SINGAPORE, 30 January 2019: With Chinese New Year holiday just around the corner, hotels, online travel agencies and travel content suppliers are bracing themselves for a holiday invasion.
Described as the world’s largest holiday migration some experts claim as many as 7 million Chinese will travel overseas to welcome the Year of the Pig, 5 to 8 February, although Chinese New Year travel will extend through to 19 February when the Lantern Festival takes place.
Hotelbeds APAC director of wholesale sales, Hui-Wan Chua, fields a Q&A session and adds tips to make the best of the Chinese New Year travel boom.
Q: What are the key dates for Chinese New Year travel this year?
A: “This year, the Chinese New Year festival falls on Tuesday 5 February. However, the seven-day holiday starts on Monday 4 February (New Year’s Eve) and ends on Sunday 10 February.
Many tourists who travel during the Spring Festival choose to leave one week early or return later, especially for long-haul travel to Europe and America.
According to booking data from Ctrip as of 7 January, bookings will increase significantly on Thursday 31 January and the peak level of traveling occurs on the first day of the New Year (Tuesday 5 February).”
Q: Is that true most Chinese travellers book last-minute trips?
A: “Many Chinese travellers book their trips two to four weeks up front. When compared to western travellers who plan their trip six months or more before departure, Chinese are indeed last- minute bookers when it comes to holidays.
“However, for long-haul international travel such as to America or Europe, most Chinese travellers will book and plan their trips in advance, especially to those destinations without a visa waiver or visa-on-arrival policy for Chinese travellers.
Q: How should hotels or travel intermediaries go about attracting last minute bookings?
A: “Travellers don’t always have control over how far out they book a hotel room – perhaps because of difficulties in confirming time-off from work. Therefore an increasing number of people book hotel rooms in the days or even hours leading up to the start of their vacation.
Q: What kind of holiday experience are Chinese travellers who want to go abroad looking for during the Chinese New Year period?
A: “Chinese New Year usually comes on the coldest days of the year in China. Therefore Chinese travellers want to enjoy all of the main leisure themes that can be found abroad, including beaches, skiing, family entertainment, cruises or natural scenery.
“Previously shopping was a main travel motivation for many Chinese tourists, but nowadays shopping is not the prime reason any longer.
Q: From which cities and regions in China do many of the international travellers come from?
A: “The Top 10 outbound cities are 1st and 2nd tier cities in China such as Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Shenzhen, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Harbin, Tianjin, and Wuhan.
For example Guangzhou has over 13 million residents – that’s three times the population of the Republic of Ireland.”
Q: How much impact do visa restrictions have on where Chinese travellers will go during the New Year period?
A: “This year the common estimate is that 7 million Chinese travellers will venture abroad during Chinese New Year and clearly a favourable visa policy will help boost the number of tourists that might consider a destination.
“More and more countries offer a visa waiver or visa-on-arrival policy for Chinese travellers. In fact the number of counties with a favourable visa policy increased from 60 countries in 2017 to 74 counties in January 2019.
Q: Is it true that many Chinese travellers don’t have credit cards?
A: “More and more Chinese travellers hold credit cards, but only a limited number of travellers are used to using credit cards when they travel.
Many hold a Chinese card called UnionPay and with the continuous expansion of Union Pay’s acceptance network, it’s more convenient for Chinese travellers to travel abroad than ever before. Chinese customers also often request multi-payment options, including a bank transfer, Alipay and WeChat Pay.
Q: What is the single most important factor that Chinese travellers will be looking at when booking a hotel overseas?
A: “Although Chinese tourists are price sensitive, they are still willing to spend on their accommodation.
“Room type is essential too as normally Chinese travellers request a twin (double bed room) and having a kettle and breakfast included are very important factors they would consider when booking
A hotel abroad – so not only having these on offer, but also making clear in the booking process that you have them, is key for any hotel that wants Chinese bookings.”
Q: And what single most important factor is likely to make a Chinese traveller NOT book a hotel for the New Year period?
A: “If there are any negative comments about a hotel’s security or safety, or the safety and security of the surrounding area, Chinese travellers won’t book, especially when considering making international reservations.
“Providing safety and security information in Chinese, especially if your hotel neighbourhood could be perceived by some as dangerous at times, may help ease concerns – as well as showing that you have good security precautions and so on in your hotel itself.”
Q: Any tips for hotels on how to attract more Chinese travellers?
A: “Translate the menu, provide welcome signs in Chinese, install Chinese TV channels, make hot water or a kettle available, offer Asian breakfast options, and add payment options with either Alipay or WeChat Pay.”