With Chinese millennials, travel marketers take generational leap forward

Panel at ITB China discussing Chinese millennials, the "fastest-moving market" with short attention spans

For travel marketers who have never heard of Douyin, chances are that their marketing strategies targeting the Chinese millennials are already falling behind, said industry players at a panel discussion at ITB China 2018 in Shanghai.

Estimated to number more than 400 million, millennials are a force to reckon with in China’s outbound travel growth. But marketing to this key demographic requires a close watch of trends and recognising the cultural nuances and complexities, key travel figures shared during the ‘Connecting destinations with Chinese millennials’ session yesterday.

Chinese millennials are hardly a uniform market, with each subset – post-80s, post-90s and post-00s, etc – displaying its own quirks and preferences, according to Roger Qiu, general manager of Europe, Middle East & Africa, destination marketing of Ctrip Group. “Each segmentation is complicated,” he added.

Panel at ITB China discussing Chinese millennials, with their fickle minds and short attention spans, but who also make up the “fastest-moving market”

Filipe Silva, board member of Turismo de Portugal, agreed: “There are differences within the millennials group. For instance, the millennial profile in a first-tier city is different from those in second- or third-tier cities.”

Whereas live streaming was just in demand a few years ago, the digitally connected cohort has now swapped their short attention span to short social video site Douyin, said Qiu. As a result, Ctrip is constantly re-examining and evolving its marketing strategies according to millennial trends and preferences, he added.

Travel brands also have to ensure “authenticity” while making content “cool and quick” to appeal to Chinese millennials, who have demonstrated a keen willingness to adopt new mobile apps and websites, noted Kirsty Burkill, head of marketing – Asia at Merlin Entertainments.

To attract the attention of Chinese millennials, which Burkill said is the “fastest-moving market” compared with their regional and global counterparts, Merlin Entertainments has mapped out different marketing strategies for its brands, with Douyin account launched for Madame Tussauds to keep Chinese Gen Z updated of the latest additions to the wax musuems.

But fickle as they may be, this “confident” generation is on a constant lookout for “world-class wow moments”, noted Burkill, and herein lies opportunities for attractions and tourism boards to tap on.

Experiences are highly coveted by this rising collective, with faraway and less popular outbound destinations now seeing an uptick in demand from Chinese millennials.

Israel is one such beneficiary as a destination, having seen fast-rising inbound Chinese numbers in recent years, with the growth hitting almost 100 per cent in the last two years, shared Bora Shnitman, Israel Tourism attache at Israel Ministry of Tourism’s China office. The share of FITs for the Chinese inbound market, meanwhile, has grown to 50 per cent, up from just seven per cent a few years back.

“We attract Chinese millennials with travel experiences in other countries in South-east Asia and Europe, who now have international experience and want to go to ‘mysterious’ place like Israel,” said Shnitman. “They plan their travel in small groups of friends or by themselves on Mafengwo or Qyer.”

In South America, Brazil is also benefiting from Chinese youngsters’ curiosity about the world. Observed Alisson Andrade, general manager of competitive intelligence and market access, Brazilian Tourism Board: “Chinese millennials are more open to experiences than shopping in Brazil. They like to connect with locals, stay in communities and learn to play drums, etc.”

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