2020 has been a tumultuous year for travel, to say the least. The coronavirus outbreak didn’t just halt China’s tourism in its tracks — making it one of the first industries to be hit hard — but necessitated proactive, innovative measures by travel agencies, tourist departments, and other key stakeholders to rekindle the market and consumers’ confidence. Currently, Chinese domestic travel has made a dramatic comeback: during November’s Golden Week, some 637 million domestic tourist visits were undertaken, generating upwards of 460 billion yuan in revenue.
As a close watcher of Chinese and global travel, Jing Travel has spent the past year tracking and documenting how the market has reeled, then recovered its footing in the wake of the pandemic. In our 10 most popular stories this year, you’ll find coverage on how key industry players have navigated the coronavirus outbreak, various digital pivots and strategies, and China’s fast-rebounding tourism sector. Here’s what you read in 2020.
10. How Are Chinese Travel Influencers Handling COVID-19?
China’s tourism industry suffered an estimated loss of $420 billion in the first four months of 2020. Chinese KOLs, a group pivotal in driving consumption and developing trends, were forced to adapt strategies at a time of travel standstill.
9. Rural Travel and E-Vouchers Shape China’s Recovery
The May Day Holiday offered the first glimmer of the tourism industry’s recovery, albeit with travel numbers dropping 70 percent year-on-year and attractions capped at 30 percent capacity. The holiday evidenced emerging trends that would play out over 2020, including the demise of group travel, the development of new health measures, and supportive government policies.
8. Can Tencent Revive Chinese Tourism in Italy?
Italy is the most popular European destination for Chinese travelers with six million arriving in 2019. As group travel is rapidly replaced by independent travel, ENIT, Italy’s official tourism board, developed a WeChat Mini Program alongside Tencent to offer future travelers up-to-date information and the ability to pay with China’s most popular mobile payment system.
7. How Cultural Institutions and DMOs Should Navigate the Coronavirus
In mid-February, with China locked down and the globe facing a looming pandemic, the tourism industry faced unprecedented upheaval. The early comparisons with the 2003 SARS epidemic were quickly proving inadequate too. We connected with industry experts to understand how destinations and institutions should engage clients, partners, and audiences.
6. Decoded: WeChat Official Accounts for Cultural Destinations
In China, WeChat Official Accounts are ubiquitous across industry sectors. For non-Chinese entities, Tencent’s signature app can be intimidating and obscure. This article answers basic questions such as what’s the difference between a Service Account and a Subscription Account, what functions can they serve, how much do they cost to set up, what is a WeChat Mini Program, and more.
5. Chinese Travelers Will Be Ready, Will You?
By early July, China’s domestic tourism industry was well on its way to recovery. Digital marketing agency Mailman X identified five key trends shaping consumer decisions and stakeholder behaviors. From emerging destinations to new hygiene standards, we broke down the report’s main takeaways.
4. Alibaba Live Streams Connect Europe to China’s Future Travelers
2020 was the year livestreaming became an essential strategy for Chinese travel and culture stakeholders. As lockdowns brought global travel to a standstill, Alibaba’s travel arm Fliggy brought this innovative engagement tool to its international partners allowing millions of Chinese to experience iconic destinations including Versailles, the Louvre, and the British Museum virtually. The team behind the remarkable digital strategy reflects on the medium’s growth and explains the keys to a successful cultural livestream.
3. VR Travel, Pre-Sale Deals, and Hotel Robots — Post-COVID Trends
In early April, China’s domestic tourism industry was in dire straits having lost its most lucrative holiday of the year. Fully refundable travel deals, group packages, and contactless check-ins were among the innovations that developed to assure customers and drive demand. China-focused social media agency, Alarice, outlined the state of disruption and potential trends in a webinar we cover here.
2. What to Expect After Coronavirus? The Near Future of Chinese Group and FIT Travel
The importance of Free Independent Travelers (FIT) has been on the rise in recent years, but in 2020, safety concerns have further diminished the status of group travel — potentially for good. Once a sector predominantly made up of more affluent Millennial and Gen Z travelers, in 2021 and beyond, FIT travelers may well encompass the vast majority of all travelers irrespective of demographic.
1. Paradise Restored: Can Thailand Lure Chinese Travelers Back?
No country has capitalized on the unprecedented boom of outbound Chinese travelers over the past two decades better than Thailand. Blessed with affordable flights from major Chinese cities, an enterprising national tourism organization, and a local willingness to cater to the wants of Chinese travelers, the Southeast Asian country welcomed nearly 11 million tourists in 2019. Welcoming back Thailand’s most lucrative market will require government support, the restoration of air routes and, of course, consumer trust.