The latest edition of the Chinese International Travel Monitor (CITM) report commissioned by Hotels.com TM contains a wealth of information on the traveling and accommodation booking habits of the Chinese outbound travelers.
Conducted during Apr/May 2014 with more than 3000 mainland Chinese residents who had paid for accommodation on an international trip as well as over 3000 of their hotel partners, the 60-page report provides valuable insights into not only the overall market but also various sub-segments, and is well worth a read in its entirety ( full report here ) especially for those who are in the trade. For those who are time challenged, here is a Readers Digest version for your light read.
- The rising affluence of the growing Chinese middle class will continue to drive towards higher aggregate number of outbound travelers for years to come. There is also growing confidence among these travelers, particularly the young, who have already experienced international travel and are more eager to venture beyond the tried-and-true destinations.
- There are clear indications that Chinese travelers are moving towards independent travel (FIT) and away from group travel, particularly among the young. This is confirmed by two thirds of those surveyed who say they now prefer to travel independently and collaborated by 60% of hoteliers who experienced a boost in independent travelers in the past two years .
- Chinese travelers are increasingly going online, particularly via mobile devices, to research and book their travels and then share their experiences via social media. Hoteliers are well advised to have a clear and executable online strategy to stay competitive in this market.
Below are some stats to set the numerical context for the analysis.
- 97 million Chinese traveled overseas in 2013. The number in the first three months of 2014 was up about 17%, leaving little doubt that the total yearly figure will surpass 100 million this year, according to Tourism Administration of China.
- Chinese tourists spent US$ 129 billion in total in 2013, pulling significantly ahead of second place United States, according to UNWTO.
- 618 million internet users in 2013 amounting to 45.8% overall penetration rate, 500 million of whom access the internet via mobile devices and 90% have at least one social media account, according to China Internet Network Information.
- No more than one in five citizens have passports, hence, the potential for future growth.
Chinese traveler profile
Below is an overall Chinese traveler profile.
- Mean average daily spend per day when traveling abroad, excluding accommodation: US$ 1086
- 97% travel for leisure; 49% for business/education
- 58% stay 2-3 nights, 28% 1 night and 11% 4-6 nights according to hotelier reports.
- 67% prefer to travel independently, as confirmed by hoteliers surveyed indicating a low of 65% (Europe) to a high of 77% (Asia Pacific) of their Chinese guests now travel independently .
How Chinese travelers conduct hotel research
When traveling abroad, Chinese travelers are known to conduct thorough research prior to choosing their destinations, consulting almost five sources of information to help them converge on a final decision. Below is a breakdown of where they gather their research information.
Not only do Chinese travelers conduct their research online, an increasing number of them are doing their booking online as well. Again, the smart phone and its mobile apps are quickly becoming the dominant gateway to the internet.
- 53% now book their hotels online either on a desktop or via a mobile app, either directly with the hotel or via an online travel company.
- 17% book their hotel using mobile apps, an almost 300% increase from 2013. The percentage is even higher (22%) among those under 35 of age.
- Booking through a travel agent has fallen slightly to 34% (20% for under-35s)
- Only 12% book using a hotel telephone.
Below shows a breakdown of the types of accommodation booked by Chinese travelers based on Hotels.com’s worldwide booking data. Rounding out the top three are 3-star hotels (29%), 4-star hotels (28%) and 5-star hotels (17%).
How foods influence their decisions
It is common knowledge that foods play a very important part of their culture for Chinese living at or traveling away from home, as evidenced in the survey results.
- 95% have a meal at the hotel restaurant on their trip. Both travelers and hoteliers agree that restaurants are where most money is spent.
- 73% rate the provision of Chinese specific foods as among the most important service offered at a hotel, with 37% voting for room service options and 33% for Chinese breakfast. Note also there is also a strong desire to experience local cuisine among the respondents.
- Dining is rated the second most important activity when traveling abroad.
Important hotel amenities
The hotel amenities most important to Chinese travelers are room service options (57%), followed by onsite restaurant (55%). Not so much for bars (8%), however.
Important Chinese specific products or services
The majority of the respondents say they are fairly open-minded when it comes to hotels not catering to their specific needs. However, their specific preferences are very much defined where there are choices. Below lists the top 10 most important Chinese specific products or services while staying at a hotel on an international trip, and also how these products or services stack up against their expectations.
Below are the top five Chinese specific products or services most requested by Chinese travelers on an international trip.
Products or services most requested by Chinese hotel guests
Where Chinese travelers pay the most for accommodations
The following lists the top 10 average hotel prices paid by Chinese travelers in 2013 based on Hotels.com’s Chinese website.
Top average hotel prices paid by Chinese travelers by country
Where Chinese are top spenders on accommodations
Based on Hotels.com 2013 internal data, Chinese international travelers were the 7th highest spending nationality on hotel rooms with an average rate of US $169 per room night. They were the top spenders in Australia, Japan, the Netherlands and New Zealand.
Below is the list of countries where Chinese travelers were among the top 10 spenders on accommodations in 2013.
|Countries where Chinese are top 10 spenders on accommodations|
The critical role of internet
A recurring theme of this CITM report is how critical a role internet plays in guiding a Chinese traveler’s decision on choosing accommodations prior to traveling abroad and sharing his/her experiences during and after the trip. In particular, the roles of social media and mobile phones before and after the trip cannot be underestimated. A few highlights:
- 48% research done using online accommodation/travel websites and 47% using online review sites. These two sources are the most relied upon during the selection phase.
- 36% use online booking method to reserve a hotel, 17% through a mobile app.
- 59% rate free WiFi in the hotel as very important; 19% feel that need is not met.
- 91% of Chinese netizens have at least one social media account.
- 84% of them share their experiences on social media during and after their international trip (93% among the young).
- 31% of those aged 35 and under share their experiences on travel review sites.
The chart below breaks down how Chinese travelers share their trip experiences.
How Chinese travelers share their trip experiences
Independent traveler profile
One key message from the CITM report is the growing importance of the independent travelers (FIT). The report removes any lingering doubt about the significance or maturity of this segment. The favorable attributes of this segment effectively preordains that going after this segment will be the most critical battleground for the hoteliers.
- 67% of respondents say they prefer to make their own international travel arrangements. The preference is even more so for younger travelers (81%).
- FIT travelers have a much higher daily spend (US $1288) compared to group tour travelers ($US 679)
- They take longer trips (1.5 vs 1.3 week) than group tour travelers.
- Their trip decisions are influenced by: 19% online review sites, 15% friends and families, 15% online accommodation sites.
There are also different nuances amongst other segments covered by the report, including the under-35s, business travelers, female travelers and shoppers, a topic which will be covered in more detail in future articles. Stay tuned.
Chinese taste for outbound travels continued to grow unabated in 2013 with a whopping 26% increase of $27 billion over the previous year. With 98 million outbound trips and a total spend of US$129 billion, the Chinese consolidated its top dog position, a position they took in 2012, and significantly pulled ahead of Germany ($86.9 billion) and the U.S. ($86.2 billion) which occupied second and third place, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
Chinese tourism spending increased almost tenfold in 13 years since 2000.
Besides China, the emerging countries of Russia and Brazil also took the spotlights on outbound tourism in 2013. The three countries accounted for $40 billion of the $81 billion in total international tourism expenditure growth during last year. Russia edged out the U.K. to take over fourth spot, following a 25% growth to $54 billion. Brazil entered top 10 for the first time on the back of a 13% increase to $25 billion.
(Click to see larger image)
Data source: UNWTO
European countries further expedite visa applications
More Chinese tourists are expected in Europe in 2014 as country after country tries to simplify the visa application process for Chinese tourists. 3.47 million Chinese tourists visited Europe in 2013, a 11% increase over 2012.
For example, France, already the top destination among Chinese tourists, slashes the travel document processing time from 10 days to 48 hours and further relaxes where travelers need to go to apply for their visas. The U.K., Belgium and Italy are among other European countries working hard to streamline their visa application processes for Chinese tourists.
FIT travel continued to expand among travelers
2013 witnessed further evidence that FIT travels are increasingly popular for Chinese travelers as they spread out from the most popular tier one destinations, cut down the number of destinations during one’s trip, spend more time in a single destination, and diving deeper into the local cultures.
Theme based tours such as wine tasting events, chateau visits, shopping sprees and honeymoon trips are very popular. In France, for example, it is not uncommon for Chinese visitors to spend one or two weeks in a chateau or a local village.
This evolution in Chinese travel preferences is not surprising, as it follows a very similar trajectory as the ones of the Japanese in the 1980s and Koreans at the turn of the century. The only surprise is the relatively short time it has taken for this trend to unfold and the magnitude of the change compared to the experience from the other two Asian countries.