More than 1.2 million Chinese visited the Philippines last year, representing more than 0.75 percent of all the 162 million trips originating in Mainland China.
These travelers used to come in two flavors: Big package tour groups spilling out of coach buses for sightseeing, shopping and endless selfies on the one hand, and small groups of self-organized tourists, mostly younger, English-speaking and more interested in the local culture and cuisine.
Recently, a third group has evolved: The “customized tour group”. Small groups of Chinese travelers still use a tour operator, but the itinerary will be tailor-made according to their wishes.
Dr. Andreas Reibring, Head of Research of the Swedish company Kairos reported earlier this month at the ITB China Fair in Shanghai that according to a survey among 300 Chinese tour operators, “Customization” is the main trend in 2019.
Bryan Xiao, the CEO of QYER, the biggest Chinese travel portal: “75% of QYER users are stating that the main purpose of visit for them is to follow their personal interests”.
The reason for this change is explained by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt, director of COTRI China Outbound Tourism Research Institute in Hamburg/Germany: “After a decade of growing outbound tourism, more and more Chinese have not only the money but also the experience that enables them to clearly say what they want to do while traveling with their friends, family or colleagues.
Ctrip, the largest online travel agency in China, which started already in 2016 offering customized tours with itineraries according to specific interests, forecasts a split of the market into three segments of roughly equal size: package tours, customized tours, individual travel. Jonathan Xie, General Manager of Ctrip Customised Travel Business, introduced a new joint report by Ctrip and COTRI during ITB China, which shows that especially for the high-end market highly personalized trips with top-quality services and the exclusive offer of services, resources and experiences that are high-quality, unique and niche. These can include helicopter tours, fine dining, attendance of special sporting events or health services. In 2018, the business for such an offer increased by 180%.
This new wave of sophisticated demand from China offers new opportunities for the Philippines’destinations and tourism service providers. However, it also come with the need for a deeper understanding of the Chinese outbound tourism market. At the ITB China a new online training program, called CTT China Tourism Training, which provides such knowledge was launched by COTRI together with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM). The program ends with a university certificate from the SHTM.
For the Philippines, the significance of the new opportunities to attract Chinese travelers lies not just in increasing the number of arrivals, but in keeping the previous level of income. In many regions of the Philippines, the amount of spending per traveler per day is declining, as shopping has become less important and new tailor-made products and services have not been developed in the Philippines in sufficient numbers. Many Chinese guests would be able and willing to spend more money in the Philippines if they could find adequate specific activities for families, older travelers, art or nature lovers. That is also true for hotel guests.
Offering customized travel services based on better knowledge can help to disperse visitors into different regions, attract them outside of the main season and have them stay longer and spend more money. COTRI forecasts 400 million outbound trips starting in China for 2030, so we better prepare for the next waves of Chinese visitors.