China’s Luxury Travel Apps (Finally) Explained

by Cindy Choo

With a completely unique digital playground, any travel and hospitality brand needs to engage with their affluent Chinese customer according to their App-based, mobile preference.

Players in the hospitality or travel sector should already realise the importance of Chinese travellers – Chinese tourists made 130 million overseas trips in 2017, with total spending amounting to US$115 billion, according to a report from China Tourism Academy, and the number is projected to jump to 390 million in the next decade.

A survey in 2017 revealed that 95 per cent of Chinese millennials had not bought print media in the last year. China is the global leader in proximity mobile payment adoption, accounting for 61.2 per cent of the worldwide user base in 2018.

So who are the key players in sales, marketing, reviews and content platforms that engage Chinese luxury travellers?

The Booking Platforms

Ctrip and HH Travel (High to Heart)

Ctrip is the biggest app which now not only gives the most choice at (usually) the best price, but produces content in collaboration with travel KOLs. HH Travel is a luxury travel agency, owned by Ctrip, which books packages for wealthy clients via their own app and their WeChat mini-program. They have approximately 10,000 customers per year — all of these clients fly business or first class, with an average accommodation booking rate of ¥100,000 per person, per trip. The most exotic destination they deal with is both the North and South Poles.

8 Continents

8 Continents Travel is one of the leading ‘ultra-luxury’ travel agencies in China. Founded in 2012 and headquartered in Shanghai (with further offices in Beijing and Chengdu), 8 Continents provides customised travel for HNWI clients to all over the world, whether for honeymoons, world-tours or adventurous destinations such as Antarctica.

8 Continents has recently diversified from purely offering one-to-one, agent recommended and booked travel to launching their own WeChat mini-program, so customers can search, browse and book luxury holidays directly within WeChat.

We previously spoke with the CEO of 8 Continents, Bamboo Zhou, to get his insights on the affluent, luxury Chinese traveller.

TuNiu

TuNiu is the largest booking platform in China – while it’s not luxury-specific, its sheer size means that all forms of travel booking take place there. They were founded in 2006 and their sheer size makes them one of the strongest places to be seen. Read more in our interview with VP of Destination Marketing Services, Barry Lin, to learn more about Chinese luxury travellers.

Review Apps

XiaoHongShu (Little Red Book)

XiaoHongShu shot to popularity, with 70 million users at the end of 2017 after beginning in 2012. It’s rise came through the apps unique feature which allowed female users to share shopping lists of fashion and beauty products from overseas. It felt like a ‘safe place’ for its users, who didn’t want to suffer from the ‘open’ nature of Weibo or be accused of being overly showy on WeChat.

As XiaoHongShu is a place where sharing a love of products is the sole purpose, it worked. Like the best ideas, it seemed so obvious – give Chinese ladies a place to share a love of shopping. The app now also includes travel reviews published by KOLs, angling at the user-base of females aged 18 – 35; i.e. Millennials. Read more about Xiaohongshu in this piece.

MaFengWo

MaFengWo is a travel review app with over 120 million users. Analysis company Qianfan stated their gross merchandising revenue as ¥4 billion, and their success comes from a neat blend of KOL blogs, user-generated reviews and a Q&A section on which tourism bureaus and businesses can get involved, as well as peer-to-peer responses.

The reviews and information goes beyond hotel reviews, into guidance on shopping, visas, insurance, with integrated booking into any form of travel service, ticket and so on.

In the blog section, called Feng Show, there are approx. 5000 contributors, with daily editorial picks highlighted. Users can comment on and favourite posts. While not luxury specific, the opportunities for engagement on MaFengWo are vast and the savviest travel & hospitality people are wise to this – Tourism Australia just signed a strategic partnership agreement with MaFengWo this month.

FeiZhu (Fliggy)

While it’s not a luxury app, the user base is high due to Fliggy being a booking and review-based app. Fliggy used to be called AliTravel, but it was rebranded a few years ago. The app’s ownership under Alibaba gives it easy reference to Taobao, prompting travel shopping.

With 10 million daily active users, the overall mass popularity is clear. While it’s not specifically for luxury travel, Fliggy has been making waves in the travel world with a number of headlining partnerships. It is collaborating with Singapore Airlines on the carrier’s Krisflyer mileage points programme, and has entered into several partnerships with NTOs such as Dubai Tourism. With support from the Alibaba Group, Fliggy is definitely one to watch as it continues to strengthen.

WeChat For The Win

It’s important that among the look at various options for content and commerce, WeChat is still the leader of the China digital landscape.

Anyone who lives in China will understand that WeChat is still first – first for daily usage of your consumer, but also first for any brand, destination or bureau to build a robust foundation. Think Google + Facebook + Instagram + your credit card = WeChat.

The first place that travellers will share their holiday photos (and experience/’review’), the App that they will use to pay with (and plug into your CRM) and join your loyalty program on, where they want to speak to your customer service … this is all within WeChat, as should be your content via an Official Account to begin with, and a mini-program eventually. Build a rock-solid WeChat offering and the possibilities are endless for your luxury Chinese traveller.

This article by Cindy Choo, Regional Account Director (APAC) of Reuter Communications was first published on TTG Asia – ‘Courting China’s Wired Travellers’

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