• Andrew Collins

How Are DMO’s Responding to Rise in Chinese Tourism?

Updated: Jun 6, 2019

There is growing excitement surrounding the Chinese tourism industry, since China became the world’s biggest source of foreign tourism in 2012. Thanks to the countries increasing affluence, 107 million tourists chose travel abroad in 2014, an increase of 19.49% on the previous year and almost 10 times that at the turn of the new millennium. Not only are more Chinese tourists traveling overseas, they are spending more. Across the globe, DMO’s continue to make full use of social media marketing in promoting their respective countries. So why aren’t countries with a high demand in Chinese tourism doing the same? Especially in a time when China’s social media landscape is rapidly growing.

For tech savvy Chinese tourists, travel planning begins online. Two out of every three consumers in China base a purchase decision on the recommendation of a friend, relative or trusted source, while 71% of travellers aged 20 – 40, rely on social media for travel inspiration. Such knowledge should be essential for any country hoping to capitalise on Chinese tourism, yet the vast majority of countries’ DMOs have failed to utilize it in their tourism marketing.

A quick scan on any search engine quickly reveals that one of the most popular social media sites in China is Weibo, commanding 198 million monthly users in the first quarter of 2015. A further scan would reveal a plethora of destinations that Chinese tourists visit or at least plan too in the future. Somehow, the two haven’t met. Maybe it just wouldn’t work on Chinese social media? Wrong.


Of the 198 countries throughout the world, only 37 have a presence on Weibo, with Denmark and Norway, along with Great Britain each opting to operate under one account. Collectively, these 37 countries yield just over 10 million followers; a fraction of China’s 600 million Weibo users. However, statistics compiled using KAWO’s competitive intelligence feature, shows that 8 of these countries have been inactive, losing on average, a combination of 5,622 followers per day.

Among these inactive accounts are Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore, which were among the top 15 destinations for Chinese travellers. Although these destinations may now be benefitting from their word of mouth fame, remaining active with followers on social media is a tactic they have seemingly ignored, especially considering the effects of using a key influencer outside of China on Chinese Social Media to promote your destination. In the short run this might not matter, but there could be ramifications in the future as the Chinese tourist matures.

Proof of this can be found by looking at some of the more active destination accounts. The nations who remain the most engaged on Weibo have seen a significant rise in visitors over recent years, with Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and South Korea all reporting an increase of between 35% – 52% in Chinese tourists.

With a rapid acceleration in outbound travel and tourism spending, there’s no denying that China is a market every country’s DMO should be tapping into. Coupled with the fact that Chinese travellers continue to rely heavily on social media and KOL’s when making travel decisions, why wait? Join the conversation.

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