If and when outbound Chinese travelers return, they will be a post-pandemic version of their former selves with altered likes and dislikes. Old-school marketing may fall flat.
Marketers beware: Prior ways of marketing to Chinese consumers, including travelers, won’t work as well today because their preferences changed during the pandemic.
Trip.com Chief Operating Officer Schubert Lou said that after China’s November 11 Single’s Day, which has its parallels to Black Friday shopping sprees in other locales, it became apparent that sales levels “flattened,” and that consumers were more focused on essentials and things that add value.
Lou said he couldn’t predict when Chinese would start outbound travel again although search traffic for travel is soaring. However, when Chinese travelers return, they will be more cautious and won’t just travel to any available destination, he said, adding that as Single’s Day showed, Chinese travelers will pay more attention to brands and quality than they did in the past.
Skift Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia interviewed Lou of online travel agency Trip.com and Wego CEO Ross Veitch on “the Middle East’s Growth as a Global Gateway” at Skift Global Forum East in Dubai on Thursday.
Lou recommended that traveler marketers henceforth add sweeteners to offers, such as a one-day metro card that some Thailand hotels are doing; make them available through bundles or holiday packages at the right time, such as around the Lunar New Year holiday, and find the right marketing channels.
For example, Lou said the same content might attract 100,000 views on a search engine, but could generate 1.4 million views on TikTok.
Marketers who focus on a single channel may not be successful, he said. “Your standard way of doing marketing may not be as effective,” Lou said.
Merely marketing hotels, flights and cars in a traditional way won’t cut it anymore, Lou said, arguing that content needs to be inspirational and get deeper than quick-hit viral videos by informing travelers what they can do in a destination and why it might be special.
“That to me is the future,” Lou said.
Turning to the Middle East, Veitch said the Middle East has an addressable market of around 700 million travelers, and that’s similar to Southeast Asia. “So it’s a very attractive market,” he said, referring to the Middle East.
Wego, a comparison shopping and booking site with most of its operations in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, has recently seen travelers staying longer and booking multiple rooms, Veitch added.
Wego is using a co-investment strategy with destinations and tourism boards to work together to drive demand, based on data learnings, Veitch said.
There is a lot of unease about visa requirements these days, although the majority of trips that Wego is seeing in big markets such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates is domestic, he said. With visa wait times soaring, Wego created a popular tool for travelers to check their visa prospects and status, Veitch said.
The Wego co-founder and CEO said the company is seeing travel both ways from the Middle East to India and the reverse, and some of the latter is price sensitive.
“A lot of Indians almost see Emirates as their national airline now,” Veitch said, noting the carrier flies to so many cities.
Lou of China’s Trip.com likewise sees India as a vital market.
“We see India as a leader in driving necessary traffic in an Asia recovery,” he added.
Have a confidential tip for Skift? Get in touch
Photo credit: From left) Trip.com Chief Operating Officer Schubert Lou, Wego CEO Ross Veitch and Skift Asia Editor Peden Bhutia at Skift Global Forum East in Dubai on December 15, 2022. Skift