The ongoing process of recognising that much in our Western Capitalist system is ill and needs mending does help focus the mind on priorities and reasons for doing what we do. For me, working in travel distribution and marketing is really about connections - my connection with great people all over the world, and the easier connection we can help facilitate for people who want to travel and explore different cultures, experience how others live and expand their horizons.
|Dragon Head by Ai Weiwei|
The search for connection is probably best exemplified in the quick and unprecedented expansion of the Asian tourism market over the past few years, led by China the Dragon. With 2012 being the year of the Dragon, we should expect this giant flying lizard motif to be displayed everywhere we look (So I am starting this trend now). With it comes another double digit growth of China's outbound tourism and a new waive of younger (and older) Chinese travelers who are no longer content to sit in coaches for 12 hours snapping famous sites from behind a tinted window. The confidence that comes with experience and growing disposable income is now translating into demand for more diverse and culturally insightful travel experiences. Access to information, thanks to the investment in excellent internet infrastructure in China, allows Chinese to research and plan independently of travel agents or guide books. They now take to travel forums to hear about other tourists' experiences, monitor destinations and brands on social media and add their own views and opinions online. They look for travel partners online and group together to negotiate discounts on travel accessories, flights and packages.
To understand how China's growing clout is dramatically affecting the tourism sector, we need to observe the changes that South East Asia has been going through over the last 5 years or so. China is now the top market for most SE Asian countries and the top spenders in most of the Asian countries (all the way to Australia and New Zealand too!). Products and services no longer need to be exclusively tailored to Americans or Europeans - they are now being customised to Chinese tastes and preferences. And Asia's experience will be replicated in North America in Europe in the near future (provided we don't shut the gates but actually invite visitors to spend their money here with easier visas and better, targeted marketing and promotion).
So, as I count over 6 years since ChinaContact launched to communicate the opportunity that the Chinese tourist market represents, I hope that you will take this contemplation period to think what is your strategy and action plan to be relevant for Chinese visitors. Contrary to what you may think, that is not the exclusive domain of multinationals or large wealthy countries with millions to spend on promotion. The internet levels the playing field to a great extent (bearing in mind the internet sites popular in China are indeed different to the sites we flock to in the West) and you can take advantage of that.
With this in mind, the Travel Distribution Summit Asia provides a golden opportunity. With major companies from Asia and international speakers including from China, this is an excellent education and networking event. The Summit this year will include dedicated discussions and workshops on China aimed at all levels of familiarisation with the market. So it is a great entry point but also a good step on the way to implementing your China and Asia strategy. I am planning to hold a market entry workshop focused on how to utilize online marketing and social media to build brand and grow revenues in China.
I will be presenting alongside 75+ other industry leaders from brands like Qunar.com, Google, Malaysian Airways, IHG, Air Asia X, Hilton, Expedia, Starwood, Lufthansa, Priceline, Facebook, Air New Zealand, Groupon, Shangri-La, Lufthansa and TripAdvisor to name just a few. You can see the full summit agenda and speaker line-up here: http://events.eyefortravel.com/travel-distribution-summit-asia/agenda.shtml
Hope to see you there and have a great Dragon year.
Roy Graff is Managing Director of ChinaContact, a boutique market entry and business development service which offers insight, strategy, marketing and distribution in the Chinese market since 2005. Roy has been intimately involved with China's tourism industry since the year 2000 and spent 3 years in China developing the independent travel division of gta before returning to London to launch ChinaContact. He has assisted national and city tourism boards, hotel chains, tour operators and technology companies with their China strategy and execution. Roy speaks fluent business level Mandarin Chinese.