CITIC 2009: New Marketing Strategies For Inbound Tourism To China

Due to the impact of the blizzard in south China in the beginning of 2008, the March 14 Lhasa riots, and the May 12 Wenchuan earthquake, China's inbound tourism has not developed as well as was expected. Instead it registered a decline in the Olympic year.

The global economic depression and the depreciation of the dollar and euro against the Chinese yuan are counteracting the global economic achievements, they are also weakening the desire of consumers from abroad to come to China. This was a major topic at the 2009 China Inbound Tourism Industry Conference and The Second China Inbound E-commerce Summit on Inbound Tourism held on January 8, 2009.

Developing New Products To Take Advantage Of The Olympics
The vice director of the Beijing Olympic Economic Research Association, Li Geng, said that the games themselves had brought fame to the host city, while the media reports at home and abroad gave the host city the opportunity of a focused display to the world.

As the host city of the 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing has to advance with the times in inbound tourism product development instead of limiting itself to the old concept of "five ancient sights and Peking Roast Duck". Tour organizers need to show foreign visitors both ancient and modern Beijing, for example, Shichahai, the 798 Art District, South Gong and Drum Lane (Nan Luogu Xiang), Dashilan Street, and the Olympic venues.

Inbound Tourism Product Strategy During The Global Financial Crisis
Chen Kai, general manager of the Inbound Travel Department, of Beijing Zhongqiao International Travel, stated that the financial crisis has brought severe challenges to the inbound business of travel agencies, but the agencies have to guarantee no price increase first.

Travel agencies should make full use of their biggest advantages to promise no price increase. Instead, they should try to lower prices. Secondly, more attention should be put on new product development while maintaining the old ones. Thirdly, develop products that clients want.

Although e-commerce is developing rapidly Chen felt that most online tourism products are too rigid despite the fact that the travel experience is what tourism products should focus on. FIT products should be developed to satisfy the desire of clients to see what they want to see and not just to pick from the ready-made products. Tourism products should be specified. The evolution of a product involves many factors. Currently people between the ages of 40 and 50 — who are not as good as their juniors in using the Internet — account for most of Zhongqiao's group tour clients, which means they prefer the traditional travel model.

Of FIT clients, however, 80% are youths whose ages are between 20 and 30 and who are good at using the Internet. In five or 10 years, when the Internet is more popular, FIT will be a more promising prospect.

When talking about survival in 2009, Chen said that it is important to care for the tour guides besides new products development; salary decreases are acceptable, while redundancy is not.

Zhang Qingzhu, manager of the marketing department of China Comfort International Travel Agency, said that the strategy for CCT's inbound products includes two aspects: developing distinctive products to avoid competing for the same market, and exploring the tourist market by means of e-commerce.

Development Strategy For China's Inbound MICE Business
Zhao Shaohui, deputy general manager of the MICE Department, China Merchants International Travel Corporation, stated that a professional MICE company should firstly be a destination management company. The proof of a MICE company is its ability to transform planning into profit. Beijing's has many more meeting and event venues because of the 2008 Olympic Games. Travel agencies can show these resources to overseas clients through overseas marketing. As a destination city, Beijing has to integrate into international practices to open up overseas markets and attract overseas tourists. Participating in exhibitions is a good choice especially in a time when the economy is not so good.

Xie Pei, MICE manager of CITS Guilin, said that nowadays many large Chinese companies are beginning to realize the importance of MICE in fostering a corporate culture and strengthening staff cohesion, but they still don't have special departments for MICE, which means much more opportunity for the development of MICE business.

Huang Xiuyun, the vice general manager of Xiamen C&D International Travel Service, thought that when talking about city marketing, it is important to see whether there are professional destination management companies or not first; and then see what resources the destination has. Besides scenic spots, the capacity of the hotel and places for themed events should also be part of the promotion. Local culture should also not be ignored.

Take the second-tier city Xiamen as an example. It would be a surprise when guests see a Huian woman as the receptionist and the local culture is combined with their events. Every time guests talk about Xiamen, a vivid picture will show up in their minds and they will spread this impression to others, thus expanding the sphere of influence.

When talking about the experience of Los Angeles, Jamie Y. Lee, chief representative of the China office of the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, said most Americans don't know much about China. When they see the old pictures with outdated colors on the Internet, they will probably choose another country as their destination. Therefore, the design of China's travel sites should cater to current fashion and meet market expectations. Also, promotion material should be more professional and show the modern China to people.

The Beijing Olympic Games has revealed China to the world and also brought more opportunities for China's inbound tourism. Despite the difficulties the global financial crisis has brought to the industry, the strong rebound of tourism will take many people by surprise. China Hospitality News and our readers agree that the long-term development of post-Olympic tourism relies on effective marketing.

After a long period of conservative management, China's inbound tourism needs to change its marketing tools by using e-commerce to enrich tourism products to attract more overseas tourists to find out about China.