Published on Thursday, May 28, 2009

Travelmole Guest Comment: Why China could be the solution

ChinaContact managing director Roy Graff on the potential of the Chinese market for UK businesses.

“I was very happy to accept an invitation by TravelMole to write this monthly column on China’s tourism industry. Over the past four years I’ve supplied a small group of travel professionals across the globe that subscribed to our blog with monthly news and comment about developments in China’s tourism sector. It’s great that TravelMole can see the immense potential of this market and recognise that more people in the industry would benefit from greater awareness of how to access this market.

In this first article I will explain how I came to believe that China would come to change the face of global tourism within the next few years. Each month I will tackle a different topic based on recent developments and suggestions or questions from readers.

My first encounter with China was in 1992. The first stop on that trip was Taiwan. I remember standing in the middle of a pedestrian bridge linking the main rail station over a busy road and thinking to myself ‘my God, so many people!!!’ Mainland China was even more of a shock. The food was of poor quality, service at hotels and restaurant non-existent and there was complete lack of investment in tourism facilities.

When I finally moved to live in China in 2002, the growth I witnessed was astonishing. This fast pace still continues. From trying to convince Chinese travel agents that the Internet is a useful tool to book travel hotels we moved to a time when they will not even speak to you if you cannot provide instant online confirmation.

China began to allow its citizens to travel abroad for leisure in the early 90’s through a policy known as ADS (Approved Destination Status). Individual travel is not regulated to the same degree but is still mostly limited to domestic and short haul travel. Ctrip (an online travel company listed on NASDAQ) became the dominant online player in independent travel and led a wave of companies offering travel service online focused on the domestic travel market. There is no question that a new generation of Chinese travellers have embraced the Internet for their travel research and booking needs.

Nearly 50 million Chinese will travel abroad in 2009. Their patterns and itineraries now resemble that of other markets rather than the staid and hectic multi-destination itinerary of a few years ago. The wealthy are no longer middle-aged men. High-flying career women and young entrepreneurs as well as the 20-something offspring of senior Party officials comprise a rising niche market for luxury travel. As Chinese people get a taste for travel, they are looking for cultural experience and exploration.

Despite the current slowdown, the desire of Chinese to travel and the spirit of Chinese entrepreneurs ensure a steep upward curve of growth in China’s tourism and hospitality sectors.

If you want to see your questions on the Chinese tourism industry answered in TravelMole, submit them through our contact form.”

Roy Graff has been immersed in Asian business and culture since 1994 and speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese. He launched ChinaContact in 2005 after working in senior management positions for a global travel group in Shanghai and Beijing for three years. He focuses his consultancy practice on China's tourism and hospitality sectors with an emphasis on online marketing and e-commerce.
[email protected] +44 20 3239 9688
skype: ccontact88 twitter:chinacontact

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