Gain Asian Customers: The 5 Most Important Tips for Tour and Activity OperatorsTipps & Tricks Frank Scheibe
Without a doubt, Asian Customers and the Asian market present enormous potential for tour and activity operators in Europe. In fact, Europe makes up 15% of all travel destination searches coming out of Asia, putting it firmly before the United States and South America. In 2020 alone, 120 million Chinese tourists will travel to destinations around the world, generating more than USD 340 billion for the tourism economy.
According to Ctrip, 9 out of 10 long-haul travel destinations for Asian Tourists are located in Europe, namely Rome, Paris, Venice, Milan, Interlaken, Lucerne, Dubai, Moscow, Füssen and Verona — are located in Europe
The many markets of Asia
But it isn’t so easy to take advantage of the potential that Asia offers. In fact, there is no single market to speak of — the so-called “Asian market” is comprised of many individual countries and regions, each with their own complex structures and unique requirements regarding how they accept and display experience details. To help your business better navigate the markets in Asia-Pacific (or APAC for short), we’ve taken a detailed look at China, South Korea, Japan and southeast Asia and put together five essential tips, complete with information about reaching Asian customers, understanding Asian platforms and a sure-fire proposal on how you can easily and successfully promote your business on these platforms. To keep things simple however, we will refer to the various markets collectively as the “Asian market”.
How tour and activity operators can reach potential Asian customers
Reaching Asian tourists and getting them interested in your products and services comes down to engaging them where they spend the most time (i.e. not on your Website). And generally not on Western travel websites either. Finding real success with Asian customers requires having a presence within the respective markets. But how do you go about doing this?
“If you’re entering the Asian market, don’t go in directly!”
Thomas Griffiths, Senior Business Development Manager at bookingkit
In our experience, it’s absolutely essential to have a local/regional partner who can sell your products and services for you. And, naturally, you want this partner to be well-established and experienced in the market. The problem is that, although each APAC country has its own set of prominent online platforms which have the potential to make ideal partners, contacting them and arranging partnerships from Europe is a futile endeavor given the sheer number and size of the operators with whom they collaborate.
The way to get around this is to use small and mid-sized online travel agencies (OTAs) that run their own shops on these platforms, similar to the merchant shops that sell products from different brands on Amazon. These OTAs make it easier to enter the respective market.
“You need to be familiar with, and have a feeling for, what Asian tourists expect!”
Although it may sound obvious, we can’t emphasize enough just how essential it is for European tour and activity operators to understand what Asian tourists expect when booking vacation experiences. And, as you can imagine, this differs from country to country and from region to region. But there is one common thread: they all have very high expectations.
Asian tourists expect their experiences to be prepared and managed with quality and care, and they are generally price-sensitive, thus appreciating pricing that is displayed comparatively. If you’re a European tour and activity operator, this means you need to offer the right services and you need to be able to deliver. There isn’t much room for error or experimentation here, especially since you aren’t competing only with other European operators, but also with Asian ones.
“Buying and booking is done solely online, and almost always on mobile devices.”
You need to prioritize mobile-responsiveness with everything you do, from marketing to sales. Asian tourists search for, choose and book leisure activities exclusively online, via social media platforms such as WeChat, Little Red Book and TikTok, as well as through highly optimized shopping and booking platforms.
The top 5 activities among Asian customers
- Famous sights and landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Colosseum and Neuschwanstein Castle (naturally, operators in Asia have a certain amount of influence over what is considered a place of interest.);
- Food tours and tastings of traditional local foods and drinks, including national dishes, wines, beers and seafood;
- Outdoor experiences and tours, including guided hikes, climbing and quad/Jeep safaris across typical landscapes;
- Local experiences and classes, including cooking, dance and art classes;
- Shopping tours around famous local products, as well as shopping in special venues such as art or Christmas markets and crafts outlets.
What makes Asian consumers different from European consumers?
Asian consumers tend to be more tech-savvy than your average European consumer, which explains why approximately 80% of Asian tourists book their trips and activities online or via app.
In Asia, people use large platforms which are specific to their own countries to research and book trips and vacation activities. Furthermore, they prefer tour and activity listings to be in their native language — even English will only get you so far.
The rapid growth in travel and tourism in Asia and the sheer amount of competition on the market have made high-quality services offered at attractive prices the norm for Asian travelers.
All of this demands a very high level of attentiveness from European tour and activity operators and their local partners in Asia. In our experience, there’s no room for slowly feeling your way into the market and scaling at some later point in time. You have to engage and meet their expectations right from the start.
“Commitment is the key to success:
either go all-in or go home!”
The four main APAC markets and their platforms
In our experience, China, Korea, Japan and southeast Asia are the most important markets in Asia. Since about 2006, spending in the largest APAC markets on international travel has been growing at a higher rate than each market’s respective gross national product (GNP). In some cases, spending is twice as high as GNP and growing at a rate of about 22% each year. (Japan is something of an exception, and spending has fallen there a bit due to the country’s age distribution and slower economic growth.)
For this reason, expansion of our sales network into Asia is an important focus for bookingkit in 2020. Throughout the year, we will be providing a large number of ways to access the regional partners mentioned above through our bookingkit Channel Manager.
Turnkey solution for the Asian market:
the bookingkit Channel Manager
The bookingkit Channel Manager features a wide range of integrated sales channels, providing tour and activity operators with a central tool for managing all of their channels — all with just a couple clicks. The Channel Manager — which already includes the most important national and international sales platforms for Europe, including TripAdvisor, mydays and GetYourGuide — is being constantly expanded include more and more Asian direct connections to sales channels such as Ctrip, Klook, Waug and Voyagin. This ensures that your listings, info, availabilities and prices automatically stay synced and up-to-date around the clock — even in Asia.
Over the coming months, as we gradually introduce these new channels and explain their value and intricacies, we will be granting our customers unprecedented access to this complicated market, as well as the ability to activate these channels with just a couple of simple steps.
“Asia is a an incredibly complicated and difficult market —
if it were easy, everyone would be doing it!”
Thomas Griffiths, Senior Business Development Manager at bookingkit
Reach is the name of the game: you have to be engaging customers where they are already doing their booking.
And bookingkit makes it possible!