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Posted by on Oct 11, 2016 in All Matters SEO |

Marketing to the Chinese Traveller, Online – Part 1

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We’ve all heard the news and we’ve all seen the stats. China – currently on par with the U.S. as an international travel source market – is expected to spend more than Germany, United Kingdom and France combined, on international travel by 2025. According to research by Oxford Economics (a consultancy) and Visa (the credit card company), the Chinese are predicted to spend $255.4 bn in 2025. That’s a whopping 86 percent increase from $137 bn in 2015!

Home to an ever increasing number of Millennials, this demand will most benefit long haul leisure travel destinations.

Top Long-Haul Country Arrivals

(Image Source: The Future of Chinese Travel)

That brings us to the big question – how do we as hotels, get ourselves a slice of that pie? Where do we start and more specifically how do we get this going, online?

Firstly, it helps to understand the online market in China in numbers. In 2015, more than 80 per cent of Chinese travellers booked offline via a travel agent and the growth in the number of travel agencies shows no signs of slowing. But, the good news is not only that the remaining 20 percent booked online (between 30-40 million people), but that, that number has grown by 7 percent year-on-year indicating that online travel revenues are bound to grow too.

To further understand how to strategically tap in to the online market, let’s get down to basics.

A.) Search Engine Marketing (SEM):

To understand how SEM works in China, we have to understand Baidu. Baidu a.k.a the Google of China is the largest Chinese search engine in the world. 43% of Chinese outbound travellers use Baidu whose daily page views exceed 20 million.

Not unlike Google, there are two standard tactics employed to ensure your website is visible and bookable.

1.) Search engine optimisation (SEO): where the website is optimised by focussing on key search terms, has high quality content, meets Baidu specific technical SEO requirements and follows the Chinese government’s censorship laws.


Baidu also has a 3-pack listing similar to Google, which is powered by Qunar, an OTA, and virtually impossible to buy in to.

While Baidu is still the dominant search engine with approximately 54% market share, Haosau (previously called 360) and Sogou search engines have made inroads and are vastly popular too. Other notable search engines also include Shenma, a mobile only search engine, which has almost 20% market share.

2.) Paid advertising (text): search advertising takes up about 70-80% of space on the Baidu search engine results page which makes it an unavoidable method of generating visibility and visits to the website.

3.) Brandzone: also part of Baidu’s paid advertising; however it offers brands exclusivity to use brand relevant keywords in their campaign. So only one company at a time can use certain keywords. Click-through-rates range from 50-90% as they dominate a large portion of the page. Monthly spends are in the region of $15,000.

Brandzone comes in two formats

A.) Standard

Standard Brandzone

B.) Advanced

Advanced Brandzone

4.) Baidu Travel: A specific travel related portal created by Baidu tapping in to outbound travellers. The opportunities on this portal are mainly display orientated where in banners advertising hotels/products are sold.


Baidu Travel

Placements are also available on Baidu’s travel app which has a subscription of 6 million users.

Baidu Travel App

B.) Online Travel Agents:

The two biggest online travel agents (OTAs) in the Chinese market are Qunar and Ctrip. Previously competitors, the Baidu owned Qunar and Ctrip became partners in late 2015 to form China’s biggest online travel service.

A hotel can list themselves on both of these portals by submitting their details and paying a percentage based compensation.

To further promote themselves on these two platforms, hotels then need to execute a few tactics like:

1.) Encouraging and Responding to Reviews

This includes reviews from ‘key opinion leaders’ e.g. online bloggers with a large number of followers. Qunar also has a special program which utilises sleep testers. A sleep tester, like the name suggests, is a person who stays at the hotel for at least one night and then reviews them online with photos, commenting on the quality of the rooms, amenities and transport. Over 10,000 sleep testers have been recruited by Qunar who reimburses hotel expenses to the tester but does not give them any additional pay. Hotels can invite sleep testers via Qunar to review their properties.

A recommendation by a sleep tester will have a green box under their overall rating, which means ‘recommended by our sleep tester.

Baidu Sleep Tester Recommendation

2.) Becoming a Chinese Preferred Hotel (on Ctrip, similar to Preferred Partner)

This requires a few basics at the hotel like: Chinese language information, Chinese food served at breakfast, free Wi-Fi, acceptance of Union Pay and an electric kettle in each room. Red stamp on below listing indicates preferred status.

Preferred Chinese Hotel

 (Image Source: China Ready Now)

With almost 75% of Chinese travellers preferring to book via an OTA, hotels simply cannot ignore their importance. They must ensure that their listings are up to date and promoted as well as reviews encouraged and responded to (where necessary) in order to stand out from the crowd.