The Catalan Tourist Board and La Roca Village, which is a designer outlet shopping mall in the Barcelona region, co-announced on March 19 the launch of a Mandarin-language app to guide Chinese tourists through Barcelona. The city is the most popular destination in Spain for Chinese travelers, and it aims to keep its crown by targeting 1 million Chinese arrivals by 2020.
Called In & Out Barcelona, the app will offer personalized travel guides to the popular Spanish destination for Mandarin-speaking tourists. For the launch, the app developers have invited 24 Spanish and Chinese residents of the city to provide recommendations ranging from historic sites and museums to parks, shopping centers, and restaurants. The goal is to provide visiting Chinese with the best options that the city has to offer. There will also reportedly be a Mandarin-language website accompanying the app, which will aid travelers in the planning stages of their trips.
Whether the app will be successful among Chinese travelers will depend on whether they are willing to download a local app for a trip rather than the more familiar option: a WeChat mini-program. But alas, there are currently no mini-programs specific to travel in the Barcelona region. In & Out Barcelona will also have to compete with Baidu’s Wi-Fi Translator AI tour guide of the city, which the Chinese search engine launched last October. La Roca Village, however, has an official WeChat account that provides up-to-date retail information to Chinese visitors.
La Roca Village is a popular shopping destination for Chinese tourists in the region and has received high marks on the user-generated travel review platform Mafengwo. China’s largest online travel agency, Ctrip.com International, also offers day tours as well as multi-day tours which both include stops at the luxury shopping outlet. It is the third most popular shopping destination in the country, according to Ctrip, just behind Madrid-based department store chain El Corte Inglés and Madrid outlet shopping center Las Rozas Village. About 60 percent of Chinese tourists to Spain visit the La Roca Village, likely because most tours include a stop there and the majority of Chinese visitors book group tours around the country, according to Euro Chinese News.
The app will face competition from WeChat mini-programs that cover a broader range of destinations, and such mini-programs are popular with Chinese tourists that plan on traveling through more than one country in Europe. Meanwhile, the digital payment solution provider EuroPass SAS launched its Europe Trip (欧洲之行) mini-program on April 24, 2018, which provides guides to various cities around the continent including Barcelona. Europe Trip’s Barcelona guide includes sections for sightseeing as well as shopping. Each listing provides basic information such as hours of operation, an estimate of time to spend there, and a short description that allows travelers to decide whether to include it in their itineraries or not.
Euro Chinese News also pointed out that the new app may be too focused on shopping, which is no longer the biggest priority for Chinese tourists. The opinion piece notes that the majority of tourists to La Roca Village were already booked on a tour, and thus have little need for a digital guide. The publication recommends expanding itineraries to include more cultural sites that could encourage travelers to stay in Barcelona longer, which should, in turn, encourage tourists to shop more.