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50% of wealthy Chinese are ready to leave the country and consider the U.S. as #1 place to invest

Chinese boatAccording to a recent survey, Chinese high net worth individuals (HNWIs) – defined as people with US$1.5 million or more in investible assets – more than 50 percent are either planning to, or are considering, emigrating from China.
According to Bain Consulting and China Merchants Bank, there are around 1.6 million Chinese with investible assets of $1.5 million or more, up from 180,000 in 2006. (Note: Ask anyone who’s familiar with China and they’ll likely tell you the real figure is far higher than that.)

For Chinese people looking to leave China, the U.S. and Canada are the most popular destinations, followed by the U.K. and Australia.
Cities on the west coast of the U.S. are the preferred emigration destinations for the Chinese. These cities are of course closest to China, increasingly served with regular direct flights and have substantial existing Chinese communities.
If half of U.S. millionaires were looking at leaving the country, clearly we’d want to know why. Education and environment are the primary factors motivating rich Chinese people to leave China.

Chinese political and military elites have long spurned local higher education, instead sending their offspring to study at prestigious western universities for a better education than what’s available at home. The daughter of Chinese President Xi Jinping, for example, studied at Harvard University in the U.S. For reference, in the Times Higher Education 2017 World University Rankings, the first Chinese university is ranked 29th.
Clean air and water, safe food and an open-minded education are attractive to anyone – and especially wealthy Chinese.
In addition, some 84 percent of participants cited the depreciation of the Chinese yuan as a key concern and driver for looking to move and buy real estate abroad.
But there are other reasons that push the wealthy to look overseas. The reality is in China, if you cross the authorities, everything can get pretty bad for you, and quickly. You’ll notice that the top 10 cities listed in the table above are all found in countries with open and transparent rule of law – which is lacking in China.
An overseas exit plan provides an insurance policy, should a swift departure ever need to be made.

According to Pierre Gervois, Founder of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club, an international travel club for Chinese elites, and Publisher of the STC magazine, “Contrary to what Europeans and American analysts think, HNWI Chinese are perfectly aware of China’s economic situation. The myth of a growing and successful China has been carefully entertained by the Chinese government in order to maximize Foreign Direct Investments (FDA’s), but the Chinese elite had never been naive. They know for fifteen year that this growth is not sustainable and it might be time to leave the boat for them and their close family.”

Property prices on the west coast of the U.S. have been boosted, in part, by continued buying by people from China. There have been numerous reports over the years of open houses being completely dominated by Chinese-speaking viewers, and even tour groups focusing on acquiring real estate.
And Chinese students will continue to flock to the U.S., with some 60 percent of all overseas students in the U.S. now hailing from China. Again, Mum and Dad will often buy real estate, along with a degree for junior.
What’s the easiest way for a wealthy Chinese individual to get a green card? Well, as the sister of U.S. President Trump’s son-in-law and special advisor, Jared Kushner, told an audience of Chinese investors in May in Beijing, you just need to invest in a bit of Kushner family real estate development.

The EB-5 visa programme allows for overseas investors to put US$500,000 in projects that create at least 10 jobs (in areas of high unemployment), or a million dollars in other areas, and in return apply for permanent residency in the U.S.
Jared Kushner, prior to his White House role, raised US$50 million from Chinese EB-5 investors for a Trump-branded apartment complex in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Not surprisingly, this has been hugely popular with wealthy Chinese. Around 85 percent of the visas have gone to Chinese, and there is a backlog of more than 20,000 applications.
Although the EB-5 program is likely to be altered or at least reviewed, the U.S. looks set to remain a popular destination for Chinese money for the foreseeable future.

Source: Stansburry Churchouse Research / Business Insider Blog / Tama Churchouse

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The Chinese dream is over for western luxury brands in China: Time for a reality check

Affluent Chinese customer - DunhillChina has recorded the most number of closures of luxury stores between July 2016 and July 2017, the latest report by the investment research and management company Bernstein shows. The report, titled “Store Wars,” based its findings on Bernstein’s tracking of about 7,000 stores referring to 36 luxury brands including big names such as Burberry, Saint Laurent, and Céline. Burberry and Dunhill had the most store closures in China of all the brands during that period.
China has seen 62 net closures of luxury brand stores during the surveyed period, the largest number observed by Bernstein among all significant geographies. The firm viewed the trend as a revision of the over-expansion, in previous years, of luxury brands into the Chinese market.

The rapid development of the country’s luxury industry fueled by affluent Chinese consumers has given luxury brands unrealistic projections of retail sales in the past. This over-estimation, according to Bernstein, has led them to aggressively open retail stores in China that exceeds consumers’ real purchasing power. The same situation occurs in the Middle East region, another area where luxury consumption is rising fast.
Globally, the number of the net store openings by luxury brands has also for the first time run into the negative territory. The report said most brands have more or less closed some of their stores in the department stores, a traditional channel that accounts for about one-third of these brands’ global sales.

Chinese consumers have demonstrated some remarkedly different purchasing behaviours from that of the West. According to Pierre Gervois, a leading expert about wealthy Chinese travelers’ shopping behavior, and founder of the prestigious STC magazine “Western luxury brands have been warned since 2010 that their projections about affluent Chinese consumers were grossly exaggerated.” “Brands refused to acknowledge that their future Chinese customers would buy in overseas stores – and in particular in the United States- rather than in domestic stores, both for tax reasons but also because of the poor customer service in their Chinese stores”, Gervois added.

Another distinguishing habit that sets Chinese luxury consumers apart from Westerners is their huge interest in buying luxury items online. Over the past year, an increasing number of luxury brands have embraced the e-commerce marketplace and launched stores with the country’s top two players, Alibaba and JD. Moreover, big names like Louis Vuitton and Gucci even opened their own Chinese e-commerce stores to ensure their offerings meet the expectations of Chinese consumers. And then there’s the nature of luxury itself, the meaning of which is different to younger consumers from what it was to their forebears.

Another concern that Western brands cannot officially recognize in China, is that a growing part of affluent millennials Chinese are moving from government-censored social media (We Chat, Weibo…) to Facebook and Twitter throughout an increasing use of VPN’s. That makes much less relevant their communications campaigns on Chinese networks.

Source: JingDaily Blog / Jenny Zhang / Ryan Yu

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Chinese tourists don’t just duty-free shop in the U.S.: They also invest in real estate ($100 billion in 2016)

Wealthy Chinese family searching a home in the U.S. - China Elite FocusThe number of Chinese tourists traveling the globe has increased significantly for the last ten years, making them the largest group of travelers in the world. Now, thanks in part to a recent agreement between the U.S. and China to extend visas for short-term business travelers, tourists and students, the U.S. could see an increase in Chinese travelers in the near future.

This trend is supported by research from the latest Chinese International Travel Monitor (CITM) from Hotels.com which reveals the U.S. is the second most popular destination for Chinese travelers to visit in the next 12 months (behind France), with popular U.S. landmarks like the Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty topping travel wish lists.
The CITM research also identifies that, while cities in Asia Pacific remain the most popular (82 percent of Chinese travelers have visited in the past 12 months), visitors to Europe and America have increased with a year over year growth of 25 percent and 11 percent, respectively. These destinations were particularly popular with millennial travelers, with 42 percent visiting Europe and 29 percent visiting America in the past 12 months.

“The CITM reveals that the United States is one of the top five countries Chinese travelers visit the most,” said Josh Belkin, vice president and GM of the Hotels.com brand. “With tens of thousands of places to stay across the U.S., like distinctive boutiques, spacious vacation rentals and familiar chains, our site and mobile app have the perfect places for Chinese travelers of all ages and lifestyles.”

In 2016, there were 122 million outbound Chinese tourists – four percent more than in 2015 and a massive 74 percent more than in 2011, when the first CITM was published. China is already the largest source of international travelers for many countries – despite the fact only 10 percent of the population had passports in 2016.

“Chinese travelers in the United States tend to be more affluent than those who choose other destinations”, said Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus Magazines LLC and Founder of the STC magazine, a luxury travel digital publication in Chinese Mandarin. “Real Estate investment in the United States is now the #1 real reason – and rarely stated in surveys – for affluent and wealthy Chinese outbound travelers, as they have acquired for $100 billion in U.S. Real Estate in 2016”

Source: CITM, hotels.com, STC magazine, Chinese Tourists Blog

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It’s now easier to pay at U.S. Retailers’ stores for Chinese travelers

A Chinese tourist paying with WeChat Pay - China Elite FocusjpgCitcon, the integrated payment and marketing platform, announced a strategic partnership to enable brands in North America to accept WeChat Pay and Alipay.

WeChat Pay and Alipay are the most popular and convenient payment options for Chinese consumers to purchase goods and services. Adding these payment options to retail point of sale allows brands to now tap into an even larger revenue stream from Chinese consumers who are the largest spender, and fastest growing traveler segment to the North America. The platform enables brands to optimize revenue growth without the costs and hassles of establishing a business entity in China.

WeChat Pay is a fully integrated payment solution within WeChat, the world’s most popular mobile social communications service with 936 million active users and Alipay is a super lifestyle app run by Ant Financial Services Group with more than 450 million active users. Together these platforms jointly account for 90% of China’s mobile payment market share. Both super apps allow users to book a trip, hail a taxi, order food, purchase movie tickets, pay for water and electricity bills, manage investments, perform transactions on e-commerce websites and more to create a cashless society.

“China is changing fast. Mobile payment is the new frontier of commerce and China is leading this trend. By providing an integrated and easy-to-use payment solution, Citcon is creating a future that takes payment and marketing to the next level, empowering global merchants to drive business growth with millions of Chinese consumers.”said Chuck Huang, Founder and CEO of Citcon

As the first payment partner of WeChat Pay and Alipay, in addition to major credit cards such as UnionPay, MasterCard, Visa, Discover and American Express, Citcon is a one-stop shop for merchants to connect with Chinese consumers and accept payments anywhere. Citcon’s stand-alone mobile point-of-sale (mPOS), easy-to-integrate API and software products empower merchants to optimize growth both online and offline, with an easy and affordable rate compared to credit card processing. In addition to the convenient payment solutions, merchants will also be able to gain in-depth consumer behavior insights, manage business performance, run marketing campaigns, guides users to merchants stores while saving their shopping preferences for future visits and manage lifetime customer loyalty programs.

“Accepting WeChat Pay is a smart move for U.S. Retailers. That will definitely help with the category of budget-conscious Chinese travelers who choose to travel in groups. But they must keep in mind that the most affluent categories prefer to pay with their international credit cards, who show their status when traveling overseas and offer more perks in terms of miles and reward points.” commented Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus Magazines LLC, a media group specialized in luxury travel publications for very affluent Chinese outbound travelers.

Source: Citcon / Chinese Tourists Blog

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Luxury brands might have forgotten that wealthy Chinese customers needed a good in-store service.

Gucci Store - china elite focusKering, the French luxury group, is adapting its sales approach to better cater for increasingly sophisticated Chinese customers, according to group managing director Jean-François Palus.
“We’ve changed the way we conduct our business in China and the way we address Chinese clients when they’re abroad,” said Mr Palus at the Financial Times luxury conference in Lisbon on Tuesday.
“We learnt that a very serious risk is to become complacent, to think that it’s an easy business, an easy customer base, easy to open stores with good products and then people will come in. That was true for a moment but Chinese customers have become sophisticated and highly demanding and we need to adapt.”
Chinese consumers account for more than 30 per cent of global luxury consumption, according to consultant Bain, which is forecast to increase to 35 per cent by 2020.
How much of global luxury consumption Chinese consumers account for, according to Bain, a figured set to rise to 35% by 2020
In the past, luxury houses relied on rapidly opening up stores in China to fuel growth amid rampant Asian demand for their products, but this approach has been undermined by an economic slowdown in China.
In the final quarter of last year, Chinese consumers showed signs of returning, although notably shopping more in mainland China, while tourism in Europe has slowed in part owing to recent terrorist attacks.
In China, Kering is retraining shop assistants and replacing email communication with WeChat, China’s most popular social media platform with more than 800m daily users.
Mr Palus said: “The way the Chinese treat very important clients is different — they have a very candid approach to wealth.”
He pointed to a recent visit to a Gucci store in Beijing where the store manager told him he had hired the daughter of a billionaire to work with clients in the shop “because to talk to wealthy people in China, you need to be wealthy”. He added that bad feng shui in a shop can hurt client traffic.
According to Pierre Gervois, the Founder and Publisher of the STC magazine, a luxury travel publication for High Net Worth Chinese global travelers “HNWI Chinese clearly signaled about  five years ago that they wanted to purchase luxury goods outside China, to enjoy the full experience of the iconic flagship stores in London, Paris or New York”
“This new trend has not been immediately recognized by luxury conglomerates such as LVMH and Kering, that led to an inflation of store openings in China in the years 2010/2015, with little customer traffic, insufficient staff training, and in some cases damaging consequences in terms of brand image.”, Mr Gervois added.
Kering posted a 31.2 per cent rise in revenues to €3.57bn in the first three months of 2017, lifted by a 34 per cent jump in sales from luxury activities.
Among its brands, Gucci led the way, posting record revenue growth of 51.4 per cent for the three months — the latest sign of improvement under creative director Alessandro Michele. Other Kering brands such as Brioni and Bottega Veneta were doing less well than the likes of Saint Laurent.
Mr Palus said: “The market has become more difficult and the pace of growth has slowed down. In this environment you need to take market share from the competition.”
Kering was not looking at acquisitions, added Mr Palus. “We have so much on our plate with helping our existing brands tap their potential . . . we don’t have enough time to think about M&A.”
He said that Kering was also still adapting to digital platforms. “We need to open ourselves to what’s happening in other industries and other countries. Our industry needs to become less product-centric and become more customer-centric.”

Source: The Financial Times.

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Millennial Chinese travelers to the U.S. favor Gervois Hotel Rating to choose their hotel

According to the Future of Outbound Travel in Asia Pacific (2016 to 2021) report, Asia Pacific markets are expected to grow by 6 percent annually from 2016 to 2021.

Not surprisingly, the largest outbound travel market in 2021 is expected to be China with 103.4 million trips – constituting 40 percent of all Asia Pacific outbound travel, nearly four times that of the #2 and #3 markets being South Korea (25.6 million) and India (21.5 million) respectively.

Mastercard Chinese travelers - Gervois Hotel RatingEric Schneider, Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific, Mastercard Advisors, commented, “The burgeoning middle class is driving the growth of outbound travel in Asia Pacific, along with other trends such as the emergence of the Asian millennial traveler and on the other end of the spectrum the senior traveler, as well as new technology and infrastructure developments. Asia Pacific travelers will continue to fuel global tourism growth in years to come, providing vast opportunities for businesses to benefit through the development of products and solutions that seek to improve their overall travel experiences.”

Woman in a car reading Gervois magazine - vertical“The United Sates is durably installed as the #1 outbound destination for Mainland Chinese travelers, for years to come.  With a multiple entry independent leisure visa easier to obtain for Mainland Chinese tourists, They see the U.S. as a leisure destination of choice”. said Pierre Gervois, Founder & President of Gervois Hotel Rating. “I’m pleased to see a growing number of Millennial affluent Chinese travelers relying on Gervois ratings to choose their U.S. hotel prior to make a booking on Chinese hotel booking websites”, he added.

According to the study, outbound travel is forecast to grow faster than real GDP. Outbound travel growth tends to be higher than real GDP growth for emerging markets compared to developed markets (except for Japan) where outbound travel growth is much closer to their forecasted real GDP growth. Emerging markets such as Myanmar (10.6 percent vs. 7.7 percent), Vietnam (9.5 percent vs. 6.2 percent), Indonesia (8.6 percent vs. 5.7 percent), Thailand (4.8 percent vs. 3.1 percent) and China (8.5 percent vs. 6 percent) are expected to grow faster than real GDP.

By 2021, all developed markets in Asia Pacific (except for Japan) will have a ratio of over 100 percent for outbound travel trips to total number of households. Households in Singapore (693.6 percent), Hong Kong (248.9 percent) and Taiwan (232 percent) have the highest propensity to travel abroad.

Gervois magazine - Marriott HotelsAmong emerging markets, Malaysia is expected to record the highest ratio of 198.7 percent by 2021, whereas India (7.3 percent), Bangladesh (7.4 percent), Myanmar (14.6 percent) and Indonesia (15.4 percent) are among the lowest, indicating strong growth potential for outbound travel in these markets over the next ten to twenty years, assuming an increasing propensity to travel is combined with a healthy increase in households.

Mastercard, www.mastercard.com, is a technology company in the global payments industry.  We operate the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories.

Gervois Hotel Rating, www.gervoisrating.com is a New York based hotel rating system for United States hotels publishing guest experience centered reviews and unbiased ratings. Gervois Hotel Rating is independent from hotel chains and hotel groups and is not affiliated with any hotel booking company.

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Gervois Hotel Rating releases today its 2017 ratings of the finest hotels in the United States

Gervois Rating Launch March 2017The Gervois rating system is a new hotel rating system created by Pierre Gervois, a NYC based media entrepreneur, Publisher of the iconic luxury travel STC magazine. Pierre Gervois has an extensive experience in luxury hotels and has reviewed countless properties all around the world for the last twenty years.

“Over the years, I have been disappointed by the numerous existing hotel rating systems” said Pierre Gervois. “Too often, there is a tendency to give too generous ratings to hotels members of luxury hotels chains, and to underrate independent boutique hotels”, he added.

Based on these facts, Pierre Gervois created an entirely new hotel rating system, purely based on the sole merits of each property, considered alone, regardless of its association to a hotel chain, an affiliation program, other rating systems, or online reviews. Every hotel is rated professionally and independently, without any preconception about the property.

“Most of existing hotel rating & reviewing systems are produced by companies having a direct financial interest in bookings from the hotels they are rating, hence overly positive ratings and an inflation of stars, diamonds, laurels, gold medals and awards that do not always reflect the reality” added Pierre Gervois.

In order to achieve a complete independence from the hospitality industry, Gervois Hotel Rating do not receive any advertising revenues or commissions on rooms bookings from hotels, hotels chains or online travel agencies.

“Gervois Hotel Rating is on the discerning traveler’s side, not on the hotel booking business’ side” concluded Mr Gervois.

The Gervois Hotel Rating rate hotels according to five essential criteria: Location, Building, Atmosphere, Dining and Service, each rated on a 20 points scale. The addition of the points give the final rating, on a 100 points scale.

This rating system allows a greater precision and flexibility in the complex task of rating a hotel that might have many highlights but also some flaws that need to be clearly designated for a transparent information.

84 U.S. properties have been curated and rated over a one year process, through inspections carefully conducted by a small group of international frequent travelers, all reviewed and validated by Pierre Gervois.

“Chinese travelers are incredibly discerning now, and we’ll soon launch a Chinese Mandarin version of our ratings”concluded Mr Gervois.

The 2017 Gervois Hotel Ratings are available on http://www.gervoisrating.com

Also available on
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GervoisRating
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gervoisrating/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/GervoisRating/

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China-U.S. tourism on growth trajectory

Chinese family at beach - China elite focusChina-U.S. tourism is on a growth trajectory and can help promote closer people-to-people links between the two countries, CEO of China’s top online travel service provider Ctrip has said.

Ctrip sees huge growth potential for Chinese tourists traveling to the United States, Jane Sun said at Columbia University Business School’s Chazen Institute of Global Business.

Last year, a record of 1.3 million people booked air tickets to the United States on Ctrip, she said. The company served in 2016 more than 160,000 Chinese tourists who traveled to the U.S. by providing package tours and other tour products, she added.

GERVOIS magazine Advertising and sponsored content opportunities“People are entrepreneurial in China and want to explore opportunities in other markets. That’s why there is a lot of demand for travel from China to Australia, Europe, New Zealand and the U.S. along with other areas,” said Sun, who was recently rated by Forbes China as one of China’s most powerful business women.

Ctrip made strategic investment in three U.S. tour operators to support the demand by Chinese for trips to the United States last year.

Sun said that there was still room for growth and that her company wanted to further expand its market share.

“I have lived in both the United States and China and I cherish the friends I have in both nations. Travel can be a bridge between the two countries,” she said.

Gervois magazine - Marriott HotelsCtrip, which had an initial public offering on the Nasdaq in 2003, is an industry heavyweight with over 30,000 employees and market valuation of about 25 billion dollars.

“Ctrip is doing a great job to promote the U.S. as a luxury leisure destination” added Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus Magazines LLC, a New York based publishing company specialized in luxury travel magazines in Chinese Mandarin. “I have a lot of admiration for Ctrip’s business model.  When I was living in Shanghai, I have been one of their customers for all my plane tickets reservations”

Statistics showed that the number of Chinese tourists traveling to the U.S. jumped by 14.7 percent in the first three quarters of last year from a year earlier, while the number of American tourists traveling to China increased by 7.3 percent during the same period.

Source: Xinhua

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With more Chinese tourists traveling abroad, hotels expand their chains in the U.S.

Chinee couple - China Elite FocusMore and more Chinese tourists are visiting the US and other foreign destinations and hotels in China are also expanding their chains in these places. In 2015, more than 2.5 million Chinese came to the US, and that figure rose significantly in 2016, which was designated “2016 China-US Tourism Year”.

One hotel group aiming to cash in on this rising trend of Chinese tourists visiting abroad like never before is Shanghai-based Green Tree Hospitality Group, which has five hotels in Arizona and California in the US. Kevin Brooks, a co-managing director, said the company operates more than 2,000 hotels in China that range from budget or limited-service options to five-star designations. He said that a Green Tree budget or limited-service hotel in China is similar to a Holiday Inn Express in the US. To quote Chris Petroff, co-managing director, “About 18 months ago, the company decided to expand in the US; and last year, we converted five hotels to our brand. In 2017, we have embarked on franchising.” Petroff said that the company is hoping that existing franchise operators in China will aim for US location to spread the brand name.

Gervois magazine - The new travel magazine for millennials travelers in the United StatesDriven by an increasingly growing middle class, Chinese outbound tourists are expected to reach 150 million in 2020 from 122 million in 2016, with an estimated average annual growth rate of 5.09 percent, according to the China National Tourism Administration. Another growing segment of Chinese overseas travelers are parents sending their children to study in the US. Alex Xu, the founder and chairman of Green Tree, envisions the company as a global brand, “We are also exploring other countries in Asia and Europe for expansion.” In addition to traditional inns, online marketplaces like Airbnb, which enables homeowners, renters and others to offer accommodation to travelers, are also expected to benefit from rising Chinese outbound tourism.

Source: travelandtourworld.com.

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Marketing to Chinese Outbound Tourists: Towards Normalization.

By Pierre Gervois, Founder & Publisher of the STC magazine, CEO of China Elite Focus Magazines LLC (New York), keynote speaker and expert about marketing to outbound Chinese tourists.

In 2005, I had the first conversations with executives in luxury hospitality groups about the importance of improving the welcome for their first Chinese guests. I knew they used to receive a very poor quality of service, in large part because of the ignorance of the Chinese culture from the staff of luxury hotels, and also because of the persistence of stereotypes about Chinese travelers.

The General Managers of five star hotels I talked to from 2005 to 2007 told me more or less the same thing “Chinese tourists don’t stay in five star hotels”, and, as a consequence, they did not see the point of investing resources to improve the service for their Chinese guests.

Today, these same hotels advertise in the STC magazine and ask us to define their marketing strategy to attract more of high-spending Chinese guests and offer them the best possible service.

Things have obviously changed over the last ten years.

To better understand the way Chinese outbound tourism has dramatically changed over the last decade, let’s go back fifteen years ago, in the early 2000’s.

I would define three periods to describe the evolution of Chinese outbound tourism:

From 2000 and 2005, most of Chinese outbound travelers were business travelers traveling in official delegations to attend to trade shows and official business meetings in Western Europe and in The United States. At that time, it was nearly impossible for individual Chinese leisure travelers to obtain an independent leisure visa for Europe or the U.S., and the only way to have holidays overseas was to travel in the famous (or infamous) group tours organized by Chinese State-owned outbound travel agencies, in partnership with selected destination management companies in their country of destinations.  Basically, their passports were confiscated by travel agencies during their trip in coaches and low quality hotels, which is not a very enticing way to travel.

Gervois magazine - The new travel magazine for millennials travelers in the United StatesI talked with many of these first Chinese leisure travelers between 2000 and 2005, and they told me how displeased they were by the very poor quality of their travel experience, and how their feelings were hurt by the stereotypes who were widely spread within the travel industry: Chinese tourists were supposed to love to travel in coaches, were allegedly obsessed with discounts, and would prefer to stay in one star hotels. In fact, my Chinese friends were at that time willing to be free to explore a country on their own, were searching high quality – and expensive- travel experiences, and were particularly fond of nice suites in five star hotels. Basically, like a lot of affluent western travelers.  But not of a lot of travel and tourism professional understood and even listened to them at that time.  You were a Chinese tourist?  Then you had to fit in a certain category of negatively stereotyped traveler. Period. In some cases, that was very close to segregation, and surprisingly, very few western travel & tourism professionals realized how painful and sometimes humiliating it was for Chinese leisure travelers.

From 2005 and 2010, The travel and tourism industry started – slowly – to give up on stereotypes concerning Chinese travelers, and at a slower pace to gradually improve the service for Chinese travelers.  Some hotel chains started to offer in-room Chinese tea (It took several years of studies and commissioned researches for hoteliers to take such a simple and inexpensive step), or started to recruit a few Chinese speaking staff members.  But the industry did not yet understood where the core problem was: the structural inability of both the outbound travel agencies (OTA’s) and destination management companies (DMC’s) to understand this massive change in international outbound tourism.  In less than ten years, faster than in any other country in the history of international leisure tourism, a group of outbound travelers was growing at an impressive and never seen rate, from 5 million in 2000 to 57 million in 2010. With old fashioned organizations, Chinese OTA’s could not offer the kind of service that the new generation of Chinese travelers wanted from them: a good understanding of international travel opportunities.  On the other hand, DMC’s in Europe and the U.S. were still stuck in their preconceptions about Chinese leisure travelers and kept offering the same standardized programs (Traveling in coaches from a discount shopping mall to another and sleeping in very low quality hotels), that were by the way never favored by the Chinese travelers themselves.  But their advice was never solicited.  That was before the social media era.

Around 2008, the first social media networks started to become popular in China.  And yes, I remember the time (somewhere in 2008), where Facebook and Twitter were freely accessible in China. With the launch of Weibo in 2009 and dozens of other Chinese social media networks, Chinese outbound travelers started to post stories about their experiences about their overseas travel, and make comments about hotels (since 2008 with the launch of DaoDao, the Chinese version of TripAdvisor). I frequently read translations in English of comments written in Chinese Mandarin about famous luxury hotels in New York, London or Paris, and the first comments and reviews were incredibly negative. Most of them expressed how the staff of these famous hotels lacked of respect with their first Chinese guests, and did clearly offer them a second-class experience compared to other guests from western countries. I was also surprised to see that nobody in these hotels made the effort to request a translation of comments made by their Chinese guests and analyze them.

From 2008 to 2010, the first travel destinations, travel agencies and hotels started to realize that they needed to communicate properly with Chinese outbound travelers, but very few marketing options existed. China Elite Focus was historically the first digital marketing agency (founded in june 2008 in Shanghai) who was exclusively specialized on digital travel marketing for affluent Chinese outbound travelers, with a unique focus on luxury destinations.  The launch of China Elite Focus was followed by a flurry of creation of other independent digital marketing agencies in China, Europe and the US, and defined all together an entire new marketing category: digital marketing to Chinese outbound travelers. The quick development and the popularity of Chinese social media networks as well as the first digital campaigns to promote international travel to Chinese potential travelers contributed critically to a better connection between travel operators worldwide and the emerging category of young and affluent Chinese first-time outbound travelers.

But access to the information was still a big issue, specifically for high spending travelers: From China, how to know what is the best hotel in New York you absolutely want to stay in? What is the best exclusive golf course in Scotland? How to book a table in the Paris’ finest restaurants?  No curated information was available at that time in Chinese Mandarin.  The existing travel magazines published in China did not had such sophisticated informations, and no website existed. That is the main reason we launched the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine (or the STC magazine) in 2009 as an electronic newsletter and since 2012 as an iPad & iPhone digital publication.

From 2010 to 2015, all the elements of the complex puzzle were in place: a dynamic social media network environment in China, the emergence of digital only Chinese travel agencies using extensively social media, the growing desire of Chinese travelers to discover foreign countries, and the understanding by western travel, tourism and retail companies that, yes, this is it, Chinese travelers are the world’s biggest spenders and the #1 group of Chinese outbound travelers. This is an interesting period where we saw two different categories of Chinese travelers intersecting on different paths. Senior travelers, mostly top executives of large Chinese companies who reward themselves after a life of hard work with a once or twice a year luxury international travel experience, and their children, in their early twenties, who quickly become frequent global travelers (six to ten times a year), and end up spending more than their parents in travel and shopping.

One of the important reason for the exponential growth of Chinese outbound tourism (120 million in 2015) is luxury shopping, and in particular the desire to have a genuine shopping experience. Buying a Gucci bag in Milan, a Louis Vuitton suitcase in Paris or a Tiffany diamond in New York was seen in the early 2010’s as a necessary sign of social status for the young and affluent generation. International luxury brands understood too late this trend and hastily opened too many stores in China in this period, many of them with more sales associates than Chinese customers. (They are now closing stores and start to focus on improving the customer relations at their flagship stores in the US and in Europe for Chinese shoppers.)

GERVOIS magazine Advertising and sponsored content opportunitiesOn January 19, 2012, President Obama issued the “Executive Order #13597” who had a major impact in Chinese outbound travel.  This decision had to major consequences:
First, “to increase nonimmigrant (i.e. tourists) visa processing capacity in China by 40% over the coming year”, meaning allocate more human resources at U.S. consulates in China in order to be able to review and process more leisure visa requests.  Second, “to ensure that 80% of nonimmigrant visa applicants in China are interviewed within 3 weeks of receipt of application”, meaning to allow a much faster process for individual Chinese tourists planning holidays in the U.S..  This rather technical Executive Order created a psychological change in the perception the United States as a  luxury holidays destination by Chinese travelers.  Previously more considered as a business destination, the U.S. were seen as of the beginning of 2012 as a much more “tourist friendly” destination by the Chinese, and they started massively to consider to spend holidays in this country, who appeared as newly opened to them. We saw a surge in requests on Chinese search engines about “travel and holidays in the US” in the first half of 2012, and the U.S. travel and tourism industry operators started to feel the economical benefits of an increased influx of Chinese leisure visitors as early as the summer 2012. (1.5 million Chinese visitors came to the U.S. in 2012, 3.1 million are expected for 2019).

In november 2014, China and the United States negociated a reciprocal agreement to extend the validity of tourists visas up to ten years (multiple entries).  It means that since november 2014, a Chinese tourist with a valid tourist visa to the United States can keep this visa for up to ten years, with multiple entries. That is very close to the “Visa Waiver program” with european tourists, and has strongly encouraged Chinese travelers to choose the U.S. over Western Europe destinations, who do not offer tourists visas with such a long validity for Chinese visitors.

At the end of 2015, We could say that 80% of tourism offices, hotel chains, retailers, and airlines had in place elements for a marketing strategy focused on Chinese tourists, even a modest one. What a change if we compare to 2005, where virtually less than 5% of them had a strategy in place.

Today, what could be the trends for the years to come? The first world that comes to my mind is normalization. For the last fifteen years, travel and tourism marketers considered Chinese tourists as a kind of “exotic” category of international traveler, with all the stereotypes and preconceptions attached. Now that more than 100 million Chinese travelers discover the world every year in virtually every country on the planet, tourism and travel professionals have a much better understanding of what the most important group of tourists really want.  And it’s – how surprising – exactly what Americans and European travelers want when they travel abroad: A carefully curated travel experience, nice hotels, local cultural and food discoveries, and the possibility to choose, alone, what to do during the day. Before starting a marketing campaign focused on Chinese outbound travelers, it’s now time to have the exact same mindset that for a marketing campaign targeted at any other nationality of tourists. And, please, forget about the stereotype of the Chinese traveler allegedly only interested by discounts. They are not. They want quality, sophistication and authenticity.  And they know it doesn’t come cheap.

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