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World Travel Companies Gather in Guangzhou to Woo Mainland Tourists

The mainland outward bound travel sector is now by far the world's most lucrative, driving many global tourism operators to create bespoke packages and new tailored vacations for this unique and discerning group of emerging holidaymakers.

Photo: Hot spring allure: Guangzhou’s Conghua district makes its pitch.
Hot spring allure: Guangzhou's Conghua district makes its pitch.
Photo: Hot spring allure: Guangzhou’s Conghua district makes its pitch.
Hot spring allure: Guangzhou's Conghua district makes its pitch.

China is now the world's largest source of outbound tourists and the biggest spender on the international travel scene, with the US, the UK and Germany lining up behind. According to figures published by the World Tourism Organisation, a total of 120 million Chinese people travelled overseas in 2015. It is no wonder then that more than 1,000 exhibitors packed The Guangzhou International Travel Fair, all keen to woo Chinese holidaymakers.

Many countries had multiple envoys at the event. Sri Lanka, for example, had 32 exhibitors taking part. According to Chinthaka Liyanaarachchi, Assistant Manager of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, some 210,000 Chinese tourists visited the country in 2015, an 86% increase on 2014.

Keen to build on this, the Bureau has launched a number of initiatives aimed at building their understanding of their Chinese visitors, while also sending a team on a field trip to Kunming to immerse themselves in the local culture. It has also encouraged many of those within the Sri Lankan tourism industry to learn Mandarin, ensuring they can better meet the needs of the growing number of Chinese tourists.

Photo: Sri Lanka: Increasingly mainland friendly.
Sri Lanka: Increasingly mainland friendly.
Photo: Sri Lanka: Increasingly mainland friendly.
Sri Lanka: Increasingly mainland friendly.
Photo: Off on tour: Visitors book their trips.
Off on tour: Visitors book their trips.
Photo: Off on tour: Visitors book their trips.
Off on tour: Visitors book their trips.

In terms of local operators, the Guangzhou branch of the Star Cruises Travel Agency, headquartered in Shanghai, has also benefited from China's rapidly growing outbound travel market. According to Luo Zhihui, the company's Assistant Vice President for Sales, mainlanders accounted for about 30% of guests on each cruise departing Hong Kong for Vietnam in 2015.

In view of the huge number of mainland tourists, Star Cruises decided to change its homeport to Nansha in Guangzhou, a move that saw the percentage of mainland tourists on each cruise soaring to 90%.

Online Sales

Photo: Kulv’s dedicated Yaochufa travel portal.
Kulv's dedicated Yaochufa travel portal.
Photo: Kulv’s dedicated Yaochufa travel portal.
Kulv's dedicated Yaochufa travel portal.
Online channels have become particularly important for the travel sector. Many would-be travellers book travel experiences online, then post reviews about their experiences. The awareness of this highly visible feedback has seen many online operators hugely keen to maintain the quality of their services.

Yaochufa.com is a dedicated tourism portal established by the Guangzhou-based Kulv Travel Agency. The site is said to have attracted considerable interest, largely thanks to its comprehensive listings of accommodation, tourism destinations and high-end restaurants. Its multi-option packages, such as those offering the option to combine hot spring and beach experiences with family visits to theme parks and farm stays, have been particularly well received.

According to Zhu Zhiguo, the company's Chief Marketing Officer, all of the company's online travel products are conceived and specified in-house to ensure good product quality. Overall, the company targets the mid-to-high-end market and aims to give customers an optimum travel experience in order to secure their future custom.

Photo: Tuniu: 1.2 million online bookings last year.
Tuniu: 1.2 million online bookings last year.
Photo: Tuniu: 1.2 million online bookings last year.
Tuniu: 1.2 million online bookings last year.

Zhu says that Kulv now offers more than 10,000 tourist products for customers to choose from. The company is also said to be growing rapidly, with its annual income in 2015 estimated to be five times that of its 2014 earnings.

Another company successfully operating in the online sector is Nanjing-based Tuniu. Peng Hua, the company's South China Regional Purchasing Director for Australia and New Zealand, said Tuniu was debuting several unique value-for-money outbound travel products at this year's event. One such package offered flights direct from Guangzhou to Dubai and included a night's stay at the famous Burj Al Arab Hotel, all for less than Rmb10,000.

According to Tuniu's website, the company offered more than 1.2 million tourist products in 2015. It also serviced some 20.5 million tourists and attracted in excess of one million online customer reviews and comments.

Specialist Tourist Products

Given the increased interest from young tourists, it is no surprise that more and more independent travel and self-drive products are now available. A number of operators were also competing to attract travellers through a series of specially themed visitor experiences.

China Lingyang, for instance, is keen to introduce mainland holidaymakers to the delights of the caravan. The company was in Guangzhou to present its range of customised caravans and MPVs. According to Fu Jinghua, the company's Sales Representative, while caravans were not very popular on the mainland a couple of years ago, today many people in north-eastern China, as well as in Chongqing and Hubei, are purchasing them and incorporating them into their holiday plans.

All Lingyang caravans are said to be custom-built, with fixtures adapted to the buyer's requirement. In the case of chassis alone, there are 17 domestic and foreign brands to choose from. One of the Lingyang caravans on display featured a pull-down bed for two people, and can also be fitted with a toilet, a refrigerator, a water tank, a storage cabinet and a variety of other add-ons.

Photo: Wheel deal: Driving holidays.
Wheel deal: Driving holidays.
Photo: Wheel deal: Driving holidays.
Wheel deal: Driving holidays.

At quite the other end of the luxury spectrum, cruise vacations are also increasingly popular with Chinese consumers. According to Luo, Star Cruises had a number of options on offer at the fair, including a two-day, one-night cruise from Nansha to Hong Kong (Rmb1,000, exclusive of port charges), and a six-day five-night cruise from Nansha to Halong Bay, Danang (Vietnam), Sanya and then back to Nansha (Rmb3,499, exclusive of port charges). In the case of the latter, tourists can admire the beautiful lime karsts at Halong Bay at close quarters and then visit the Hoi An Ancient Town or the Museum of Cham Sculpture in Danang.

Over at its stand, Star Cruises had on offer a choice of four cruise ships, all with a variety of high-level facilities. The Superstar Virgo, for instance, offered passengers a show lounge, a large duty-free shop, a 100-metre mega water slide and an open-air swimming pool. Asian, Western and a number of other cuisines are also all available on-board.

Aside from short-haul outbound travel and long haul destinations in Europe and the Americas, mainland tourists are also looking to Africa. According to Cui Ming, Public Relations Manager for the Kenya Tourism Board in China, his country had benefited from Chinese people's keen interest in outbound travel and had become a popular tourist destination with mainland tourists over recent years. He said many mainland tourists tend to visit Kenya between July and September each year in order to see the great annual wildlife migrations. He estimated that some 40,000 Chinese tourists will visit Kenya in 2016.

Apart from the great migration, the Kenya Tourism Board was also keen to promote cultural and sports tourism. In all, there are 42 different tribes in Kenya, with tourists able to visit all of these tribes and experience their culture at first hand. As Kenya is also the home to many successful distance runners, sports tourism is also becoming popular, while the beauty of the Kenyan coast has proved another major reason to visit.

It costs about Rmb30,000 to visit Kenya during the peak great migration season in July-September each year. A typical tour lasts around 10 days and tourists can take in any of Kenya's famous national parks, the East Africa Savanna, the lakes or visit the forests to see the historical relics and absorb the local culture. Visiting the Masai Mara nature reserve and riding in hot air balloons to observe the African wildlife are also popular alternatives.

Photo: Hong Kong holidays: Still a mainland favourite.
Hong Kong holidays: Still a mainland favourite.
Photo: Hong Kong holidays: Still a mainland favourite.
Hong Kong holidays: Still a mainland favourite.

Other memorable exhibits at the event included, the Sakura Festival (presented by the Wuhan Tourism Board), the 100-Mile Azalea Area (promoted by the Bijie Tourism Board), the World Hakka Capital (presented by the Meizhou Tourism Board), and on-location tour of the TV drama The Journey of Flower (presented by a local tourist group in Guangxi). The chance to visit the health nourishing hot-springs in Guangzhou's Conghua district also proved highly popular with visitors.

The Guangzhou International Travel Fair was held at the China Import and Export Fair Pazhou Complex on 25-27 February 2016. According to the organisers, more than 1,000 exhibitors from 45 countries and regions, including the US, UK, Russia, Germany, France, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong and Macau, all took part, inevitably attracting a large numbers of visitors.

Xing Bin, Special Correspondent, Guangzhou

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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