New Hilton Report Outlines Opportunities for Europe To Attract Lucrative Chinese Travel Segment
Social media, online marketing and tailored programmes could provide heavy influence as independent travel rises
A new report from the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), commissioned by Hilton Hotels & Resorts, the flagship brand of Hilton Worldwide, identifies UK actions needed to attract a bigger share of the lucrative in-bound Chinese tourism market. Of an estimated 3 million Chinese visitor trips to Europe in 2010, only around 127,000 came to the UK. With numbers predicted to rise to 240,000 by 2014 1, the UK is lagging behind its European neighbours Italy, France and Germany, which are currently attracting between 500,000 and 700,000 Chinese visitors each per year.
Sandie Dawe, chief executive, VisitBritain said: "Chinese visitor numbers to the UK have been steadily rising over the last few years, but we can clearly do more to attract an even greater number. China has a rich cultural heritage of its own and according to the latest Nations Brand Index, now has a far better understanding of British culture, our people and what they can experience when they are here. We must build on this and ensure the industry develops products that meet the needs, tastes and desires of Chinese travellers."
The Chinese spend an average total spend of £202 per night, and can spend more than £600 in one shopping trip, which is on average more than Russian, Arab or Japanese travellers2,. British luxury fashion house Burberry has reported that 30 percent of the sales in its UK stores were to Chinese customers and a recent report from London Luxury stated that Chinese shoppers spent £200 million in the Bond Street area alone in 2010, an increase of 155 percent on 2009.
"If we could increase the appeal of Britain - in line with where our European competitors are right now - this would help generate nearly £1 billion from Chinese visitors every year." Dawe continued.
The report, entitled 'How the Rise in Chinese Tourism will Change the Face of the European Travel Industry', identified a number of reasons:
- Ease: The UK is not part of the Schengen agreement and therefore visa applications are more difficult; additionally the UK has not embraced payments from China Union Pay (only Harrods & Selfridges have terminals).
- Location: Within China, visiting multiple countries on a trip is held in high regard. It takes more time to reach the UK compared to travelling between multiple countries in mainland Europe during a single trip.
The report also identifies areas where the entire European travel industry can improve to reach the growing in-bound Chinese travellers:
- Be vigorous about customer service; it plays a big part in the Chinese visitor experience.
- Improve services and amenities tailored for Chinese guests, such as translating websites and signage into Chinese and employing fluent Mandarin speakers to interact with guests and visitors.
- Embrace social media and implement marketing strategies that attract Chinese travellers and increase brand awareness. There is a growing trend for more individual travellers who need to be targeted directly rather than through tour operators.
Tourism Minister John Penrose said: "We are living in exciting times for the UK tourism industry with new markets opening up and brilliant opportunities arising to promote the country to them. Chinese visitors in particular will play an especially important part in growing our industry. So I commend initiatives like Hilton Huanying and the research commissioned by Hilton Hotels & Resorts from the School of Oriental and African Studies - the more we understand what our new customers want and expect, the better able we will be to offer them a warm welcome and a rewarding experience when they come to the UK."
Earlier this year, Hilton introduced Hilton Huanying, a programme taking its name from the Chinese word for welcome and tailored to meet the needs of Chinese travellers. Any hotel within Hilton Worldwide's 10 brands can participate in the program that includes front desk team members fluent in Mandarin, traditional Chinese breakfast items, and in room items such as a welcome letter in Chinese, a selection of Chinese teas, slippers and Chinese television programming. Hilton also recently launched a Chinese version of its Hilton Global Media Center, an online pressroom to engage traditional media across China.
Dave Horton, global head, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, said: "China is a key focus for our business. We've already introduced Hilton Huanying for our Chinese guests and are actively marketing our European hotels within China. This report has highlighted a number of things that, as an industry, we can do immediately as well as some areas that we need the government to start examining. If our industry is serious about gaining a 5 percent growth in the UK then we have to start taking action now."
Kevin Latham, senior lecturer at SOAS and author of the report, added: "If the key suggestions in the report are taken seriously, carefully implemented and followed through by all the relevant players, then the potential for a fundamental transformation of European tourism exists with an opportunity for the UK to seize a larger share of this lucrative market."
To view a summary and full version of the 'How The Rise in Chinese Tourism will Change the Face of the European Travel Industry' report, other Hilton Blue Papers or to learn more about Hilton Huanying, visit www.hiltonglobalmediacenter.com.
2 Moore 2011 / CB Richard Ellis consultancy
3 Based on official Chinese figures from CNTA of 2.335 million visitors to Europe in 2010
4 Based on average spend on £202 per night (ITB 2011:17) and average 1 week stay
Hilton SOAS Blue Paper: How the Rise in Chinese Tourism will Change the Face of the European Travel Industry
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