What Pandemic? 3 Ways to Remain Relevant with Chinese Travellers in 2020

4 minute read

By Paul Hickey, Hot Pot Strategist

2020 has been a tough year for a number of reasons and no one could have predicted the long-lasting effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. As markets around the world went into lockdown, brands felt the immediate impact of store closings and a dramatic drop in international travel. However, as home markets around the world begin to open, many brands are seeing that sales still haven’t returned to pre-Covid levels.

A primary factor for many brands, particularly in the travel and luxury sectors, is the absence of Chinese tourists, who are opting to stay in China and not spend their money abroad. Even as international travel restrictions have eased, domestic China travel is a continuing trend. 

More Chinese travellers are staying closer to home, looking at driving tours or destinations reachable by train. Those willing to travel by plane have fixed their sights on the tropical island of Sanya or the province of Yunnan. 

International travel definitely remains on the agenda for Chinese consumers but safety is their number one priority. Reports indicate that young travellers and those without children are likely to be the first to travel outside of mainland China. 

Given these hesitations to travel and therefore to spend abroad, how can brands ensure they remain relevant to Chinese consumers?

“Get Closer” Through Digital Experiences

Chinese travellers look set to follow the ‘revenge spend’ trend with ‘revenge travel’. Destination choices are likely to be driven by how countries responded to the pandemic and how ‘safe’ they are deemed. Perception about a country’s safety seems to have a strong correlation with the reopening of schools and government announcements about the pandemic.

There are many ways to connect with consumers to ensure that you remain top of mind when travel opens up again. This summer, the Hot Pot China team helped Covent Garden to remain connected with Chinese travellers, even though they were unable to visit. Through an H5 microsite that is available on both WeChat and Weibo, users could create their own personalised postcard and anyone who entered their details had the chance to win gifts from tenant brands such as Charlotte Tilbury and Godiva.

The site featured beautiful hand-drawn illustrations by a Chinese illustrator – giving a creative and culturally relevant angle to the digital assets.

Your brand or destination can remain relevant with Chinese consumers by allowing consumers to connect in meaningful ways through digital platforms.

Covent Garden’s Interactive H5 Site, developed with a London-based Chinese illustrator

Agile Store Selection

As domestic travel has boomed, hotspots in China have emerged. Shanghai and Beijing have remained popular but other destinations have also come to the fore. Chongqing, Sichuan, Zhejiang and Jiangsu have boomed in popularity. Yunnan has seen a huge increase in interest given its reputation for clean, fresh air and lots of outdoor activities. 

Sanya has also remained a popular destination and this has seen a bumper year for its duty free stores. Between July 1 and August 18, sales across all duty free stores in Sanya exceeded RMB 5 billion ($720 million), a YoY increase of 250%. Brands should assess and be able to move quickly in determining which locations in China are most suitable for opening new stores or even pop-up retail locations.

Haitang Bay Duty Free Shopping Center, Sanya, Hainan Province, China

Focus on Communities

Chinese communities outside of mainland China still represent a large opportunity for non-China based businesses. It’s important to remain in active communication with these audiences through local channels. 

Beyond that, brands should focus on building communities with which they can have closer connections, not only to drive potential revenue, but also to learn and understand how they can adapt their business to attract more potential consumers. Chinese students are a practical example, given that many still remain in locations around the world and have not been financially impacted by the pandemic.


In Conclusion…  

This year has been challenging for many reasons, and business must remain agile in their approach to reach core audiences, even if they need to find new ways to stay connected with those consumers.

To reach Chinese consumers that are increasingly stay in China and travelling domestically, brands can:

  • Employ digital experience on relevant platforms to create virtual yet meaningful connections with consumers and remain top of mind
  • Consider pop-ups or new stores in locations in mainland China that are seeing increased footfall with target Chinese consumers
  • Focus on local communities, both as a potential revenue source and to gain valuable insights into how to adapt and remain relevant in 2020 and beyond

At Hot Pot China we partner with forward-thinking brands on their China activity. We guide our clients in maximising ROI from their short, medium and long-term marketing activity in China, as well as executing the same in-market.

Contact Hot Pot China to discuss how our team of China specialists can help realise greater value in your brand, digital and eCommerce initiatives.

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