As reported in The Economist earlier this year, nearly 1 in 10 tourists worldwide is Chinese, and they spend more on travel than tourists from any other country. Marketing spoke to David Spooner, vice president, sales & marketing at Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts, to find out how to target this important, and lucrative, consumer segment. (Spooner will be speaking at Marketing magazine’s Marketing to Travellers conference this Wednesday. Join us for a one-day conference by registering here.)
Marketing: Give us an overview of Banyan Tree’s investments in targeting Chinese tourists.
Spooner: Our hotels in China have helped to build a reputation with our China guests, and this has encouraged them to also visit our other properties around the world. We also have eight sales offices in China as well as a corporate office in Shanghai that looks at business development for China. To attract Chinese tourists to our non-China hotels, we ensure that procedures are put in place for their comfort and convenience. We have Chinese-speaking associates at all our properties, Chinese language materials are used in villas and around the resort for Chinese speaking guests. We also ensure that our F&B restaurants have staples that are familiar to Chinese tourists.
Marketing: What efforts does Banyan Tree make to localise brand content and assets to the Chinese market?
Spooner: All of our communication materials, from brand websites, marketing collaterals, on-property materials including our bi-annual Under The Banyan Tree magazine, menus and in-villa materials are translated to Simplified and Traditional Chinese for the China market.
Marketing: Going digital goes without saying in the rest of the world. Does this apply to China as well?
Spooner: We are now seeing the rise of the omni-channel consumer that looks for information across different sources simultaneously. Google statistics have shown that 65% of consumers start on a mobile compared to 25% who start on a PC and 11% who go to a tablet first. To keep up with these changes and to engage the omni channel consumer, we utilise a multi-channel approach by being where our audience spends their time. Our newly launched Banyan Tree and Angsana websites are our most important direct channels and the centre of our brand ecosystem. The highest traffic coming through to our websites come from Chinese guests viewing via a mobile device. China also has a very active digital network with the use of Baidu, Weibo, WeChat and Youku – these are important platforms that we also use to get in touch with the Chinese consumer.
Marketing: How do you understand buyer personas in China?
Spooner: We put together focus groups and have regular meet-ups with experts from the PR, Digital and Travel Trade and also corporate clients to understand the market trends and fulfill the needs and gaps. For instance we have developed the ‘Breath of Fresh Air’ campaign, initiated through the understanding that Air pollution has become a top concern for most Chinese. Therefore, we took the concept that Chinese would like to seek escape from cities that suffer from air, light and sound pollution to a holiday destination that has clean air.
Marketing: How do brands who want to target the Chinese get around the firewall issue?
Spooner: Brands need to be part of the space that the Chinese guest spends the most time in. We are now part of the digital space that the Chinese guest is active in, with a Weibo and Wechat account for our Banyan Tree and Angsana brands. Review sites and booking sites such as Dao Dao and Qunar are also important spaces brands need to get involved in as these sites have changed the way people find out about and choose accommodation as well as the shortening of lead time for bookings with the increased availability of last minute flights.