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Chinese tourists would love to leave the flock
Jens Thraenhart of Dragontrail (Beijing): “Individual travel is a challenge”
Ask ten Chinese tourists who just returned from a group tour of Europe or America about their trip. Nine of them will tell you they are disappointed. The main disappointment is the middle-of-the-road, one-size-fits-all approach of the China’s outbound tour operators. “Contrary to the image the West has of them, Chinese tourists would love to discover Paris on their own”, says Jens Thraenhart of Dragontrail.
Let’s get one thing straight. Most Chinese tourist hate travelling in large groups just as much as everybody else. Surveys have shown many would prefer exploring local European cuisine rather than eating in large Chinese restaurants serving bland food. Travelling individually to make one’s own choices is almost impossible for novices: getting the necessary travel documents is a long and troublesome voyage in itself. Apart from that, most Chinese travel organisations offer more or less the same itinerary with zero possibilities of individual choice. According to Dragontrail (30 employees, with offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Xian), this is about to change.
Travel individually: huge challenge
“The wish of many Chinese to travel individually is a huge challenge”, says Jens Thraenhart. Dragontrail was started in 2009 to build local presence for western hotel companies, tour operators and tourist boards in the Chinese market. “For them we develop, build and launch consumer sites in Chinese. We offer them any kind of digital marketing and social media technique available in China, to build their brand image among Chinese consumers”, says Thraenhart.
Dragontrail now also offers Chinese tour operators tools to actually enable their customers to plan their own travel experience. “Our unique travel experience website, to be launched this year, actually enables tourists to plan their trip through an innovative interactive digital experience with lots of images and videos. We tested individual (or semi-group) travel offerings with ‘building blocks’ and it was a huge success. The trip planning product is a breakthrough for the Chinese tourism industry”, says Thraenhart.
Jens Thraenhart has high expectations of future developments in China’s outbound tourism. There are at least two important trends that he has brought together on Dragontrail’s website and in a free e-book. “First: while tour groups will always be there, we will see more Chinese trying to avoid the ‘cattle tourism’ of travelling in large groups. Second: research and decision making will be done on the internet. Recent research showed that Chinese are far more likely to see internet as an influential medium than Europeans. And they put far more trust in companies that are involved in social media. So digital media are the way to influence people in China. We see a growing appetite among tourism organisations to tap into the huge Chinese market – not only in first-tier cities but also in second-tier cities – by putting to use all available online marketing techniques that are available.”
Learn more from Club China's members! Read previous Member Stories here:
- Creating a 3D world for your product
- Business is booming in Chengdu, China's new IT magnet
- Xiamen manufacturers are ready to connect
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