By Ashley Galina Dudarenok | China has a huge population of over 1.3 billion people and, with rising incomes and reduced travel restrictions in recent years, enormous potential in terms of outbound tourism. Statistics from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism reveal that the tourism sector contributed around RMB 9.13 trillion to national GDP in 2017, accounting for 11.04% overall.
Chinese tourism has seen other important changes. Younger people are now travelling more. They rely heavily on smart devices and the mobile Internet, and generally prefer arranging things online instead of visiting brick-and-mortar travel agencies.
Now that almost everyone has access to the Internet, online booking is the new norm. There’s also more than simple transport and accommodation that can be booked in advance.
Online travel apps like Ctrip (携程), Fliggy (飞猪), Tuniu (途牛) and Qunar (去哪儿) cooperate with travel destinations, insurance sellers and telecommunication companies to sell admission tickets, travel insurance, local phone cards and Wi-Fi eggs, so that tourists can buy them in advance and receive them digitally or pick them up on arrival. There are also service providers that help tourists with visa applications so they only need to provide documentation and pay without needing to go in person.
User Community For Information Sharing And Q&A
There are also online communities for tourists and travellers. They share user-generated content on sites such as Mafengwo (马蜂窝) that is like TripAdvisor. People detail their experiences and offer practical tips to fellow travellers and many visit these platforms to do research as they plan their trips.
Customized And Small Group Tours
There’s also a growing trend among Chinese tourists for flexible timetables and a more individualized experience. And instead of travelling with strangers in a large group tour, they’d rather go with their close relatives and friends. So customized and small group tours are becoming more popular with Chinese tourists.
Most travel apps provide customization options for this growing demand. Users can fill in their basic trip information and the app sends it to one or more travel agencies for them to design an itinerary with all services and accommodation included.
Virtual Reality (VR) And Augmented Reality (AR) Tech Support
VR and AR tech is also being used in the tourism industry. For example, digital travel agency Zanadu (赞那度) has the app Travel VR (旅行VR) where users can watch 360-degree videos of travel destinations and hotels. The VR technology creates an immersive feeling that works as a powerful promotional tool to attract potential tourists and guests.
Baidu Maps has developed an ‘Intelligent AR Guide’. When users arrive at a destination, the app presents background information about historic sites, famous landmarks or art exhibitions. It also offers real-time navigation to help orient visitors. More advanced AR technology can even present representations of rebuilt historical sites.
The mobile Internet and new technology will definitely keep bringing new visions and opportunities to the tourism industry.
About The Author
Ashley Galina Dudarenok is an entrepreneur, professional speaker, and vlogger. She is the founder of several startups, including social media agency Alarice.com.hk and resources platform ChoZan.co. She runs the world’s largest vlog about the China market, consumers and social media on her YouTube channel Ashley Talks. Her latest bestseller, Unlocking the World’s Largest E-Market: A Guide to Selling on Chinese Social Media, is available on Amazon. The Ashley Talks Podcast is available on iTunes.