While once content to sightsee from the bus, more and more individual Chinese tourists are taking control of their itinerary and renting cars at their destination.
Leisure driving is taking off as a concept with Chinese tourists—not just overseas where self-driving is the norm, but also in China where the concept of leisure driving for travel is just beginning. Recent initiatives by the Chinese government to loosen tolls during holidays and promote leisure driving within China have contributed to this trend, as well as new highways being built around the country which are beginning to resemble U.S. freeways with rest stops and service stations.
If you look at the type of travel that is being discussed on Chinese microblogging site, Weibo, you can see that both “drive travel” and “individual travel” are experiencing the most buzz, and peak around key holiday seasons.
Accounts from on the ground at key travel destinations validate the data, with reports of some rental car agencies doubling their rentals to Chinese tourists over the last year in key Chinese tourist destinations.
For those Chinese tourists who aren’t comfortable driving in new destinations, they often ask Chinese students or friends and family to drive them around in their rented cars, with many offering to pay Chinese students for their chauffeur services while they are in town.
Consumer Profile #1: A couple in their 30s from Beijing traveled overseas for their third time to visit Las Vegas and Los Angeles. They rented a car and drove themselves throughout the entire stay. They enjoyed shopping while in town, and favored GNC (for vitamins and health products), Louis Vuitton, and Bottega Veneta. Fifty percent of their purchases were for themselves and 50 percent were for friends and family in China. Their favorite activity during the trip was their road trip, and they used Baidu for research on the trip and WeChat for sharing their experiences with friends.
Consumer Profile #2: Two male business partners from Shenzhen visited Los Angeles for business. Both of them had already traveled overseas several times. They rented a car and paid Chinese students $200 to drive them around while they were in Los Angeles. Their favorite activity during the trip was shopping. They purchased IWC, Bottega Veneta, Montblanc, and Piaget during their trip. Eighty percent of their spending was on themselves and 20 percent was for friends and family. They hope to return to Los Angeles again, and also would like to visit Las Vegas.
Best Practices for Targeting Self-Driving Chinese Tourists
Partner with rental car companies: Rental car companies are seeing increased volumes from Chinese tourists in key markets around the world. Find creative ways to partner with these companies to reach Chinese customers with unique and innovative solutions.
Don’t forget Chinese students: Chinese students are a frequently called-upon resource for Chinese tourists visiting a city. Not only are they asked for advice, but they also serve as informal tour guides, going as far as actually driving tourists around during their stay.
Most importantly, don’t assume that all Chinese tourists show up in buses. Companies need to be aware that individual Chinese tourists are acting more and more like other international tourists, renting cars, booking hotels, and traveling by themselves or in small groups. It is important for companies to recognize these tourists, track this data, and find ways to insert themselves into the travel planning process using Chinese internet sites, booking sites, travel forums, and Chinese media. While Chinese tourists are starting to act more and more like other international tourists, their decision making process and purchase influences are dramatically different.