China's Millennial Travelers Inspire Digital-First Marketing Approach

    In order to attract the young outbound Chinese tourist, businesses are increasingly using the digital habits of China's millennial travelers to their advantage.
    Hotels are needing to think more about how to reach young Chinese travelers using digital platforms. (Courtesy Photo)
    Jessica RappAuthor
      Published   in Travel

    It used to be that hotels would go out of their way to provide extra slippers and tea kettles for Chinese guests. While that is certainly still relevant for many international hospitality chains, a new paper by Meliá Hotels International titled, “Travelling Chinese Millennials: How These Young Travellers are Reshaping the Hotel Industry,” suggests that hoteliers are having to think beyond the basic profile of a Chinese tourist and accommodate the vast range of luxury travelers that are reaching hotels further and further outside of China.

    “Today’s travelers belong to many different demographic groups as well as to different psychographic segments,” said Bernardo Cabot Estarellas, APAC Senior Vice President, Meliá Hotels International, in a statement. “This means the more segmented the hotel offer is, and the more customer profiles it caters to, the better.” When it comes to China, these segments include FITs, or free-independent travelers, group travelers, families, adventurers, shoppers, culture seekers, and more.

    One of the bigger categories, though, is millennials. According to the article, Chinese millennials, or consumers between the ages of 15 and 29 years old, make up about half of all outbound travelers from China. About two-thirds of this group are wealthy, and that's expected to continue to grow as part of an estimated 200 million travelers headed abroad every year by 2020.

    These tourists are increasingly seeking out more “unique, novel, authentic, and personalized travel experiences,” whether it be cross-country trips by car, an Arctic expedition, or a behind-the-scenes tour, and many hotels have gone out of their way to offer bespoke options for exploring their city. Hotel selection, in fact, is a key factor for travelers headed abroad. According to the article, Chinese tourists look for room condition, service, location, high-tech facilities, and design and style in that order when deciding where to stay.

    Chinese travelers are a group known to do the majority of their trip research online. Part of this is through third party apps like Ctrip, Qunar, and Dianping, the first of which recently surpassed Facebook as the world’s most-used review site. Chinese social media platforms lead the way, with 48 percent of travelers surveyed in the The Chinese Luxury Traveler 2016 report saying they use WeChat subscription accounts to get their traveler information. About 47 percent are getting it through WeChat Moments, 35 percent from WeChat shares by travel advisers, and 42 percent from looking at websites.

    With this information in mind, Meliá Hotels International prioritizes a presence on WeChat and Weibo. Their posts have generated more than 23 million views altogether in 2015, engaging more than 920,000 consumers in China. On Weibo, they prioritized creating campaigns that would generate engagement with beautiful visuals. Their #summersuitcase campaign encouraged users to share photos of what they were packing for their summer trips, while their #winterinyourcity campaign asked followers to share photos of their winter homes. On WeChat, they publish a weekly editorial, plus launched their #springinlove campaign that encouraged couples to travel to one of their five “finest” properties, including those in Paris and Barcelona. Overall, they managed to recruit more than 30,000 followers on WeChat and Weibo, with a 50 percent average monthly follower increase.

    Meliá's efforts are one of many examples of international hospitality companies tapping into the digital habits of young Chinese consumers wherever they can. With a presence in 43 countries, Meliá no doubt sets an example for brands seeking to not only make themselves accessible to Chinese travelers abroad, but for those wanting to make a lasting impression even before they pack their bags.

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