The latest Hotels.com Chinese International Travel Monitor (CITM) reveals just how much technology has become a powerful element in the decision-making mix of this sector, following another record year for travel and spending.
For the first time, more than half of the Chinese travellers surveyed say they now book their hotel accommodation either via the web or mobile apps, up from 45% in 2013. Just under half use online accommodation web sites and online reviews sites to research their trips and a third check social media. Eighty-four per cent share their photos and experiences on social media during and after an international trip and free Wi-Fi is chosen as the most important service in a hotel by 59%.
In Canada, Chinese travellers visit Vancouver and Toronto most frequently and rank eighth among the list of Top International Spenders for hotel rooms in Canada in 2013. In an effort to cater to this growing demographic, many Canadian hotels have enhanced their amenities to embrace aspects of Chinese culture, comfort and travel preferences, including:
!!! Chinese visitors to Hilton Hotels & Resorts in Vancouver and Toronto are greeted with a “Huanying” welcome. This special reception ensures a Chinese-speaking front desk clerk is available to assist Chinese guests with their check-in. The hotels also provide a welcome letter written in Chinese dialects, a diverse Chinese breakfast menu, tea kettles with assorted Chinese teas, chopsticks and dedicated Chinese television programing.
!!! Fairmont Hotels & Resorts across Canada offer enhanced dining menus featuring personalized dishes and a variety of culinary choices specially designed for Chinese guests travelling abroad. Catering and restaurant menus now include traditional Chinese dishes, such as congee, rice porridge, loose leaf teas and cold and hot towels, which are customary in China.
With 97 million Chinese travelling abroad in 20131, up 14 million from 2012, more than half of the hoteliers surveyed say that they have seen an increase in the number of Chinese guests in the previous 12 months, while 36% believe the influx of Chinese tourists is one of the factors that will have the most impact on their business in the next 12-24 months.
In China, Internet penetration has climbed to 45.8% and the country ended the year with 618 million Internet users, 500 million of these choosing to access the web via a mobile device, according to the China Internet Network Information. More than 90% of Internet users reportedly have a social media account.
Abhiram Chowdhry, vice-president and managing director APAC of the Hotels.com brand, commented, “There are many factors driving the desire of the Chinese people to explore the world. The rising affluence of the growing middle class with higher disposable incomes, the upward trend in the numbers of repeat travellers, more relaxed visa conditions and improved local infrastructure are all dovetailing to expedite this growth. However, our report quantifies another factor: the rate at which technology is transforming the landscape of Chinese overseas travel.”
There is also a growing confidence shown by these new travellers, particularly amongst the young. Two-thirds of the Chinese consumers questioned say that they now prefer to travel independently, up five percentage points on 2013, while more than 60% of hoteliers have seen a boost in the number of independent travellers in the last two years. This is the clearest indication yet of the move away from the previous preference for group travel.