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How can HK brands leverage the power of 'Golden Week' to promote sustainability?

How can HK brands leverage the power of 'Golden Week' to promote sustainability?

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This year’s Golden Week overlaps with the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival and Hong Kong saw over half a million visitors from mainland China over the past weekend. It’s also one of the first week-long holidays for Chinese consumers to travel without restrictions after the pandemic.

The latest figures from the Hong Kong Immigration Department showed that 459,449 people from the mainland visited the city from Friday to Sunday, accounting for 87% of total arrivals over the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day long weekend.

As local tourism is reviving, this is indeed a good opportunity for local brands to showcase their marketing efforts to appeal to the post-pandemic Chinese tourists, who are now turning to insightful experiences and sustainable travel options.

According to the latest Sustainable Travel Report 2023 by Booking.com, a global online booking platform for hotels and accommodations, 89% of Chinese respondents said they would choose more sustainable travel options in the next 12 months.

Meanwhile, nearly half of Chinese travellers believe that most sustainable travel options are too expensive. However, 70% of Chinese travellers are still willing to pay extra for sustainable certified travel options.The survey also showed that 87% of Chinese respondents are committed to environmental protection and creating a sustainable home for the future, both at home and when traveling.For example, 41% of Chinese travellers prefer to use non-disposable shopping bags while 34% of travellers will bring their own reusable water bottles.

Industry players MARKETING-INTERACTIVE spoke to also agreed on this change in consumer behaviour in travelling. Ashley Dudarenok, founder of China digital consultancy ChoZan, said the survey results showed that Chinese consumers do care about the environment more and Gen Zs are willing to pay a little for green initiatives in their daily lives and their travels.

“In general, the pandemic has affected the way Chinese people think about men and nature, and more and more people are pursuing sustainable lifestyles and travel styles in the hope of achieving a balance between ‘man and nature’,” she added.

Leveraging the power of “Golden Week” 

Despite over half (62%) of Chinese travellers demonstrating an awareness of sustainability, they are still not fully inclined to pay a premium for more sustainable products or services, according to the latest report named “The path toward eco-friendly travel in China” co-conducted by McKinsey, Accor, and Trip.com Group.

As such, brands in Hong Kong do play a huge role in educating consumers on green consumption and sustainability. On the marketing front, ChoZan’s Dudarenok said Hong Kong brands can use the Golden Week period to plan eye-catching campaigns to promote sustainability.

For example, by placing card-punching devices combining sustainability and holiday features on core streets, visitors can share relevant photos on social media platforms to achieve secondary distribution while doing so, she said.

“This effort needs to be sustained, it will take time and much better coordination for the city’s retail, brands and tourism operators to achieve desirable results, which is to inspire Chinese consumers to spend again and make Hong Kong trendy and green again,” she added.

Meanwhile, local hospitality brands can also demonstrate their commitment to sustainability to attract more Chinese consumers, as there is a growing demand for sustainable tourism options among travelers in Asia and the Pacific. According to the Sustainable Travel Report 2023 from Booking.com, over 60% of APAC travellers said they are willing to spend more on sustainable options in 2023.

Local hospitality brands can highlight their sustainability credentials, such as certifications, awards, or ratings, that show their compliance with environmental or social standards, according to David Ko, managing director, RFI Asia. They can also invite their customers to participate in sustainability activities, such as planting trees, cleaning beaches, or donating to charities, that show their engagement and empowerment of travellers to make a difference.

Caterina Camerata, strategy director, Publics Media Hong Kong said this opens opportunities for those travel and hospitality brands who are already investing in sustainability to be more vocal about the impact and reach of their initiatives, which now are relegated in the background and not necessarily prominent as part of the B2C communication.

"We think these should be more integrated with the overall experience offered to the final users, and leveraged as a strong added value, a point of differentiation and to deepen the engagement with the brand."

How can HK brands market better in a world of shrinking budgets? 

As many companies across the globe have decided to tightly control or even cut expenses including marketing budgets, how local brands can market better on their sustainable initiatives in a world of shrinking budgets is a million-dollar question.

Tom Wan, CEO of GBA solutions, Dentsu Hong Kong, said local brands can consider refurbishing instead of rebuilding, using sustainable materials for renovations rather than complete overhauls. Brands can also leverage government programmes to receive grants to adopt sustainable practices.

Digital innovation is also key. Wan said brands can use technology to monitor and control energy usage, waste production, and other sustainability metrics. “Advanced building management systems can help optimise energy use,” he added.

Meanwhile, brands can expand their online presence and reach by using digital platforms, social media, or eCommerce channels to showcase their products, services, or experiences, said RFI Asia's Ko. 

“Diversifying their product portfolio by developing new offerings, such as wellness, health, or local adventure tourism, that cater to the changing needs and preferences of travellers, is also one of the possible solutions,” he said.

Agreeing with him was Publics Media Hong Kong's Camerata, who said local Hong Kong brands can pivot towards positioning themselves as more than a product, by weaving in their stories the local and authentic Hong Kong flavour that is so coveted by Chinese travellers arriving in Hong Kong.

"These are stories that brand should start to seed organically on Chinese social ecosystems, such as Little Red Book or Douyin, to ensure that their brand becomes an integral and unmissable part of the Hong Kong bucket list," she added.

Related articles:

WeChat Pay HK partners with 30+ Shenzhen malls to enhance e-payment experiences
Over 377k mainland tourists leave HK during first 3 days of 'golden week'
Body Shop launches AliPay to cash in on Golden Week tourists 

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