to run small, luxury tours in China for Westerners wanting to step off the beaten tourist path. The agency garnered accolades for its deep local knowledge and emphasis on interpersonal connections. In 2012, National Geographic Traveler included WildChina’s Ancient Tea and Horse Road trip, which starts in China’s subtropical southwest and ends in the Tibetan region of Shangri-La, on its list of “50 Tours of a Lifetime.” In the same year, Zhang also began applying the same formula for outbound tourists—tailoring small tours for wealthy Chinese businesspeople to places such as Tanzania, Namibia, Argentina and Iceland. Beshan, WildChina’s outbound brand, is now the fastest-growing segment of the business, with revenue growing from 10% to 18% of total sales in 2017. It runs trips to more than 15 countries and clients come from all over China. Zhang had expected her Chinese clients to be a certain demographic— worldly, sophisticated, living in China’s top-tier cities—and the equivalent of her Western clients. “China just surprised us,” she tells the Innovation Group. “We expected clients who are very international, who speak English, who are very well- traveled. But the reality is it’s a mix. We have clients from some very small cities. The rate of adoption of second and third-tier cities doesn’t lag behind first-tier cities when it comes to luxury travel.” Boutique travel agency: Beshan by WildChina Wild China in Jordan CHINA OUTBOUND 9CASE STUDIES: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
  10. 10. CHINA OUTBOUND 10 1/3 say they prefer to travel internationally as part of a structured group tour, while most others prefer to make their own itineraries (some more detailed than others) How respondents prefer to travel Q. When you travel to a foreign country, which ONE of the following best describes how you prefer to travel? BY THE NUMBERS: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY I prefer to travel as part of a structured tour or group, where the tour mostly determines what we see and do I prefer to plan my own detailed list of places, sites and activities, and I pretty much stick to this plan I prefer to plan a somewhat loose itinerary, through leaving time to add in new plans and make new discoveries along the I prefer to just show up at a destination and figure out what to do when I get there Structured tours are preferred by those who are married, parents, and those with higher income levels 33% 33% 32% 3% 0 20 40
  11. 11. CHINA OUTBOUND 11 Travelers look for a balance between the familiar and an authentic, local experience – 93% say it’s important to experience a feeling that is local and authentic to the destination, while 79% are looking for a familiar feeling like their own culture Importance when choosing a hotel for international travel (% very/somewhat important) Q. And how important is each of the following when choosing a hotel for international travel? BY THE NUMBERS: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY A feeling that is local or authentic to the destination A familiar feeling, like my own culture 0 50 100 93% 79%
  12. 12. Download the full report: This is the executive summary. For the full 84-page report, click on "download" on the right side of the page.
  13. 13. Contact: Chen May Yee APAC Director of the Innovation Group J. Walter Thompson Intelligence mayyee.chen@jwt.com Lucie Greene Worldwide Director of the Innovation Group J. Walter Thompson Intelligence lucie.greene@jwt.com Visual Editor and Creative Director: Emma Chiu Researcher and Writer: Jessica Rapp Contributors: Eddy Cheng of JWT Beijing; Jeremy Koh of JWT Shanghai; Hiroyuki Hosomi of JWT Japan; Marianne Admardatine, Retna Murti and Antonius Alexander of JWT Jakarta; Jacqueline Smart of JWT New Zealand; Pam Garcia of JWT Manila; Ida Seow and Julie Traczyk of JWT Singapore; Prachawan Ketavan and Piyamon Phomnayramit of JWT Bangkok, Megha Manchanda of JWT Delhi. SONAR™: Mark Truss, Amy Song Visual research: Nayantara Dutta Design: Jay Yeo About the Innovation Group The Innovation Group is J. Walter Thompson’s futurism, research and innovation unit. It charts emerging and future global trends, consumer change, and innovation patterns—translating these into insight for brands. It offers a suite of consultancy services, including bespoke research, presentations, co-branded reports and workshops. It is also active in innovation, partnering with brands to activate future trends within their framework and execute new products and concepts. It is part of J. Walter Thompson Intelligence. Acknowledgments The Innovation Group would like to thank the travel industry experts, tourism officials, business owners and travelers who gave their time and insights to enrich this report. They are: Alipay; Wang Gang of Hope Noah Health Company; Robbie Gong of Daocaoren; Vinsensius Jemadu of Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism; Shirley So of Glo Kitchen & Fitness; Hu Tingting; Sanjiv Hulugalle; Jenny Wang of Four Seasons; Linfeng Li; Liu Tong; Lu Weifeng of Ctrip; Sherry Ma; Wenmin Ou; Ah Qiang of PFlag China; Vigil Yu; Mei Zhang of WildChina; Jiling Zheng.