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Photo: Daily News Hungary

Around 256,000 Chinese visited Hungary last year, representing about 0.2% of all the 162 million trips originating in Mainland China.

Press release – These travellers used to come in two flavours: big package tour groups spilling out of coach buses for sightseeing, shopping and endless selfies on the one hand, and small groups of self-organised tourists, mostly younger, English-speaking people, who are more interested in the local culture and cuisine.

Recently, a third group has evolved: the “customized tour group”. These are small groups of Chinese travellers who still use a tour operator, but the itinerary is 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 noted that “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 Professor 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 travelling with their friends, family or colleagues.

Ctrip, largest online travel agency in China, which started already in 2016 offering customised tours with itineraries according to specific interests, forecasts a split of the market into three segments of roughly equal size: package tours, customised 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 personalised trips with top-quality services and the exclusive offer of services, resources and experiences that are high-quality, unique and niche, will be waked for. These may include helicopter tours, fine dining, attendance of special sporting events or health services. In 2018, the utilisation of businesses with such offers increased by 180%.

This new wave of sophisticated demand from China offers new opportunities for Hungary’s destinations and tourism service providers.

However, it also comes with the need for a deeper understanding of the Chinese outbound tourism market. At the ITB China a new online training programme, 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 programme ends with a university certificate from the SHTM.

For Hungary the significance of the new opportunities to attract Chinese travellers lies not just in increasing the number of arrivals, but in keeping the previous level of income.

In many regions of Hungary, the amount of spending per traveller per day is declining, as shopping has become less important and new tailor-made products and services have not been developed in Hungary in sufficient numbers. Many Chinese guests would be able and willing to spend more money in Hungary if they could find adequate specific activities for families, older travellers, art or nature lovers. That is also true for hotel guests.

Offering customised 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.  

Source: COTRI China Outbound Tourism Research Institute

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