THAILAND. Digital Innovation Asia (DIA) has partnered with the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) to help companies in the travel and tourism industries learn how to reach and connect with “the new Chinese tourist” using social media.

Initially organised as part of a series of events supporting the PATA Annual Summit in Bangkok in April, the DIA China Social Media Boot Camp took place again last week at the Pullman Bangkok Hotel G, offering delegates a chance to understand the rapidly evolving digital and social media landscape in China. The Moodie Report was in attendance.

The Moodie Blog
The Rise of the Chinese Backpacker
As many people across the industry work up a sweat training for The Moodie Report Great Travel Retail Educathlon, I’m in Bangkok attending a boot camp of a different kind

Citing April 2013 data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), DIA said that Chinese nationals spent a record US$102 billion on overseas travel in 2012, making it the first country to ever achieve nine-digit spending in US dollar terms. This result marks the culmination of a sharp rise in Chinese outbound travel over the past decade and it will continue to grow: There will be an average of 25 million first-time Chinese travellers every year – or 70,000 every day – for the next ten years, DIA added.

Furthermore, seasoned Chinese travellers are now more likely to travel independently, and not part of a group, giving them the chance to explore destinations that are “˜off the beaten track’ and to do activities that suit their personal interests.

Elaborating on this trend, Digital Innovation Asia Founder Jens Thraenhart said: “The way many Chinese consumers are finding out about new destinations and travel services, as well as hotel or cruise brands, is via the internet. With over 564 million internet users in China in April 2013 (an increase of 40 million new internet users in just the latest year) which represents over 42% of their population and almost double the population of the US, more than 80% of Chinese travellers research and educate themselves about destinations and brands online. Chinese consumers are increasingly being influenced by digital and social media marketing, and any travel suppliers looking to enter the Chinese market need to lead with digital, mobile and social media marketing.”

Digital Innovation Asia Founder Jens Thraenhart: “Any travel suppliers looking to enter the Chinese market need to lead with digital, mobile and social media marketing”

The importance of social media was underlined in Thraenhart’s welcome address at the 12 June Boot Camp. He also stressed the engagement of key opinion leaders, and introduced a panel of high-profile Chinese bloggers who gave an insight into the minds of Chinese consumers.

Commenting on the internet explosion, PATA CEO Martin Craigs touched on issues of surveillance and the need for internet responsibility in a brief but thought-provoking speech, following his declaration that “the age of innocence is over for the internet”.

He also highlighted the need for governments to do more to drive Chinese tourism. Despite tourism being a key contributor to a country’s economic growth, some politicians (and policies) have not been supportive enough of the sector because tourists are not part of the country’s electorate. Complicated visa application processes, for example, have made it difficult for Chinese tourists to visit countries such as the US and New Zealand – barriers to tourism such as these should be rectified.

The importance of the Chinese market was reiterated by John Koldowski, special advisor to PATA, who presented a series of reports by organisations such as the Scandinavian Tourist Board and McKinsey.

China has recorded almost consistent double-digit outbound growth from 1994-2012, and Chinese travellers have risen to the number one position in the world for international tourism expenditure. Looking ahead, Koldowski predicted that Chinese outbound travel will maintain rapid, steady growth with constant increase in GDP, but the bulk of this travel will be to “compatriot destinations”, referring to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. “We have every reason to be bullish,” he said.

All these have contributed to the rise of “the new Chinese tourist”, whom he described as under 45 years of age, accustomed to travelling and does not see a need to shop for friends. He/she also prefers customised tour packages over tour groups, with less sightseeing and more entertainment, shopping and luxury accommodation. Travelling for relaxation is also done on a regular basis.

(Left) PATA CEO Martin Craigs highlights the need for governments to do more to drive Chinese tourism; (Right) John Koldowski, special advisor to PATA, continues to emphasise the importance of the Chinese market

Most Chinese youth, he said, are first-time travellers. They are reliant on smart phones and social media and focused on self-expression and excitement. “Stay four-star, eat five-star and dream of six-star” was how Koldowski illustrated the new thinking of Chinese youth.

China’s new middle class is growing rapidly, he noted, and significant numbers are moving into urban cities. Inland China (Tier-3 cities) is expected to see an increase in their share of the middle class as Tier-1 cities on the coast see a decline in theirs.

Koldowski singled out a segment of the new middle class to take note of: Generation 2, Chinese consumers in their teens and early 20s who will soon come of age. Born after the mid-1980s and raised in a period of relative abundance, Generation 2 is made up of 200 million consumers in 2012 and comprises a significant 15% of urban consumption.

Thraenhart then shared several tips for marketing to affluent Chinese consumers. Spotting the travel trends in China and understanding the Chinese consumer are key to developing a multi-channel marketing plan that should be consistent across all media channels, he advised.

It is important to leverage the internet as a medium and keep abreast of its changing landscape, as it is will have increasing influence on the Chinese in the next few years. Thraenhart also urged marketers to develop a relevant Chinese website and get connected on social networking services popular in China, such as Sina Weibo, Youku, Baidu, RenRen, and WeChat. Make use of key opinion leaders to tell your story and build relationships via campaigns, he added.

Skal Thailand President Dale Lawrence moderates a panel session with three top bloggers

In a lively panel session moderated by Skal Thailand President Dale Lawrence, three top Chinese bloggers – winners of the Spring 2013 Chinese Social Influencer competition – offered insights into what Chinese consumers are looking for when travelling outside China. They also examined the power of blogging as an informational tool.

South East Asia Backpacker Magazine Editor Nikki Scott delved into the topic the Chinese backpacker, a segment of young Chinese tourists that is emerging as “a completely new category of influencers”. “˜Backpacking the world’ is becoming an aspiration among Chinese youth, especially the females, thanks to the rising popularity of independent travel.

Deviating from the type of backpacker the world was once familiar with, the Chinese backpacker has a bigger budget for travel – most of them can afford to stay in hotels but prefer staying in hostels for the experience. They are “˜flashpackers’ who travel with their laptops, digital cameras and iPads so that they can record their travel experiences on various social media platforms.

Dragon Trail Interactive Director of Client Relations Sam Woollard offered a practical look at building effective social media campaigns in China, examining the Chinese social media consumer and the various Chinese social networks in detail. Visual content is a key influential when it comes to inspiring and influencing Chinese travellers, he stressed, especially with new Chinese tourists that are looking for personalised experiences.

Using case studies as examples, Woollard demonstrated how to create a visual content strategy and leverage sites such as and

Developed by Dragon Trail Interactive, Tripshow helps travel companies and brands show off the best of their Weibo content, allowing them to engage visually with Chinese travellers to build brand awareness. Travellers can also engage with brands to get inspired about destinations and experiences and plan their trips.

South East Asia Backpacker Magazine Editor Nikki Scott examines the rise of the Chinese backpacker as “a completely new category of influencers”

About Digital Innovation Asia

Digital Innovation Asia (DIA) is a new initiative promoting excellence and knowledge sharing when it comes to leveraging digital, social, and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in the travel and tourism industry to promote the complete Asian visitor economy.

Aligned with the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), it includes a new platform, the Digital Innovation Asia Council, the Digital Innovation Asia Awards, the annual Speak-Out Asia, the Blogger-Match Up, Digital Aid Asia, China Boot Camp, the Digital Innovation Asia Challenge, and a year-round programme of workshops and seminars.