Vienna Tourist Board prepares city for Chinese tourist influx

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The Vienna Tourist Board has held a seminar aimed at helping the city’s tourism operators to attract and cater for the rising number of Chinese visitors.

Approximately 150 representatives of the Viennese tourism industry attended the event, entitled “Market Expertise: Marketing – Training – Exchange”, which offered advice on working with visitors from China. A series of presentations focused on a range of subjects such as product optimisation, sales and digital marketing on the Chinese market.

China is now the world’s largest outbound travel market and this trend can also be seen in Vienna, where the number of overnight stays by Chinese visitors has doubled over the past five years. And with new direct flights from Shanghai and Hong Kong, eased visa regulations and the Vienna Tourist Board’s increased marketing activities, this trend is likely to continue in the years to come.

“There are a lot of myths and secrets surrounding Chinese travellers. We wanted to use this industry event to provide some clarity on how the Chinese incoming market is actually developing while giving a highly practical insight into this segment,” explained the Vienna Tourist Board’s director of tourism, Norbert Kettner.

During the event, market manager Sonja Ishak outlined how the Vienna Tourist Board is aiming to position the city as a “Central European hub”, before international experts shared some practical tips on dealing with Chinese guests. The event concluded with a Q&A session.

Renee Hartmann, co-founder of the China Luxury Advisors consultancy in Los Angeles, talked about the latest trends on the Chinese market and Chinese visitors’ preferences. Her talk also covered developments in various segments from group travel to private holidays and provided a number of recommendations detailing how hotels, cultural institutions and other participants can tailor their products and services to the needs of Chinese visitors.

She confirmed that the key was to ensure that products capture the local culture, while still appealing to Chinese travellers’ tastes. She also pointed out that Chinese tourists travel in order to try out new things; while shopping continues to be the favourite pastime for Chinese tourists, visiting museums and cultural attractions are becoming more popular. Vienna in particular and Europe in general, she noted, are seen as especially romantic destinations that Chinese millennials in particular want to visit. Almost half of all Chinese travellers abroad fall into this category. The majority of them are wealthy and instead of being won over, they are looking to be inspired by a destination.

Ann Bierbower, whose market research and marketing agency, China Skinny, is based in Shanghai, emphasised that digital marketing is the most cost-effective and targeted form of marketing. This is particularly important for the Chinese market since travellers from the country tend to conduct very thorough research online and are more likely to believe social media then traditional state-run channels.

Bierbower also reported on the Chinese people’s affinity for the internet and outlined the subtle differences between the nation’s different digital channels. In addition to online reviews, the WeChat app is highly relevant as it offers a host of features that encourage people to spend a lot of time using it. China is also a selfie society – the Chinese want to be online round the clock, post their travel experiences several times a day and like to share their personal recommendations with friends and family upon returning home. Word of mouth continues to be the most important type of travel recommendation.

Yufei Gu, who works in procurement at the Hamburg-based Chinese tour operator Caissa Touristic, revealed that while the trend is increasingly moving towards increased individuality and smaller groups, many Chinese people still appreciate a certain level of support when travelling. In Ms Gu’s view the ‘semi-FIT’ segment will become increasingly important – she noted that Chinese people are increasingly moving away from traditional travel agency-based support and towards tourism experience stores and round-the-clock online Q&As.

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