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The rise of WeChat has been well-documented this past year, but many brands might wonder how a messaging app affects their business. In addition to letting users talk privately and in groups, WeChat bridges social media and travel with the way it allows users to use information and recommendation from their social networks to research and book trips, even pay for them, via WeChat. This article offers a closer look into other reasons why WeChat is important for the tourism industry and your business.

First is obvious: the numbers. The sheer amount of actual (last reported to be over 300 million active monthly users) and potential WeChat users (a steady, if not increasing rate of users registering), that this is something people are using, so if you want to attract this market, you need to be on WeChat. The rise of social media has shown us the desire people have to keep in touch with friends and family from all over.

Second, WeChat offers a lot of innovative services on its platform that are perfect for those in the tourism industry. Like Sina Weibo, in addition to facilitating researching and booking trips, WeChat provides a direct channel for tourism brands to update followers with the latest tourism news, promotions, events, and guides with official information: a new way for them to provide service for citizens and visitors. Unlike Sina Weibo, however, WeChat allows a degree of data mining to acquire more intelligence.

Other unique features include the “Look Around feature,” which uses a location-based service (LBS) to let users find other users or locations nearby (LBS is also a fast-growing sector in its own right in China) and the QR code, which lets people scan a code with their smartphone to do everything from entering contests and receiving coupons to connecting with brands on social media and buying products, which WeChat has revived.

Its success in China is probably due to the fact that China is the world’s largest smartphone market, and since many people are more accustomed to mobile Internet, using a phone to scan a code is far more convenient than going home and remembering to visit a specific website. Some netizens even use personal QR codes to identify themselves on social media. However, as with any sort of marketing campaign, QR codes don’t work unless the creative is good and people have an incentive to scan them.

Finally, as Tourism and the Web points out, hype is often a self-fulfilling prophecy and people will get WeChat just to engage tourists. The question remains then: Is the importance of the Chinese market, particularly in the tourism industry, just hype? Probably not as the numbers show outbound Chinese tourists are where the money is for capturing new revenue.

And tourist destinations across Asia have already started incorporating WeChat in their marketing outreach. After only six days, the Macau Government Tourist Office attracted over 500 followers. The tourism bureaus of Chongqing, Suzhou, Taishan, and HK have all similarly utilized WeChat to engage tourists, with all sorts of activities. The Suzhou Tourism Board created an ongoing event, named “Guess Suzhou,” that challenges visitors to name the location of posted photos for a prize.

Learn more about Chinese social media and best practices with KAWO, a Shanghai-based startup whose technology takes your existing Facebook and Twitter social media content, translates and localizes it before putting it on Chinese social media.

This content is created collaboratively in partnership with our sponsor, KAWO.

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