Welcoming Chinese Tourists: my responses to questions asked at South Island Lantern Business Forum in Christchurch, 2019

  • What are accommodation trends for young Chinese tourists? Eg. What type of accommodation are they most likely to stay in? How can we attract young Chinese?

There are an increasing number of Chinese young tourists starting to use non-traditional accommodation providers to have an authentic kiwi experience, such as Airbnb. However, China has their own popular peer-to-peer rental platform, such as Xiaozhu (http://auckland.xiaozhu.com/danjian-duanzufang-2/). It is important to note in China, 100 NZ dollars are enough to have a four star hotel. So instead of trying to match the service standard of hotels in China, accommodation providers should provide them with “unique” aspect of kiwi accommodation experience.  I would also suggest accommodation service provider register themselves in Chinese search engine, baidu.com by providing their location and business contact numbers (noting that google has been blocked in China). It is very likely that your accommodation will be ranked higher than others when they search accommodation. Also, do not let them translate for you, but do provide a name in Chinese. For example, Small kiwi house is simply translated as “Zhaodai Suo”, which literally suggests “old and poor” quality accommodation.

  • Are Chinese likely to be backpackers?

Most of young Chinese tourists are unlikely to be backpackers. Considering the average salary in first tier cities (e,.g. Beijing – RMB 8467 per month (1,843 NZ dollar) in China, those Chinese who travel to New Zealand are usually middle-class, who might stay in youth hostels but will be willing to spend lots of monies on the experiential activities.

  • Are we placing too much risk on the China market for Tourism? Are we alienating other markets? Translating documentation or signage could work against us

It is always useful to diversify the tourist market, but the current volume of Chinese tourists coming to New Zealand is huge. The growth is likely to increase with the growth of Chinese middle class. As such, it is always a good idea to have documentation translated into a few languages instead of one. But considering our limited resource, one thing is clear that we want to have our investment on the right market.

  • What is the most used app or forum to find accommodation when they travel?

It really depends. There are a number of apps in China for Chinese tourists to book accommodation. C-trip is one but there are also popular and emerging ones including fliggy, Airbnb, booking.com (Chinese version). For the Chinese market, there are various segments. Thus, it is worth investigating to see which segment you would like to attract and then find the right app or platform.

  •  Does it bother millenials that NZ have average 4G?

I do not think this will be the case, as New Zealand is perceived by Chinese young tourists as a place to “go back to the nature”. But it is important to provide wifi in accommodation, so that they can share with their friends and family.

  • Do Chinese millennials follow social influences when planning their trips?

They do, but mostly grassroots influencers

  • When are we likely to see benefits of the Chinese? – NZ tourism year this year? Are Chinese numbers down this summer?

Increase awareness of NZ as a tourist destination in the second-tier cities in China. The number will grow but will not a big jump in the first or second year right after the China-NZ year.

  • Do young Chinese people want to learn about NZ history?

They do. But the key challenge is to how to story tell NZ history to Chinese tourists. They are not simply interested in facts. Also, it is important to provide points of references.

  • In the Chinese travel market where does CHCH sit? We see growth in Auckland and QSTN. What’s the feel re CHCH 8 years after the quake?

Compared to Queenstown and Auckland, Chinese tourists are generally less likely to stay long in CHCH considering the limited amount of activities they can do. I do not think earthquake has significantly impacts on Chinese visits but more about the activities. Currently, there is no consistent destination image of Christchurch to Chinese tourists.

  • Do young Chinese travellers prefer to go on road trips or package tour? Any statistics?

NZ tourism statistics shows that currently 49% of Chinese visitors are FIT. However, the number of FITs is likely to grow significantly. That is exactly why we need to target Chinese young tourists.

  • What would you say the top 5 Chinese travel blogs would be?

Not top five. Top two:

Qyer.com.

Mafengwo.com

  • Is the earthquake still an implication for visitors to CHCH? Have we shot ourselves in the foot by referring to the earthquake still 8 years on?

I do not think it is a concern. A number of cities in China also experience Earthquakes and good to story tell this story by providing points of references. For example, detailing how Christchurch is being restored by comparing it to some cities in China.

  • Are young Chinese tourists interested in Ecotourism? How do we market Eco products to the young Chinese tourist?

Yes, they are but Chinese tourists’ understanding of ecotourism is very different from kiwis. Ecotourism to lots of Chinese is also associated with health benefits; as such, highlighting the health outcomes can play an important role.  In addition, Chinese way of approaching ecotourism is different. For example, in the western society, ecotourism to a large degree is associated with wilderness which is defined as “wild nature preserved in its original state largely altered or unaffected by human society” (McDonald et al., 2009, pp. 371- 185 372). However, wilderness in Chinese is equivalent to the term “Huang Ye” with a strong connotation as an abandoned place that is considered unsuitable for human beings. It is seldom regarded by Chinese tourists as a natural place for their leisure activities and they do not necessarily have cultural knowledge associated with Chinese Post-80s because of an absence of encounter with wilderness. As such, translation also plays an important part in that sense. Importantly, ecotourism sites should highlight the unity of human being and nature. For example, pictures of Chinese tourists with children in the ecotourism sites.

  1. What is the post 80s appetite for souvenirs such as photo packs or apparel?

I think if it is Chinese post-80s tourists’ first time to visit, they might buy it; but increasingly they are more interested in experiential products.  For souvenirs, it is important to emphases its distinctiveness to showcase Chinese post-80s’ personality.

Final Panel

  • Dr Chen, one of the challenges for NZ tourism service provider is getting awareness by Chinese tourist. What can NZ services do to get their name out?

I would always suggest NZ tourism service providers to engage with Chinese apps. It is not only about wechat but also other important apps that cater to particular segments. For example, Dazhong Dianping is a powerful restaurant search app. For restaurants, by registering a name and address, it will be very likely to increase the chance that Chinese visitors to visit the restaurants. More importantly, ask them to leave a comment on that app. By having more comments, your restaurant will rank higher in the app.

Should I provide Chinese language services in my tour?

Key points:

  • Providing Chinese language services does not necessarily translate into a cordial host
  • Unintentionally wrong message in Chinese can be considered by Chinese Post-80s tourists as an attack on the whole nation
  • Providing Chinese language services along with other languages – a proper strategy
  • Providing Chinese language services throughout the activity – a wise strategy. One time Chinese language service can be interpreted differently. 
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Last year, 1,199,100 Chinese tourists visited Australia, an increase of 19% compared to 2015. With such a rapidly increasing number of Chinese tourists visiting Australia, many tour operators have been engaged in developing strategies in attracting this market. One well recommended strategy that was featured in main stream media is to provide Chinese language service, as this can be literally translated into the perception that hosts are cordial and friendly towards Chinese tourists. However, when this is not done properly, it might intentionally offend Chinese tourists. Here are two example, one seems extreme worse; the other appears less offensive.

It becomes common for many adventure tourism tour operators to take pictures of the participants and sell the picture at the end of tourists’ trips, as in adventure tourism, it presents difficulties for tourists to take pictures by themselves. This first example is one Chinese Post-80s tourists who did bungee-jumping in my PhD research. After he did bungee-jumping, he was about to choose his picture from the screen and he felt extremely embarrassed when he read the sign above the screen, “Please do not take a picture of the screen [where the digital pictures of bungee jumping are displayed]. It is considered a theft. It is in Chinese!” He was appalled at the implication that Chinese tourists were avoiding paying for a digital image.He naturally perceived that this warning was an indication of a potential loss of face for Chinese in front of others.

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The second example is Zhuoluo Chen, 23 years old Chinese Post-80s from Beijing, who I met during my scuba diving trip in Cairns. At the end of the trip, the same situation happened that the tour operator had the sign on the screen saying that Please do not take a picture of the screen [where the digital pictures of scuba diving are displayed].I asked him “did you get offended?” He replied “Well, because these are written in both English and Chinese. But if it is written entirely in Chinese, I probably will. Also, in the entire trip, they have both Chinese and English, so I do not think it points directly to Chinese” Thus, providing Chinese language services along with other languages and use it consistently during the trip is a proper strategy, as Chinese tourists will not necessarily associate the sign with an indication of bad behavior with themselves.

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So, for tour operators, it is important to remember that for many Chinese tourists, the Chinese translation can be potentially not interpreted towards any one individual but to Chinese tourists as whole. If provision of Chinese language services is NOT done improperly, they can be perceived as a direct attack on China’s face – a poor reflection of the whole country and will offend Chinese tourists.

If you have any question, please contact me at: mingming.cheng@curtin.edu.au or visit my personal website: https://mingmingcheng.com/