• Jefrey Gomez

Understanding Chinese Travel Shoppers' Purchase Behaviour in the Wake of COVID-19

The Chinese outbound traveller is one of the biggest drivers of the global travel retail sector. According to the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics, there were 169 million Chinese outbound travellers in 2019, which had increased by 4.5% from 2018. Thus, China accounts for 12% of the 1.4 billion global tourist arrivals, making it the largest outbound tourism source globally.

Although COVID-19 has slowed down this growth lately, consumer surveys indicate that there might be a sharp rebound in 2021. This makes it imperative for travel brands to prepare themselves for the imminent recovery in the travel industry.

To better understand Chinese inbound and outbound travellers, ClickInsights conducted an audience analysis by leveraging iClick’s proprietary market technology platform, iAudience, and The Moodie Davitt Report.

Here are the major highlights of the research paper.

1. Chinese Domestic Tourism Picking Up


The Chinese travel sector is making a strong comeback after being hit hard by the pandemic. Flight bookings have increased sharply because of the boom in domestic travel. 26.4 million passengers travelled by air between July 1st and 23rd.


Also, there has been a significant increase in the travel intent of Chinese travellers. A survey report on the travel intent of Chinese travellers conducted in March 2020 found that 60% of Chinese travellers were open to travelling abroad in 2020. Only 13% of Chinese consumers said they weren’t too inclined to travel in 2020.

2. Increase in Chinese Outbound Travel


Chinese passion to travel abroad has also grown significantly in recent years. According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, there was an increase of 4.5% in the number of Chinese outbound travellers compared to 2018.


As only 10% of China’s 1.4 billion citizens hold passports, there can be further growth in outbound tourism as the number of passport holders is also expected to double by 2027. China will then have 300 million new passport holders, which would provide further impetus to outbound tourism.

3. High-end Customized Travel in Demand


Although Chinese outbound tourists mostly purchase their travel plans from the same top 5 agencies, their travel products have become quite diverse. Ctrip reported a year-on-year increase of 180% in the number of orders on its customized travel platform in 2018.

The high-quality services have naturally led to an increase in the average expenditure per person for these trips. A high-end customized travel package costs about $3,410 compared to $790 for standard packages.


Also, customers for high-end packages are quite diverse. While people between the age of 31 to 40 are the biggest high-end customized travellers, about 34% of high-end travellers are below the age of 30.

4. Inspiration from Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs)


Most Chinese outbound tourists rely on social media to research travel destinations. More than 70% of young Chinese travellers tend to purchase their products directly from social media platforms like WeChat and Weibo.



5. The Three Key Types of Travel Shoppers


The report identifies three key types of travellers based on their travel budget and time they can spend on the same.

5.1 The Family Trip: Sufficient Money, No Sufficient Time


Lately, family travel has grown rapidly and is one of the largest segments in China’s outbound travel market. It accounts for 76% of all travels with parents going on trips with their children. These travellers expect more than a generic package tour and look for well-managed itineraries.

5.2 New Package Tour: Sufficient Money, Sufficient Time


The New Package Tour travellers look for more travel experiences than what the standard tour packages offer. While some look for a more personalized travel experience, others seek high-end travel experiences.


5.3 Youthful Characteristics: No Sufficient Money, But Sufficient Time


Chinese travellers born after the 1990s have exceeded their counterparts born before that era for the first time. This means that a typical Chinese traveller will have more youthful characteristics. While these travellers have the energy and desire to explore, they are constrained by their limited budgets.


Implications for Marketers


Considering the findings of the report, marketers will need to shift their game-plan and make strategies that encompass the interests, concerns, and constraints of the different travel groups identified in this report.

1. Preparing for Early Travel Planners


While the research paper has identified three distinct travel shoppers in China, each of them has one thing in common, which is their tendency to prepare in advance. Millennials are more spontaneous in this case as 36% of the Millennials plan a trip one month in advance compared to 31% non-Millennials.

As Chinese New Year and national holidays in the country are the most prominent travelling periods, marketers should, therefore, prepare for inquiries months before the trip. Also, travel brands should start running holiday promotions a month or two in advance.

2. Getting Online Clicks from Online Travel Researchers


As Chinese travellers use different search engines and social media platforms to research about their travel destinations and purchase products for the same, marketers should focus on creating high-quality web-based content. Creating engaging posts will help them reach a wider audience.

Also, travel-related content that catches a travel shopper’s attention will have a greater chance of getting clicks and shares on social media platforms that many brands want.

3. Capitalizing on Online Travel Booking


Less than 1 in 20 people book their trip at an offline store of a travel agency in China. Most Chinese travel shoppers book their trips via a mobile website (44%), while almost 25% of consumers use either an online travel agency app or a desktop computer to book their trip.

Therefore, brands should try to engage with potential consumers throughout the year via an omnichannel approach. While this includes everything from offline channels to direct-to-consumer platforms such as apps and websites, using the audience’s preferred network like Weibo and WeChat can also result in better engagement.

4. Attracting Online Business from Chinese Travelers While They Travel


98% of Chinese tourists use their mobile devices while travelling abroad. This way they not only communicate with others but also discover local attractions and take advantage of shopping discounts, thereby providing marketers with additional opportunities to engage with Chinese consumers even while they are travelling.

Marketers should ensure that their facilities are up to the expectations of Chinese outbound tourists and cater to their needs. By making an effort to understand Chinese values, culture, and norms, marketers can ensure that they receive a share of the Chinese outbound traveller’s wallet.

5. Catering to the needs of the Social Traveler


Chinese travellers don’t stop using digital channels as soon as their trip ends. One of the prime reasons why Chinese tourists book trips to exotic locations are because they want to share their experiences related to cuisine or local scenery with others on social media platforms.

Therefore, brands are advised to provide Chinese tourists with Wi-Fi and also get a Chinese name for their business, which will enable Chinese tourists to tag them in their social media posts and share the same. This will encourage future Chinese outbound travellers to use their services when they visit the area.

Bottom Line

Things have changed dramatically since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. While tourism has definitely taken a hit because of the subsequent lockdown in many parts of the world, things are looking up. By leveraging the insights provided in this report, brands can ensure that they are a part of the rapidly growing global travel retail sector.

To delve deeper into the finding of the report, you can download the full white paper here.

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