China Ready, Tourism, Destination Marketing

Is it Ctrip or No Trip? Tuniu gets busy ! Will the dolphin beat the cow. Will the camel get the hump?


China OTAs.png
Many China travel  observers believe that Ctrip is in an unassailable position. The team at Tuniu would disagree. They are taking aim at Ctrip and Qunar. What makes Tuniu different? It focuses on leisure travelers. Ctrip and Qunar do not. This article appeared in the China Morning Post July 17th…….Will the dolphin beat the cow? Will the camel get the hump?……Read on……………

Chinese online travel agent Tuniu takes on Ctrip, Qunar in flight bookings market

Tuniu Corp, a Chinese online leisure travel company, has set its sight on the flight booking business, tapping into a field dominated by leading players Ctrip and Qunar.

“For the next few years, we expect our air ticketing business to see a fast growth rate in both domestic and international flight bookings,” Tuniu’s president and chief operation officer Yan Haifeng told the Post in an interview in Beijing.

As China’s top website for package tours, Nasdaq-listed Tuniu has stepped up its expansion in the flight and hotel bookings business since the beginning of this year.

The company said air ticket transactions on its online platform grew about 13 times in the second quarter of this year from a year ago. Hotel bookings in the second quarter increased 22 times from the same period of last year. Despite the rapid growth in this segment, the contribution of the flight booking business is still small compared with Tuniu’s core package tours, Yan said.

“With a faster growth rate compared with our peers and the huge potential, we expect our market share to increase significantly in the future,” he said, without providing any figures.

The prospects for China’s air travel booking market is promising amid a rapid growth in outbound travel. The price competition among online travel agencies was fierce until the merger of Ctrip and Qunar last year, which formed a new dominant force in flight and hotel bookings.

Tuniu is differentiated from other competitors as it targets leisure travellers, Yan said.

“Many of our peers focus on business travel which is different from leisure travel destinations,” he said.

“From our experience in package tours over the years, we have more resources and an established network in booking hotels and flights in destinations for leisure travellers,” Yan said.

The travel agency negotiated closer tie-ups with airlines this year, he said. Leading airlines including China Eastern Airlines, Air China, Hainan Airlines and Capital Airlines have opened flagship stores on Tuniu’s platform, while a number of airlines are preparing to join the platform, Yan said.

HNA Tourism, a subsidiary of HNA Group which controls Hainan Airlines, announced a US$500 million strategic investment in Tuniu in November 2015, becoming its largest shareholder.

As Chinese airlines scrap commissions for travel agencies in order to boost direct sales, profit margins in the air ticketing business for Tuniu and other players come under pressure.

“Although airlines want to increase their direct sale channels, they still need a number of other channels to get access to more customers,” Yan said.

Flight and hotel bookings are the services that can benefit the company’s existing package tour business, he said.

In the first quarter, Tuniu posted a 62.8 per cent year on year increase in revenue to 2 billion yuan (HK$2.3 billion), however, its net loss for the period more than doubled to 539.5 million yuan from 233.1 million yuan in the same period last year. Separately, Ctrip reported a first-quarter loss of US$244.8 million.

“We are optimistic that online travel agencies will turn to profit next year after some reshuffles and consolidations in the industry,” Yan said.

Price competition has come to an end because of the dominance of Ctrip and Qunar that will help improve profitability of existing players, he said.

“The investment spree in the online travel agency sector has cooled down as the capital market has become more rational. The competition will become less fierce,” Yan said.

China Ready, Tourism, Destination Marketing

Yellowstone hires Mandarin-speaking interpretive rangers

This article appeared in Montana’s Missoulian newspaper written by Larry Mayer.  (China Ready Partners observation: As Chinese grow in numbers and we see more repeat visitors independent Chinese travelers go off the beaten track and explore gateway communities and more. Self drive is emerging as a “new” model. We also see a need for a more authentic National Park experience and not just a ‘drive-by’ )


BILLINGS – Yellowstone National Park has hired three Mandarin-speaking interpretive rangers this summer to help ease communication with a growing influx of Chinese tourists.

“It’s great to show the Chinese visitors my country, after they showed me theirs,” said Evan Hubbard, one of the rangers, who studied in China for two years. “They are coming here and everything that is so familiar to us is completely foreign to them.”

“During last summer we saw that this could be helpful,” said Rich Jehle, South District resource education ranger in Yellowstone. “We have all kinds of basic safety publications in different languages. But it’s different having someone who can speak directly to a visitor.”

Yellowstone doesn’t track visitation by nation of origin. Instead, the park’s staff is simply relying on a perceived increase, one that the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce has noted, as well.

“We just know it’s a significant number,” said Mary Sue Costello, president of the chamber. “We have felt this switch for probably three or four years.”

“It’s probably been recognized for a few years but last year was where the increase was very evident,” Jehle said.

Huge increase

Chinese visitation to the U.S. increased by 451 percent between 2007 and 2015, according to statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Of the 2.1 million Chinese visitors in 2014, 34 percent were on vacation, or more than 740,000.

The trend has been noticed by states that are bringing in experts to help them cater to Chinese visitors. Costello said Montana’s 2015 Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Recreation brought in Haybina Hao, vice president of the National Tour Association, to help Montana businesses adapt.

Hao told Travel Pulse magazine in an interview earlier this year that, “The China market, we have to understand, is culturally very diverse, totally different from the typical North American culture. It’s politically very sensitive, and you need to always be politically correct. It needs to be diplomatically appropriate. So it’s a very challenging market.”

A story in the July 5 Idaho Falls newspaper said the city is seeing a big overflow of Chinese visitors who are on their way to and from Yellowstone and businesses are starting to cater to them with Mandarin speaking hotel receptionists, instructions written in Chinese and the use of translations apps on cellphones by businesses to close the language barrier.

The jump in Chinese tourism to the United States is due to the country’s estimated 300 million members of the middle class – who have more expendable income – and a relaxation of government travel restrictions.

One statistic that Yellowstone does track is the number of buses that pass through the park’s gates. In 2015 the park counted more than 10,500 buses, an increase of 17 percent over 2014, which saw a 21 percent increase from 2013. Tour buses on average have about 50 seats, but it’s not clear what the park counts as a bus. Some may be much smaller.

“We don’t know how they are coming in,” Jehle said. “But there are a lot on tour buses and driving cars.”

Ranger responsibilities

The three Mandarin-speaking interpretive rangers have the same duties as any other interpretive ranger – providing information about park resources, orientation, giving formal interpretive programs like guided walks, roving the Old Faithful or Madison areas to talk to visitors informally and providing education on regulations. They also can interpret during medical emergencies.

Hubbard said Chinese tourists in Yellowstone are often looking to other visitors for cues on how to behave.

“There tends to be two very distinct interactions: safety or regulation issues, like walking off the boardwalk in a thermal area,” he said. “That becomes an education opportunity. Often they say they had seen someone else or saw tracks.

“The more fun interaction is hearing Chinese speakers while I’m out roving and I will give them a greeting and their eyes will light up,” Hubbard said. “Usually it’s their first time here and they are excited to have this unique opportunity.”

Another record?

The three Mandarin-speaking rangers were hired from a pool of about 10 applicants, Jehle said. Two are Caucasians who taught in China and one is Chinese resident who just became a U.S. citizen.

The increase in Chinese tourism comes as Yellowstone is on pace for another year of record visitation. Last year more than 4 million people visited the park, and this year’s monthly statistics show the park is on pace to top last year. With more people, the park’s services – everything from bathroom facilities to roads and parking lots – are being filled to capacity.

Each day the Old Faithful Visitor Center alone records more than 10,000 visitors at this time of the year, Jehle said.

“I would say this has been building for several years,” he said. “Obviously, solving all of the problems of how popular this park is isn’t easy to do. But if we can solve little problems like basic communication to address visitors, it is helpful.”


The Second Wave. Chinese Traveler Evolution. IPW Take Aways.


New Orleans is a city I have enjoyed since the late 1970’s when I worked for the Royal Orleans in the French Quarter. It was a 5 Star classic. Sadly, a little tired today and a realization that one can’t turn back the hands of time. But those of us old and wise enough can gain insight from the past.

New Orleans was the setting for US Travel Association’s 2016 IPW this week. The 48th in its long history.

The good news from IPW, as far as the Chinese market is concerned,  is that the first wave of cheapo bus tours is thankfully evolving to a more manageable and more sophisticated F.I.T and Semi F.I.T market. Will the cheapo tours disappear? Not really, but they will become the minority. Cramming Chinese visitors on a bus, (hopefully licensed and bonded – many are not!) with an untrained “tour guide” whose only interest is up-sell, forced stops and kick backs is not exactly the American Experience professional tour companies and destinations want to be a part of.

The better news is that the Second Wave of Chinese visitors is emerging. I call this the Second Wave as there will be many waves in the tsunami of Chinese visitors coming to visit North America. These waves are reminiscent of the 80’s and 90’s when other regions of the world discovered our shores, attractions and incredible National and State Parks from Yellowstone to Niagara Falls. The more often they visited the further and more independent and curious they became.

What makes up the Chinese Second Wave? Demographically, they are in their early thirties, live in major cities, well educated, and have the money to travel. Psychographically, they are tech savvy, independent and adventurous. They wouldn’t be seen dead on a crammed tour bus of people twice their age. They have done their research on Chinese sites like Weibo, Baidu and daodao. They have made their plans and booked the air, lodging and sometimes their car rental. Sometimes within 3 weeks of arrival!

As the tourism waves from a generation ago moved slowly to be defined, the new Chinese waves are moving at warp speed. So for those in our industry that want the cheapo tours (and everything that represents) – better not burn your bridges with Chinese Operators here in the USA that have put their money on the F.I.T market. Chinese Second Wave visitors will travel beyond the major cities and popular National Parks. Watch out for the Third and Fourth Waves of Chinese visitors whose numbers are predicted to reach 23 million in the next 5 short years.

Three Points

1. FIT and Semi FIT – (Fully Independent Travel) More and more OTA’s are getting prepared for the increase in independent outbound travelers. These travelers want to do their own thing in planning and booking their vacation. OTA’s and other travel producers are giving them the tools to do it. Baidu continues to provide the search and planning forum.If you are a DMO have bundled itineraries in Mandarin available, then work with your favorite receptives to spread the word. I am asked for modular packages daily from our partner OTA’s in China.

2. Union Pay, WeChat Pay, Ali Play – Financial transactions will see many battles to manage the spend of the outbound Chinese traveler. This is a multi billion dollar war. Get connected to the institutions and display their stickers in your establishments. This is the real China Ready action item. It says “We welcome you”

3. AliTravel – Part of the Alibaba group (compare to Amazon) have millions of members in China. They are young, well educated and have the means to travel. AliTravel are looking to establish US based merchants on their China site with travel products their consumer members can purchase. This has to be a package that be be purchased “off the shelf” consumer direct.

***NOLA Foodie Alert***

PS. Nothing to do with Chinese visitors but if you want a memorable New Orleans ‘farm to table’ dining experience, you must check out Coquette. 2 miles from the French Quarter near the Garden District on Magazine. Simply amazing and pocket book friendly!


A collection of the largest independently owned U.S. based Chinese travel companies create groundbreaking alliance

TGTA Official Logo

The formal launch of The Grand Travel Alliance was announced today in Las Vegas. The announcement will bring together some of America’s largest, most professional and respected Chinese travel companies.

The founding alliance members on the West Coast are America Asia Travel Center and Chinese Host. Other Alliance members, in different U.S. regions, will be announced soon. The purpose of The Grand Travel Alliance is to provide a one-stop shop where travel producers and Chinese consumers can find and book the best products and services assembled under one roof.

The broad range of products will include lodging, day tours, multi-day tours, attractions, transportation, shuttle bus services, National Parks, shopping, shows, dining and more, in the most preferred Chinese visited destinations in North America. Alliance members will also consolidate and integrate bus operations where appropriate, similar to the “code sharing” model within airline groups, and its members will be in full compliance with the recent Chinese government’s Tourism Laws outlawing forced stops, unlogged drivers and deceptive pricing.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce – National Travel and Tourism Office, there will be almost 5 million Chinese visitors to the USA by 2018 and they will continue to outpace other countries and become the number one source market. Other sources such as Boyd Aviation predict 23 million visitors in the next 5 years.

Bob Gilbert (Partner, Chinese Host Inc. – CHD) is the Executive Director of the Alliance and noted that, “In this memorable Year of Tourism between the USA and China, The Grand Travel Alliance is a tremendous resource and will partner with DMO’s, independent lodging and chains, attractions, shopping partners, and a vast array of operators offering visitors many activities that will enhance the Chinese visitor experience. The Alliance brings together the “best of the best” and in addition to groups, there will be a focus on the fast growing F.I.T segment.”

Helen Koo, owner of America Asia Travel Center and Super Vacation added, “The Alliance represents a breakthrough by creating the most professional collection of independently owned, well-respected and authoritative leaders serving Chinese travelers to and within North America. Our collective strength is robust and keeps us very competitive”

David Huang, president of CHD said, “The Alliance is a game changer in the market and the members respect and complement each other very well. We can all retain our independence and leverage our collective strengths. In addition, we have invested heavily in developing the Alliance proprietary booking engine connecting Alliance members with each other as well as with leading travel producers in China. Its functionality includes reservation and transactional processing, rooming list and bus manifest management, and more.”

About The Chinese Travel Alliance 
The goal of The Grand Travel Alliance is to become the leading independently owned Chinese travel group in North America serving Chinese travelers offering the widest range of competitive product and highest levels of service whilst providing reservation system to Chinese travel producers and consumers. The mission is to increase market share and profitability by leveraging the individual strengths and expertise of the Alliance Partner members through the aggregated buying power, supplier relationships, sales distribution channels, transportation, and a transactional reservation system that will become the first choice for travel producers, customers, suppliers and destinations. Collectively, The Grand Travel Alliance current members have over 50 years of hands on expertise with China and Chinese travelers, operate over 70 DOT licensed and bonded buses, numerous offices in the USA and throughout China as well as 30 retail offices, 300 employees, and served over 2 million Chinese visitors over the past 5 years.

For more information contact:

About Chinese Host Inc. 
Chinese Host Inc. (CHD) is a privately held company founded by David Huang in 2000. Initially, CHD started as a tour company for Chinese travelers to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. It soon added meeting and incentive services. Today, Chinese Host operates 40 buses and creates FIT and Group itineraries, shuttle bus services, bespoke customized travel arrangements, proprietary reservation and information platform for Chinese travel producers and full service representation services in China. CHD has hosted more than one million Chinese travelers since 2011 and features key destinations and attractions in California, Arizona, Wyoming, Montana, Nevada, Utah and National Parks. CHD has its corporate headquarters in Las Vegas with branch offices in Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Beijing and Shanghai.

For more information, please contact  
Bob Gilbert 
CHD, Inc. | Chinese Host, Inc. 

About America Asia Travel Center 
Super Vacation, (dba, America Asia Travel Center) was established by Helen Koo in 1981 in Los Angeles, California. Besides handling normal travel agency activities, the company was also the sole agent for the U.S. tour packages promoted by Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines. In 1986 Super Vacation purchased its first 56-seaters bus and established America Asia Express, Inc., and became the first and the only Chinese-operated bus charter company at that time. Today, Super Vacation has over 200 employees, 16 regional representative offices and branches in America, Canada and China, yearly revenue of 80 million U.S. dollars, serving over 200,000 passengers per year, owns more than 20 vehicles including 10 (56-seaters) deluxe coaches, with 10 million US dollars liability insurance per coach, and provides services including airline ticketing, hotel reservations, cruise, short-haul bus tours and long haul vacations to China, Europe, Japan, North Africa, etc., wholesales tour packages to more than 500 Asian travel agencies around the world, and bus charter services. All Super Vacation tour guides speak Chinese and English fluently, and are highly trained professionals.

Super Vacation is now one of the largest and the most competitive travel agency and wholesaler in Los Angeles, CA.

For more information, please contact: 
Helen Koo 
America Asia Travel Center 


U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus Helps Launch U.S. – China Tourism Year

Ambassador Baucus

Bob Gilbert, Chinese Host with Max Baucus, U.S. Ambassador to China in Beijing kicking off U.S. – China Tourism Year.

Las Vegas based Chinese Host Inc. senior executive, Bob Gilbert was in China this week (seen here with US Ambassador to China Max Baucus) as part of a group of senior US Travel leaders promoting the USA.

Gilbert was in Beijing to help launch the 2016 U.S.-China Tourism Year, and to highlight some of the reasons why the United States is the perfect destination for Chinese travelers and how U.S. based receptive operators can assist in the development of perfect travel packages. The event hosted more than 350 Chinese political leaders and influential travel industry representatives from 21 provincial regions. This included members of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Gilbert focuses on travel and tourism development for Chinese Host, which has generated over one million Chinese visitors to Las Vegas, the West Coast and National Parks since 2011. He also serves as Ambassador to IITA (International Inbound Travel Association, the only organization focused on inbound travel to the US with the most knowledgeable, professional and experienced operators providing quality experiences for Chinese visitors.)

Chinese tourists represent the fastest growing source of income for the U.S. tourism and travel industry, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

Chinese visitors spent a record $24 billion in the United States in 2014, officials at the U.S. Commerce Department said. The spending accounted for 57 percent of all U.S. service exports to China that year.

Travel has been growing steadily between both countries. In 2014, about 1.1 million U.S. travelers visited China and spent a record $5.1 billion within the country.


China Ready, Tourism, Destination Marketing, Uncategorized

So, What Makes L.A.’s Go123 Hopper Shuttle Bus the Poster Child for China Ready?

Go123’s Mr Hoppy Rides in to Town

Serial entrepreneur David Huang, owner of Chinese Host Inc., had a dream. In reality he has many. Huang, was born in Guangzhou. His family moved to Los Angeles when he was very young. Although he has roots in China, he grew up and was exposed to the L.A. “let’s make a deal” environment.

He also developed a passion for travel, tourism and the great outdoors. He became a tour guide, he obtained a commercial bus drivers license, he ran a bus company, he bought a couple of buses, he started a tour company, he started a DMC in Las Vegas, he built a reservation system for Chinese travel producers, he built his own bus company, he started a Chinese receptive firm, he opened offices in China and today David Huang owns the largest and most respected Chinese Travel company in the western USA, Chinese Host Inc., (CHD), generating over one million visitors since 2011.


David Huang

David always did things the right way, which is not always the way all Chinese operators work. Tales of fake log books, forced shopping stops, unlicensed companies, even bus drivers handing over sums of cash in brown paper bags – all horrify David, as it gives Chinese bus operators a bad reputation. He wanted to take the most professional path. Safety first and foremost……..Licensed, bonded, $5M insurance liability on every bus……and purchased a nice selection of Prevost coaches as they are ISO 14001 certified for environmental sustainability. He even recruited a National Park Service ranger to train the tour guides, as David wanted the best customer experience possible. Quality over quantity.

As David’s reputation grew over 25 years, industry organizations asked David to assist in their China marketing and business strategies. National Tour Association, Receptive Services Association, North American Journeys, State of Nevada, Las Vegas Convention Authority, Los Angeles Visitor Bureau (and many more) have David’s fingerprints all over their China programs.

David has always had his finger on the pulse. Always in the game. More importantly he could see where the game was headed. That’s what entrepreneurs do.

David was born China Ready. He didn’t need China Ready education. It’s in his DNA.

He foresaw the tsunami of Chinese tourists flooding into North America. He saw the growth in Chinese airlines coming to America. (Over 250 flights a week now including US carriers). He saw the over US$1 billion in subsidies given to the 4 Chinese airlines serving America given by local Chinese governments. He knew they would require transportation needs to get them around unfamiliar surroundings, getting them to enjoy the things they want to do – shopping, attractions, museums, etc. At the same time David realized that the demographic profile and psychographic behaviors were changing. Younger, better educated, affluent, e-connected, and independent. They desired the freedom to make their own choices in travel. Chinese travel producers, such as the mega OTA Ctrip, also saw the trends and began planning modular travel segments making it easier for travel agents and consumers to build their own trips. Times, they (still) are a’changing.

Driven by insight, David swiftly developed a Chinese dedicated transportation system for Greater Los Angeles, that would cater to the more independent Chinese traveler. Not a tour bus but a shuttle bus transit system with a hop-on hop-off model. This was the soft opening of Go123 Hopper. Five routes traveling to the “must see” destinations in L.A. and down to Anaheim.  


There were several strict criteria.

  • Every bus licensed, bonded and carrying $5M liability
  • Seat belt at every seat
  • Each bus with a Chinese speaking driver
  • Each bus WiFi enabled
  • Video screen in each bus
  • Free Apple and Android apps
  • QR codes enabling download of real time GPS maps
  • Details on what to do on the route plus offers

Go123 Hopper was presented to top DMO officials who all embraced the transit system enthusiastically; as did the local area attractions, shopping, dining and other points of interest.

CHD then ensured the program was loaded in to its own booking engine and introduced to the top travel producers in China. Ctrip made a special trip to test the service. The result of that trip was “two thumbs up” and immediately placed Go123 Hopper into in packages that can be purchased as part of the “Modular” travel trend.

Following this, numerous travel companies jumped on the Go123 Hopper bus. A B2B campaign followed reaching 2,000 Chinese travel agencies, wholesalers and OTA’s. A Chinese B2C campaign ensued introducing Mr. Hoppy, a whimsical Chinese style animation of a Go123 Hopper bus.

Its amusing to see the creative process at work. It’s fun to follow the flow from smart phone scribble to consumer ad seen today throughout China and Hong Kong. 

Genesis Go123.png

Smart phone scribble to consumer ad in Simplified Chinese (Ad design FourthIdea, Buffalo)

Today, Ctrip feature Go123 Hopper in over 20 packages. The growing list of travel producers now include Lulutrip, Haiwan, Tuniu, ToursForFun, usitrip, Majestic and more.

Go123 Hopper checks all the boxes for the newly renamed F.I.T market in China (Fully Independent Travel). It provides safe transportation in a city where even other Americans prefer not to drive, Chinese speaking and knowledgeable drivers, freedom to explore greater Los Angeles from Universal to Disney, free e-maps on demand, free route apps, destination information, hop on – hop off, and of course WiFi connected.

This is the ultimate poster child for being China Ready but I strongly believe this carries way beyond a great example of China Ready. This clearly spells out W-E-L-C-O-M-E. After all isn’t that what being a great host is all about, I applaud the Southern Californian DMO’s for their forward thinking and David Huang as the best Chinese Host you will find this side of the Pacific.


Seriously, the egg…’s no yolk in this Year of the Monkey!

Basic RGBAs millions of Chinese travel to celebrate the Lunar New Year, about 6 million will travel overseas. That, according to Ctrip, will be a record number. This seven day travel period (Spring Festival) is similar in travel to our Christmas vacation. It is a seven day National Holiday. Normally, Chinese travel home to enjoy the New Year with family. That is tradition. Clearly, the new tradition is to travel internationally. The most popular destinations being Thailand, South Korea, Australia and America. Interestingly, over 20% are modular travel purchases for the growing F.I.T (Flexible Independent Travel) or Semi-F.I.T. This new descriptor for the old F.I.T. acronym is fast catching on and I have been writing about this phenomena these past several months.

What is fueling the record numbers? Relaxed Visa restrictions, more flights, new destinations where people want to go discover, competitive fares, and big discounts as travel producers fight for market share.

Now, what about the Egg. No more egging you on here. (Sorry, couldn’t resist…too many soft balls here!) The Egg is one of the most sought after travel accessories this Spring Season. It is a small battery powered WiFi mobile gateway (you guessed it) the size of an egg. It connects to WiFi and WiMax networks. Big in Asia, catching on in Europe and soon to reach our shores. Look out for this WiFi egg gizmo as Chinese travelers will make this a must have travel product. So, as I said, without egg-azeration, it’s no yolk.

Meanwhile ….. Good Luck and Great Fortune for the Year of the Monkey.