As you might imagine, I get asked a lot about the U.S.-China trade conflict and its impact on Chinese inbound tourism.
My response is this.
This is not the time to question your investment in the market. Yes, Chinese travel to the U.S. was flat in 2018, attributed in part to trade tensions between the two countries. However, scaling back is not the answer. Here are five reasons why:
- Don’t lose traction. It’s more important than ever to have a consistent presence in the market. Chinese visitors now have a world of choices. As the Chinese tourism market matures, travelers, particularly younger travelers, are more confident venturing into new territories making global competition fierce.
- Keep long-term goals in mind. Given the economic importance of Chinese visitors, it is important to keep your long-term strategy a priority. Collaborate with Chinese tourism partners who understand the industry, your vision and values, and who have a clear strategy map for your long-term success.
- Control your own narrative. Politics are politics. Independent Chinese travelers are less politically sensitive and more concerned about safety. Don’t let trade tensions dictate your brand story. It’s imperative for destinations to take control of their own narrative and continue consumer marketing efforts.
- Get smarter on social. The number of China’s online users hit 829 million in 2018 (up 7.3%) with 98.6% using mobile phones to surf the internet. Social and digital platforms are undoubtedly the most important part of the tourism ecosystem influencing each segment of the trip planning process from inspiration and research to purchase. New technologies and digital media platforms should be leveraged to target specific, qualified audiences with real-time results.
- Don’t panic about slower spending. Analysts are reporting that anxiety about China’s consumers is largely overdone and consumption potential is huge, particularly with China’s growing middle class and rapidly evolving Tier 2 and 3 cities. Destinations should be prepared to fully capitalize on this economic opportunity.
China is a country that changes all the time. Flexibility and agility are key to succeeding. Destination partners must react quickly and be willing to refine or adapt an approach, not abandon the market. Now is the time to commit to the long haul and get smarter with strategy.
What is your biggest challenge in the China market?