China’s outbound travel figures are staggering. The $277 billion spent by Chinese abroad represents a quarter of global tourism expenditure. In 2018, 149.7 million traveled abroad, a figure set to double by 2025 as the number of passport carrying citizens grows from 11 to 20 percent.

While short-haul destinations such Thailand, South Korea, and Singapore dominate the attentions of Chinese travelers, a trip to Western Europe remains highly desirable and the region continues to see strong single figure growth each year. Accordingly, agencies such as Netherlands-based The China Connector are well-placed to provide China-specific guidance on digital marketing approaches, technology adoption, and hospitality strategies.

Here, The China Connector co-founder, Monique Knapen discusses how her firm is closing the cultural gap between the Netherlands and China, the role of museums in cultural tourism, and future projects.

Tell us about your company. How did it come about? 

Ultimately, [The China Connector] founders have a deep interest in China. I studied at Beijing University as an exchange student and stayed in China for 6 years. My first job was at the Shanghai radio station and I soon worked for five stations bringing western pop songs to China. Later, from 2011 to 2017, I worked for the Dutch government as Program Director China at DutchCulture to help make cultural policies between our countries. The job put me in a unique position to lobby for art and culture with the Far East. My partner, Jessy van de Klundert, worked in various positions in the Dutch museum world (Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum) and was very much interested in China. We worked together on an educational project with the Van Gogh Museum and our Dutch government in China. After that we decided to start our company on cultural and educational projects between the Netherlands and China.

What services do you offer?

We offer consultancy, helping Dutch and Chinese organizations acquire new markets in China, work with Chinese media, find cultural content for Chinese organizations, and give insight to both cultural markets. We work with the Dutch government to help creative industries find the right partners in China with several services including research, matchmaking, and helping Chinese delegates traveling to the Netherlands and China. We work on cultural exchange by offering trips to the Netherlands for children and others who are interested in Dutch culture and art.

Your website includes a link to Hospitality for Chinese tourism at Dutch Museums – 2018. Can you talk about that case study?

We did research on hospitality for Chinese tourism at Dutch museums endorsed by the Dutch Museum Association. Due to the rise of Chinese individual travelers, we wanted to know how Chinese tourists were experiencing Dutch hospitality. Results showed that dining and entertainment expenditure will increase by 50% in the next 5 years. Suggesting that apart from souvenir shops, Dutch museums can add entertainment programs in order to increase revenue from Chinese visitors. We also found that Chinese outbound spend about 12 days online trip planning. Therefore, Dutch museums must identify their relevant uniqueness and manage their search engine marketing accordingly.

Which Dutch museum is ahead of the curve in terms of attracting Chinese visitors?

Van Gogh Museum. They are well equipped for Chinese guests: audio tour, gifts, mobile payments. Many museums in the Netherlands would like to attract more Chinese guests; however, at the moment they are less then 10% of the current visitors. It takes vision and investment to work on better hospitality.

What are you currently working on?  

We were just in Italy studying the cultural exchange trip of two Beijing public schools in order to create a Dutch version of these trips. We want to offer Chinese visitors the best possible experience in The Netherlands. Dutch schools and museums are welcoming more and more Chinese guests and we want to help overcome all cultural differences and match expectations. We are also working on the Creative Holland projects for our governments and connecting Chinese art lovers to TEFAF Maastricht 2019, the largest and most respected art and antique fair in the world. Collectors enjoy a VIP treatment at TEFAF. We will facilitate special introductions to the best art dealers and special visits to the most famous and important museums and art galleries not only at TEFAF Maastricht, but in Amsterdam as well. Lots to do!

Learn more about The China Connector here.

Edited by Richard Whiddington