Recognizing the high growth in Chinese Outbound Tourism and the high growth of Chinese Internet participation, two graduates from the Masters program of the prestigious Hotel School at Cornell University with extensive travel, tourism, hospitality, and technology and e-commerce expertise have joined together to offer a new service, called CHINAeCONNECT.net.
Jens Thraenhart, listed as one of the Top 25 Extraordinary Minds in Sales & Marketing in Travel and Hospitality by HSMAI, and former head of internet strategy at Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, as well as most recently acting as executive director of E-Marketing & CRM at the Canadian Tourism Commission, partnered with George Cao, founder of various online travel start-ups in the USA and China (including Go10000.com), and with an extensive background in travel distribution technology for companies such as WorldRES.com, Choice Hotels, and Hyatt International. The team is completed by Winser Zhao, founder of early hotel reservation website SinoHotelReservation.com and Chinese expert in grass-roots social media execution, and recent recipient of the Chinalyst Award for best English-speaking Chinese Travel blog, China Travel 2.0.
In 1995, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) predicted that China would generate 100 million arrivals worldwide annually by 2020, making it the fourth largest market in the world (UNWTO Tourism 2020 Vision). In view of recent trends, it is on course to reach that target well before 2020. China is one of the fastest-growing outbound travel markets in the world. Thanks to rapid urbanization, rising disposable incomes, and relaxations of restrictions on foreign travel, outbound trip volume has grown by an annual average of 22.0 percent since 2000 and just under 15.5 percent since 1995 – reaching 34.5 million in 2006. International travel expenditure by mainland Chinese residents topped US$24.3 billion in 2006, ranking China the world’s sixth major spender on travel abroad.
Based on the most recent report from CNNIC (April 2009), China’s Internet Governing Body, there are:
– 298 million is the number of Internet Users (up 41.3 percent from last year)
– 162 million people blog
– 118 million people surfs the net using mobile
AdAge China noted in April 2009 that China has 243 million broadband consumers. More interestingly, 92 percent (224 million) aged 13 and above, contributed to social media. This compared to 105 million Americans, or 76 percent of that country’s broadband population. Forty-three percent of Chinese broadband users (105 million people) communicate via forums/discussion boards, and 41 million Chinese are “heavy” social media contributors, meaning they participate in six or more activities and connect with at least 84 people on a “one-to-many” basis in a typical week.
The Chinese travel trade relies primarily on the websites of destination tourism bureaus, receptive operators, and other suppliers such as hotels and cruises. Websites targeted at the trade need to contain sufficiently-detailed information, be updated on an ongoing basis, provide an avenue for inquiries, and, of course, be in Chinese – but not direct translations of the English content into Chinese.
While most other companies are taking traditional approaches, which are not yielding the same return and results anymore in the age of social media proliferation, CHINAeCONNECT.net has developed a unique and proprietary methodology to connect brands with the lucrative Chinese leisure consumer by leveraging digital marketing and social media strategies and tactics. The innovative execution model merges long years of proven marketing strategy with a set of proprietary social media solutions and is backed by a scalable technology platform. CHINAeCONNECT.net leverages content syndication, blogs, micro-blogs, social media and digital marketing campaigns, search engine optimization, and grassroot engagement and highly-effective influencer marketing tactics to target the Chinese online travel space for international travel organizations trying to market to Chinese consumers.
According to Jens Thraenhart, co-founder and director of strategy of CHINAeCONNECT.net, “Having talked to many destinations and hotel companies all over the world, the desire to market to Chinese consumers and the growth of the Internet participation in China not only creates new rules, but also a need for help to target this lucrative market, especially in this challenging global economic situation.” George Cao, co-founder and director of technology, added, “The online landscape in China is vastly different compared to North America, Europe, or other parts of the world, and creating what we call an E-Culture Ecosystem that not only requires market knowledge [and] a whole different set of technology applications, but most importantly, intimate and long-standing relationships.”
“Intimate relationships, or Guanxi, is the foundation of grass-roots social media message penetration,” added co-founder and director of execution, Winser Zhao. “The understanding and appreciation of Chinese culture and Chinese customs and consumer behavior, coupled with our understanding of travel and our client’s needs, uniquely positions CHINAeCONNECT.net to help travel organizations worldwide take advantage of these growth trends.”
A recently-released research report by Forrester Research (“Chinese Technographics Revealed,” 2009) revealed that in addition to the rapid increase and penetration of the Internet in China, the online engagement in China is incredibly high, compared to North America and Europe, with over 40 percent publishing or uploading content online, compared to just under 20 percent in North America and Europe. And a new research study by PhoCusWright (“The Emerging Online Marketplace in China,” 2009) showed that 20 percent of all respondents look for online travel reviews when making travel purchase decisions, which is considerably high considering that travel reviews are fairly new to China.