China’s economic growth has had an explosive effect on the travel and tourism industry, but luxury hotels are still lagging behind when it comes to digital marketing to Chinese tourists.
As China’s affluent and upper middle classes have expanded, domestic and international Chinese tourism has taken off. China is now the world’s fastest-growing travel market, and outnumbers the United States and Germany for the largest number of outbound tourists. By 2030, China is projected to overtake the United States as the largest domestic travel market.
Brands have started to implement changes in order to gain a share of that $165 billion of overseas spending that was made by Chinese travelers in 2014. According to a recent report on luxury hotels’ digital marketing efforts by digital intelligence firm L2, nearly half of all brands indexed have added new language options on their digital platforms since a year ago, offering six language options on average. Despite these significant steps towards globalizing site features, efforts to cater to Chinese consumers are meek. For example, even though 82 percent of brands offer a standalone Chinese site or Chinese-language selection on the main site, only 12 percent host these sites in China or Hong Kong. The remainder are plagued by slow load times in China as a result.
Many hotel brands target only local tourism through these language services and miss the bigger opportunity of Chinese travelers going abroad. Among brands offering Chinese-language services, the option was available for 90 percent of properties located within China vs. 73 percent of pages for properties outside China. Even fewer brands provide a fully Chinese-language booking experience; just 55 percent of brands profiled offer comprehensive Chinese-language support throughout their entire site. Surprisingly, MGallery and Wydham offered no Chinese-language sites and neglect non-English speaking tourists.
Hotel brands that invest in localizing their property and main sites early on have a better chance at fostering loyalty among the more than 100 million Chinese tourists vacationing abroad each year. Kimpton Hotels and Hilton Hotels & Resorts are prime examples of hotels doing the most to customize their internet properties and ease booking for global travelers, offering 22 and 21 languages, respectively.
Danielle Bailey is a research director at L2 Inc.