Ditch brochures and ‘old’ tech if you want patients from China

 

China is coming out of a coronavirus-imposed lockdown and the domestic tourism industry is showing signs of recovery, with attractions across the country reopening. Chinese travellers are now expecting a type of travel service and level of safety that some international destinations may not yet be prepared for.

Health and safety at destinations

Health and safety will be the top priority for Chinese travellers. When it comes to hotels and destinations, travellers want to know what measures are being implemented before making reservations.

Cultural destinations in China are prioritising the health and safety of visitors and extensive precautionary measures have been implemented including requiring visitors to wear face masks while onsite 

Requiring all visitors to wear face masks may not work overseas, as, although the widespread use of face masks can reduce the chance of transmission, they are still not commonly worn in western countries.

In China, information about the health and movements of citizens is used to issue a personal QR code. Once “green”, people are allowed to move freely. To reserve an entry time at a museum, individuals must make a declaration of clean health, i.e. confirm they haven’t been to an affected area or in contact with an infected individual over the past 14 days.

Beyond clearly stating cleanliness measures, hotels  in China are also taking innovative steps to ensure the safety of workers and guests. This includes contactless self-check-in/out systems and the use of robots capable of delivering basic services.

Pre-sale products, money-back, digital ticketing

Various destinations in China have adopted a code system through which visitors can pre-apply online. The digitisation of ticketing allows museums to manage visitor flow and ensures contactless entry (no face-to-face or touch-screen purchases).

From online travel service providers to hotel chains and major tourist destinations, China’s tourism industry is also embracing pre-sale products with money back guarantees.

Live streaming, virtual tours

To attract potential customers, more destinations are using videos and live streaming to offer virtual tours. Online travel agent eLong has, for example, embraced using video content to engage potential travellers with VR and high-definition videos.

Shift from group to independent travel

Chinese group travel has been a dominant element of Europe’s travel market over the past 20 years, but the independent travel segment will recover faster and become the guiding force as China’s travellers becomes digitally reliant, and more internationally minded.

In late January, the Chinese government placed a ban on outbound group travel but not independent travel. In reality, lack of flights and countries closing borders has also significantly restricted independent travel.

Even once the travel ban is lifted, it will take time for travel organisers to arrange group tours. For individuals, individual trips can be arranged online in days. Independent travellers typically stay longer and spend money at a wider array of locations.

Using China-based tech

The vast majority of Chinese people do not have social media accounts on Instagram or Facebook, use Google to search, or WhatsApp to chat. They use various China based alternatives. WeChat has 1.1 billion users monthly. It is a ‘super-app’ providing users with the ability to do everything from booking hotels and checking into a flight to ordering a taxi and translating foreign languages into Mandarin. Businesses can set up shop on WeChat either with an official account or through creating a Mini Programme to share information, tell stories related to a destination, and promote products.

Outbound Chinese travel in 2019 was significant, and included a million medical tourists and another million health tourists. While the outlook for 2020 remains bleak, there are steps that will increase the attractiveness of a destination to Chinese customers once the rebound begins. 

At the most basic level, countries and individual locations must be transparent about the hygiene measures being adopted. 

With the total digitisation of China’s travel ecosystem, destinations must then follow this and use the search engines and apps that the Chinese use. Paper brochures, staid websites and old-style booking systems must be replaced by online information and booking, virtual tours, interactive websites and more.

Where and when the Chinese will go as medical or health tourists is a big unknown. To attract future Chinese business and show that your destination and means of travel are all safe, your tech must be as good as those now commonly used in China, and needs to be easily available on China’s search engines.

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