Top tips on destination tourism direct marketing campaign for the Chinese consumers
Over the past three years, despite the difficulties in resuming outbound tourism amid pandemic, the Overseas Tourism Administration and a group of cross-border marketing agencies have not pressed the pause button because of this but have continued to communicate with their Chinese peers and consumers through various means.
1. When travel agencies are silent, overseas destinations begin to face consumers directly
Before the epidemic, travel agencies, as a destination promotion and traffic window, often chose the best-selling products that were most suitable for all ages to focus on promotion for the sake of their sales performance. When you opened those official websites of major Chinese outbound travel agencies, you would have found that the itineraries and destinations were very similar from one to another.
The top priority of overseas tourism administrations is to present the best aspects of destinations to consumers, so most destinations will choose local characteristics and exquisite products and services for marketing. For example, the Japan Tourism Organisation publishes content such as Kyoto taverns and cat-watching holy places on its official account from time to time to attract consumers, and the number of views often exceeds 10,000.
At this stage, travel agencies mainly engaged in inbound and outbound travel are almost silent. Overseas Tourism Bureau’s trade marketing activities are doomed not to bring immediate ROI, which instead frees up space for the destination to have a direct dialogue with consumers.
Therefore, the Overseas Tourism Bureaus have also begun to launch a series of direct-to-consumer marketing activities. During the Spring Festival of 2021, the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board opened an official account on social media for content promotion. The first video got 79,000 views, and it was just a 5 minutes video about the content of “safety at the airport”, and it was narrated in English as well!
Japan also has a similar move. In March 2021, the Okinawa Visitors Bureau and Dianping launched the #流浪海岛，久别“冲“逢# Travel Inspiration Recommendation topic activity, which continued to evoke users’ cherished travel memories of Okinawa through topic interaction, and it attracted more than 300 commenting users including travel influencers independently shared island-themed travel notes, and the total reading volume of the topic reached 1.96 million. It is worth mentioning that, compared with the sales promotion of travel agencies in the past, the real travel experience of users focuses more on the “good place” itself, and the highlights of the destination are being described in more detail and have a higher degree of trust.
It is reported that in the scene of outbound travel, Dianping has become an essential tool for Chinese tourists to receive recommendations before the trip and make consumption decisions during the trip. Based on the original intention of “discovering good places” for tourists, Dianping has launched content cooperation with overseas destination agencies, opening up a channel for direct dialogue between destinations and users, not only helping consumers understand destinations more comprehensively, and obtain travel strategies and decision-making; it also makes the tourism bureau identify the potential needs and travel preferences of Chinese consumers at close range, paving the way for the design of tourism products in the future.
2. From “a quick visit” to “in-depth tour”
The Overseas Tourism Bureau attaches so much importance to consumers’ cultivation of destinations, it is also due to people’s preference for niche travel.
As early as 2018, niche destinations began to receive the attention and love of travellers. According to the “2018 Annual Mass Consumption Trend Insight Report” released by Dianping, novel and niche travel experiences are popular among users.
It was also this year that the German National Tourist Board’s German food campaign was launched on the Dianping app, directly targeting consumers to recommend popular German restaurants. As of April, Meituan (a Chinese shopping platform for locally found consumer products and retail services) covered a total of 185,000 of food, shopping and attraction merchants throughout Germany.
Therefore, overseas tourism bureaus not only need to face consumers directly, but also need to stimulate a deep connection between users and destinations.
In China, where “food is the most important thing for the people”, it is a good way to use food as a content entry point to stimulate travel inspiration for overseas destinations.
In November of the same year, Dianping app launched #入冬日食堂不打烊# with the topic of Japanese food, covering more than ten niche destinations such as Niigata, Kochi, and Miyazaki. There are many domestic users and local Japanese users participating in this topic. The notes published by local users have gone deep into many hidden corners and century-old shops in the destination. For example, Miyazaki County started with food and brought out the natural scenery of this county, and various famous specialties of Kochi Prefecture are also known through notes. These notes not only help to promote local food characteristics in niche destinations in Japan, but also awaken domestic users’ expectations for Japan travel. Such linkage in the air also promoted cultural exchanges between domestic destinations and overseas destinations, helping consumers discover different Japanese customs.
The promotion of South Korea’s tourism market also has a similar linkage across the air. Taking advantage of the opportunity of the 2021-2022 China-Korea Cultural Exchange Year, South Korean government agencies and the Korea Destination Tourism Bureau have cooperated with Dianping to launch online promotions “Topic check-in activities” in Beijing, Chengdu, and Shanghai. Let consumers experience the authentic and diverse Korean lifestyle even if they don’t go abroad. From the recommendation of Korean restaurants in China, to the promotion of Korean health tours, to the offline themed flash check-in, etc., it provides a good place for multi-dimensional promotion opportunities of destinations. At the same time, it satisfies consumers’ inner demands for in-depth understanding and experience of Korean culture.
No matter from which point of view, the way overseas destinations lead consumers to explore is different from traditional large and comprehensive sightseeing tours. It is more about expressing the charm of destinations from the level of lifestyle, leading users to explore from the perspective of “breadth travel” turn to “in-depth tour” to explore the destination in an all-round way.
3. Travel inspiration recommendation paving the way for the future of cross-border tourism
Although the current marketing activities of the overseas Tourism Bureau cannot immediately bring about actual revenue conversion, they can first guide users to get travel inspiration, maintain the interaction between destinations and users, and prepare for future travel.
This point has been effectively verified in Macau. During the epidemic, Macau was the first overseas destination for the mainland Chinese to travel without quarantine. Taking advantage of the peak traffic during the Spring Festival of 2021, Sands Macao customized and created the topic #春节吸欧气好运打卡点# on the Dianping app in order to promote a famous scenic spot “Crystal Golden Palace” of its newly opened Hotel Londoner. Tourists went there one after another and shared their check-in notes. With the popularity of the topic, during the event, the average daily traffic of the “Crystal Golden Palace” merchant page increased by 400% compared to before, and the popularity of the scenic spot increased rapidly.
In addition to the activities of the Spring Festival, the Macau Tourism Bureau also tried to “move Macau to the mainland”, and launched Macau Week activities in Shanghai, Chengdu and other cities, and launched the topic of #周周来Playing Macau# on the Dianping APP with incentive of winning a free tour in Macau. The big prize has attracted influencers and users to check-in one after another, driving their expectations and yearning of traveling to Macau.
Overall, Dianping is taking advantage of its own platform’s traffic advantages, and by delivering rich and high-quality travel content guides, it helps overseas destinations open a door to users and keep communication with the Chinese market. The content generated by the cooperation between overseas tourism bureaus and Dianping will also accumulate on the platform for a long time, not only continuously awakening the good memories and expectations of potential outbound tourists, but also serving as a guide for destination tourism bureaus and travel agencies to design new tourism products.
Now the tourism bureau is using content to gain momentum, and when the spring breeze of cross-border travel comes, the recommendation list in the hands of Chinese consumers will become a ticket of travel. ☺