With China taking the top spot as the biggest travel spending ($102 billion in 2012) country in the world, many tourism organisations across the globe are keeping a close watch on China on their radar.
Recently, the Australian government announced the plan for G'Day China campaign, with a budget of $1.75 million.
Chinese tourists are everywhere, they are known for shopping (spending) abroad, and hence every country wants a slice of the China travel pie. [Tips to market to affluent Chinese travellers]
Welcome to the world of 'allocate-X-dollars-in-budget-to-support-China-tourism'.
Australia-based Experience Oz, a tour and activity provider has launched a dedicated Chinese portal, considering the importance of tourism potential from China.
The new service, in planning and development for 18-months, is not just a Chinese-language-translated portal, rather a fully functional website that has implemented China's preferred payment gateway UnionPay, call center support in Chinese, and content tailored for Chinese users.
Interestingly, the company won't be charging their suppliers for translating content to cater to new markets.
Clint Gudenswager, general manager of Experience Oz, says:
“The Chinese version of the site taps into the growing desire from increasingly affluent middle class Chinese for independent travel to Australia. A lot of Chinese travel is arranged around groups because there has been very little credible information and booking options available.
“We analysed the products that appealed to Chinese customers, because in most circumstances, they are quite different to what our domestic customers look for.
"The Chinese launch is integral to our future growth plans and we plan to roll out similar versions of the site for different international markets.”
The company has also taken steps to make browsing the site from international locations up to 40% faster by utilising an international website caching service.
The new site has been optimised across tablets, smartphones and desktops.
Tnooz spoke to Gudenswager about this launch, discussion below:
18-months seems a bit too long to develop the new Chinese portal, why did it take so long?
The 18 months included planning, whereas the development itself only took about 8 months. The project required some significant architectural changes to our application to handle the multilingual content, purchase process and to fit into our current affiliate programs and operator booking engines. We also had to factor in how it would work on mobiles and tablets.
There was also a significant amount of research into some of the lesser-known aspects of Groovy and Grails (our development framework), Chinese customer expectations, how they were going to pay, what products were of interest to them, Chinese consumer trends and how to track changes to products to ensure the Chinese content is kept up to date.
Whilst we didn’t anticipate the project would take so long, we wanted it to be rock solid and scalable to other languages should the need arise. Of course this is work in progress, we already have a list of a few more features and improvements to make.
Apart from the difference in language, what are the other cultural / behavioural differences among Chinese travellers while planning a trip, making a booking?
There has been much talk for years now about the increase in Chinese travellers and we wanted to capture a piece of that market.
Given many Chinese don’t speak English, there was a real need in the market to provide a dedicated booking engine for independent Chinese travellers. Whilst many other regional tourism sites provided static content in Chinese, there are very few ways to book online.
We have had many sales from Chinese in the past, but these are the users who can read English. The conversion rate of Chinese users was quite a bit lower than that of domestic travellers.
Hopefully, with this new portal, conversion rates will improve and, by having indexed Chinese content in Baidu and Google, will also increase traffic.
To date, apart from an increase in page views from Chinese users (which is normal from international customers) we haven’t noticed any stand out behaviour. That's not to say we won't as it's still early days.
The unknown! If we had to list the top few: developing our own plug-in to handle the multilingual content, improving our system cache (in our application and through a CDN), the customised views and content in terms of appropriate ordering of products.
Another large part of the project was how to track product updates to ensure these are also updated in Chinese.
How's the market response so far for the Chinese portal? Any search/booking/conversion/traffic numbers?
Since the launch, our conversion rates on traffic from China have seen a considerable increase.
What’s been surprising has been the amount of Chinese pages we have delivered inside Australia and New Zealand. We were aware that more than 334,000 people within Australia speak Chinese, just surprising the amount that have their browsers set to Chinese language.
Increases in traffic will take some time; many pages have only recently been indexed by Google and Baidu, so time will tell. Hopefully, we will see a nice increase.
Any plans to launch other regional portals? Japanese, German?
We are about half way through our Japanese portal and expect this to be completed by late September.
The structural changes we did to our application has allowed us to create new regional portals without any code changes (much to the delight of our sales staff!).
We certainly have plans for more, at this stage our focus is on growing traffic and conversion rates to our Chinese and Japanese portals.