In an effort to strengthen their standings in the Chinese tourism market, the tourism boards of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden are cooperating in China to punch above their weight in what is becoming an increasingly competitive market.
The latest result of their partnership is a “strategic cooperation” with Baidu Maps, the Chinese equivalent of Google Maps, which will add tourist-relevant information about the four countries to Baidu Maps. For instance, Baidu’s new maps of the Nordic countries will include scenic locations, notable sightseeing spots, and restaurants located throughout the four countries. The five-way cooperation also reflects Chinese tourist behavior in the region, with itineraries for trips to Northern Europe generally including several countries on the itinerary. Baidu’s strategic cooperation with the Nordic tourism boards is the first such cooperation agreement it has signed with countries beyond Asia.
“A growing number of Chinese people are experiencing Sweden, and so far in 2016 visits have increased by about 25 percent. This cooperation helps us intensify our digital efforts, and Sweden can seize an even larger part of Chinese outbound travel,” Thomas Brühl of Visit Sweden described the Baidu partnership.
For Baidu, on the other hand, the cooperation means growing its international footprint and helps it become a more powerful competitor to Google beyond China, where Google Maps is unavailable. “The cooperation signals a further step forward in the localization of Baidu Map in the course of its internationalization, following our cooperation with the tourist administrations of South Korea and Thailand,” Li Dongmin, general manager of Baidu Maps, put it to China Daily. In other words, it seems like the doors are open for other countries’ tourism boards to partner with Baidu’s mapping service.
Supported by the Nordic Council, the Nordic countries have also run a joint marketing campaign in China since 2015 called “Beiou (Nordics), more surprises per square meter.” One part of the campaign, a three-month marketing initiative on Sina Weibo, was widely successful and reached over 30 million views across Sina Weibo’s digital platforms in China. Other marketing campaigns for the Nordic countries have also run on Baidu, including its travel platform, Baidu Travel—where travel guides have been offered for download free of charge. At the time of writing, the Baidu Travel guide for Sweden had been downloaded over half a million times.
Another result of the tourism boards’ cooperation was a “Scandinavian workshop” hosted in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, where Scandinavian tourism companies were offered the opportunity to network with over 500 Chinese travel agents and tour operators.
However, the regional approach to tourism marketing in China isn’t unique to the Nordic countries. Another example is the Central and Eastern Europe Regional Tourism Center, which aimed to bring smaller Eastern European countries together in their marketing efforts in China. For smaller countries with limited tourism budgets, regional cooperation is becoming an increasingly popular tool to compete for mindshare in the Chinese market. It also makes sense for prospective Chinese travelers, as they’ve proven to prefer multiple-country journeys over single-destination travel.
Competing against major European countries such as France and Germany, as well as tourism powerhouses in China’s vicinity such as Japan, South Korea, and Thailand, it only makes sense for smaller countries around the world to pool both marketing budgets and tourist attractions to make themselves more attractive—and prominent—in the Chinese market. As it turns out, big Chinese companies such as Baidu are more than happy to help them along the way.