Comment: Focus on the long-term potential of the Chinese market

Viktoria Javorska, EMEA head of product for the Leisure Pass Group, offers tips on how to be “China-ready”.

Earlier this year, China’s leading travel provider, Ctrip, released its 2017 China Outbound Travel Tourism Report.

Produced with the China Tourism Academy, it stated that Chinese travellers made a record 130 million overseas trips in 2017.

The Chinese National Tourism Administration forecasts that by 2020, this figure will rise to 200 million.

It’s worth reminding ourselves of this, at a time when it’s being reported that the strength of sterling has slowed Chinese visitation to the UK.

The long-term picture is one of big and continuing growth. For the UK inbound tourism industry, China’s potential is still huge.

Investing in the Chinese market has certainly paid off for us.

We introduced a Chinese language version of our London Pass website at the start of 2014 and saw an immediate impact.

London Pass business from China has tripled since 2013, both in terms of the number of passes bought and the number of attraction visits they produce.

Valuable insights

Our operating technology enables us to trace differences in patterns of behaviour and choice among London Pass holders from different parts of the world – and these insights can be very valuable in understanding our visitors.

For example, last year 84% of Chinese London Pass customers used the City Cruises river sightseeing boats, a much higher proportion than among London Pass holders overall.

By contrast, Chinese customers’ use of the hop-on/hop-off sightseeing buses was less frequent than among London Pass holders from other parts of the world.

Both products are “China-ready”, with high-quality audio guides available.  Why the difference?

There are two factors.

First, the majority of Chinese visitors to Europe (and elsewhere) come from major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

Their day-to-day lives involve frequent frustration with urban traffic.

Unsurprisingly, they don’t want to experience city traffic while on holiday.

They prefer to keep off the road as much as possible.

The Thames boats are seen as a more relaxing method of getting around, but there’s another reason they are popular with Chinese visitors: they offer a great way to get photos of several leading London landmarks in a short space of time.

Photography is a big driver for Chinese travellers, but typically they are time-pressured.  From the river they can easily get selfie-style shots of the attractions they may not have time to visit.

Key to success

Understanding Chinese travellers and making things easy for them is the key to success.  That’s why we recently launched a partnership with Ctrip which will, in time, be a game-changer for our London Pass partners.

Ctrip is now white-labelling and marketing the pass in China under its own Dolphin Pass brand.

This means that the London Pass more accessible to Chinese consumers than ever before.

More importantly, it gives the 80-plus attractions, museums and tours on the London Pass direct exposure to hundreds of millions of Chinese travellers via a brand those travellers already know and trust.

Exchange rates will ebb and flow but one thing is certain: China’s consumers will keep travelling.

And there are many more of them that the UK tourism industry hasn’t reached yet.

Now is the time to really focus on understanding what they need, and how we can make it happen for them.

• The Leisure Pass Group is the world’s largest tourism attraction pass provider, operating passes in more than 30 cities worldwide.The London Pass is its flagship product, with sales of more than three million.