Recently, I have been asked by sevearal hoteliers to build Chinese versions of their websites.
Given our rather unusual performance-related payment model, I have been doing some digging around, to find out more on the potential of growth from that particular market. A few days of research, and a visit to the excellent 1st International Digital Forum, I am delighted to report that it is mostly impressive news.
I was prompted to write about the Chinese market when the BBC reported yesterday that the Chinese smartphone market finally caught up, and even overtook (by some 1 million devices sold) the USA market last quarter. This is obviously a significant milestone, and one to which we should be paying attention. The smartphone market is both extremely young, extremely fast growing and extremely significant in every measurable way. For many, it represents the future of not only computing, but the internet as well. And that means the Western world is left in an “interesting” place…
When Neil Mawston, Executive Director of Strategy Analytics, was asked to comment on the news that the smartphone market of China is now bigger than that of the US, he said:
“China has become a large and growing market that no hardware vendor, component maker or content developer can afford to ignore”.
If hoteliers are to compete for internet business from China, they have to roll up their sleeves and get to work!
The internet for the Chinese people is dominated by a company called Baidu – pretty much as Google and Facebook dominate the markets here. Given the size of the internet market over there, and the pace of growth of Baidu (in multiple markets), one cannot conceive to look at the Chinese audiences without looking at what Baidu does.
The company has been on the news a lot lately. It launched back in September Baidu Yi – its own version of mobile operating system (like Google has Android over here), which will do everything that Android does, with some nice iPhone iOS-like add-ons. Also, Baidu has also just announced its partnership with Dell, for Dell to run Baidu Yi on their mobile devices sold in China.
Looking a little further, we see Alibaba (one of the world’s biggest internet conglomerates) launching its own mobile OS in Chinese, found on their own K-Touch mobile smartphone, whilst every other mobile phone provider is making up their minds on how to enter the market.
In fact, only two days ago the US Agriculture secretary visited China to boost trade agreements between the two countries, and Japan announced the merger of its Osaka and Tokyo exchanges in a bid to compete with China.
It seems to me that everyone knows where growth is set to take place. The importance of the Chinese market is now more prevalent than ever, and the trend will not be changing any time soon. Whilst most of the western international markets are at a plateau – or even spectacularly declining (like the economy of my home-country), the words “boom”,”growth” and “development” seem to be permanently associated with the extraordinary economy of China.
The “leap” from a growing economy of billions of inhabitants to a source market that potentially generates additional travellers to our hotels does not require a particularly strong imagination. Where there is boom, there is money; and where there is money, there is a potential source market.
With travel restrictions having been greatly lifted, the Chinese are now allowed to book their flights and accommodation pretty much as the rest of us do. Hence, there is a growing potential in this vast, exploding source market. Although traditions and habits will probably need some time before they start tentatively changing, a tentative change in the Chinese travel patterns, is a tsunami of change for the rest of us.
Every additional 1% of the Chinese people that book their holidays or business trips over here, will represent 14 million additional travellers. That is very nearly one Chinese person for every international tourist that has visited London in 2010!
This is the time for hoteliers to look East and see an opportunity for growth. It is for that reason that I currently strongly suggest to all my clients to consider not only building a new website in Chinese; I also prompt them to ensure they are working with a booking engine that has embraced the mobile internet space – preferably through an app-like booking environment.
With thanks for reading,
If you are interested in seeing some examples of our work in Chinese website re-building, please just visit us here.