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!


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