How Filipino businesses can prepare for Chinese tourists

Photo by hao ji on Unsplash

How Filipino businesses can prepare for Chinese tourists

By: Therese Angeline Panganiban

3 tips for resorts, restaurants, or retail shops in the Philippines

Based on reports from the Philippine Department of Tourism, China is now the country’s 2nd biggest supplier of foreign visitors, following South Korea and dislodging the United States for the first time.

The first four months of 2018 alone saw 481,218 tourists from mainland China, a dramatic 52.65% increase from a similar period last year. Our government expects this number to rise further, projecting a total of 1.5 million Chinese visitors to the Philippines by end of the year.

With each of these tourists spending an average of Php 6,000 per day, the tourism department estimates total revenue to reach Php 32 billion by end of 2018.

While the government attributes this to its warmer ties with Beijing, this is also reflective of an ongoing global phenomenon. In 2017, 145 million Chinese residents went on overseas trips, becoming the world’s most powerful outbound market, leapfrogging Americans. Chinese tourists have also become the world’s top overseas spenders, their expenditures reaching a total of US$261.1 billion in 2016.

If you think this is amazing, realize that at this rate, only 5-7% of Chinese citizens have passports as of today. But with their country’s easing travel restrictions and its growing middle-class becoming more interested in exploring the world, the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute projects overseas trips by the country’s residents to increase to 400 million by 2030.

Apart from tourists, also growing are high net-worth of Chinese business owners who are looking into different countries to invest in companies, property and assets, high quality consumer goods, luxury and branded items, and affluent travel options.

If you are a micro/small/medium or big enterprise handling a resort, restaurant, or retail shop interested to take advantage of this lucrative market, you need to be aware of the ways in which they are different from tourists from other countries. While having Mandarin-speaking staff and signages in simplified Chinese are essential places to start, here are three more tips we hope can help.

1. Offer exceptional products and services they won’t get anywhere else.

China has made a name for itself for its ability to manufacture various items cost-effectively at massive scale. There is a reason they became known as the world’s factory. We can’t out-China China and present their tourists with mass-produced goods (that may or may not have originated from their country.) But what we can offer are exquisite products or experiences of Filipino culture, creativity, and craftsmanship that they can only get here. Not only will you get to capture their imagination, you will also get to champion other local artisans and vendors, contributing to the upliftment of our economy.

2. Meet and engage with them on their digital platforms.

The Chinese have had a totally different digital journey than the rest of the world. Because of government regulations, Google, Facebook, and many other Internet platforms we are used to are banned in their country. This has allowed them to develop their own ways and means of searching, connecting, and selling online. While it is easy to think of WeChat as their version of WhatsApp and Weibo as their version of Twitter, these platforms are so much more. WeChat, for example, enables a host of various financial and social transactions – from paying utilities to joining contests. The international version we have here is pared down to just its instant messaging service, plus a few accessories. Meanwhile, Weibo is a rich and immersive entertainment and educational channel for them. The Chinese also have Baidu for search and Alibaba’s Taobao and Tmall for online selling. For travellers, they have Mafengwo, which features reviews of tourist attractions, restaurants, and hotels, as well as XiaoHongShu, a social e-commerce shopping app helping Chinese women buy products from overseas, share shopping tips, and discover travel experiences. Aside from these, there are also a multitude of other platforms with specific features and audiences. Start by setting up accounts on WeChat and Weibo then explore more platforms once you get the hang of these two.

3. Enable mobile digital payments.

The Chinese are ahead of many countries in the world in the mobile digital economy. They have moved past paying via cash and credit cards and into paying via their smartphones through WeChatPay and Alipay. If you can equip your establishment with the ability to accept transactions over these platforms, their ability to spend for your products and services might just grow. Reach out to local telco Globe Telecom, who has partnered with Alipay, and Asia United Bank (AUB), who has partnered with WeChat and AliPay, to see how you can set these up for your business.

Aside from these, there is also a lot to unpack culturally as well. There are stories and stereotypes that can get intimidating. But the rise of the Chinese tourist is a trend that shows no signs of slowing down soon. Filipino business owners who want to cater to this market will need to study them closely and develop new ways of thinking and communicating to ensure they can ride the wave successfully.

What are your thoughts on this trend? How do you see yourself moving forward?

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Our team at 
Virtusio PR International, Inc. is actively learning as much as we can about how Filipino organizations can make the most out of this opportunity. Members of our group took a brief course about China Digital Marketing, organized by Lighthouse Independent Media, the group behind Marketing Magazine. Our trainer was Chinese social media marketing expert and Amazon best-selling author Ashley Galina Dudarenok, who shares her knowledge regularly on AshleyTalks.com and on YouTube. We learned a lot, but we recognize there’s a lot more we need to know! Connect with us at postmaster@virtusio.com to discuss ways we can grow together.