Happy New Year! Today is the Chinese New Year which marks the start of major holiday celebrations and international travel. The U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office’s latest Travel Forecast projects 2,240,000 Chinese tourists visited the U.S. in 2014, a growth of 24 percent compared to 2013. Of those, 740,000 visited New York alone, almost five times as many as in 2009. China passed France last year to move into fourth place as a source of foreign tourists to New York, behind Britain, Canada and Brazil.
The U.S. Department of Commerce projects visitor growth from China will increase by 172 percent to 3.1 million visitors by 2019, catapulting it ahead of Germany, Brazil, Japan and the United Kingdom.
Allianz Global Assistance has developed a detailed profile of the Chinese tourist as China continues its rapid growth to being the third-largest source of foreign visitors to the U.S., behind only Canada and Mexico.
With such potential for tourism investment, Allianz Global Assistance has used its #Helpme Forums Observatory to paint a portrait of Chinese travelers based on their exchanges on China’s main online travel forums. The specific characteristics are indications for tourism professionals who may then adapt their offers to this ever-growing tourist population:
1- Chinese travelers tend to travel with their parents : the Chinese culture is deeply rooted in family, particularly regarding responsibility towards one’s parents. They are most often interested in travelling together as a family and are continually looking for ways to make it easier to organize family trips.
2- Others are looking for a travel companion: it’s often difficult traveling alone to distant countries where the languages and cultures are very different from your own. Chinese travelers often avoid traveling alone and prefer to be with members of their families or with a travel companion. They use blogs to try to find the right companion, exchange ideas, get to know one another better and convene meeting places so they can travel some of their route together. These exchanges are also a chance to share useful information for preparing a trip.
3- They like to share their photos and videos: Chinese travelers tend to be avid enthusiasts when it comes to immortalizing the countries they visit through photos and videos, which they frequently post on forums and social media.
4- They are well-equipped: many of the comments they share on forums concern the kinds of equipment they must take with them depending on where they’re going and what they’ll do once they get there. This equipment is often for activities like climbing, horseback riding and cycling. Some users actually take advantage of the forums to sell their equipment to other travelers.
5- They research outdoor activities: Chinese tourists have shown high interest in researching possible outdoor activities. They will often leave comments and exchange ideas and experiences about these activities in order to choose and plan them better.
6- They research paid activities too: Chinese travelers tend to comment and find out as much as they can about paid activities, like excursions organized by travel organizations, or even amusement parks (they offer opinions, criticisms, and advice).
7- They are interested in winter sports: with the rising standard of living in China, more and more of its residents now ski, and with the support of artificial snow, new ski resorts are starting to spring up throughout China . The forums are a place for these tourists to share their ski experiences, offer their opinions about the best ski resorts in China and abroad, and post their photos.
8- They are looking for tips and advice about traveling within China: Between now and 2017 , the domestic Chinese market could become the number one market in the world, moving ahead of the United States. Chinese tourists regularly share the places they have discovered in their own country by posting photos and recounting their experiences. This incites other travelers to visit the same places.
9- They travel by car: the car is a status symbol in China and very closely linked to the growth of the middle class. It is then quite natural that the “auto” theme inspires many comments from tourists who travel or plan to travel by car. They mention their next destinations, share their experiences, and also offer advice about the best roads to use or to avoid.
10- In last position, cruises seem to be a mounting topic of discussion: Chinese tourists are discussing cruises more and more amongst themselves and reading about how their compatriots feel about this new means of travel, which up until very recently has remained mostly unknown.
The #Helpme Forums Observatory was conducted between May 15th, 2014 and June 15th, 2014 across 11 countries: 8 European countries (Germany, Austria, Spain, France, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, United Kingdom) as well as Australia, China and the United States. 5 - 10 of the best-referenced specialized travel forums were selected for each country, for a total of 35 million comments over five years. The thematic analysis and ranking of these comments reveals that there is a wide range of topics and primary concerns within a geographic zone.