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II . China, European tourism professionals have a difficulty in grasping this market

Individual travelers on the rise


Today, France still conveys an Epinal image to Chinese tourists. A true paradise, both romantic and poetic. A cliché on which professionals capitalize on especially on Weibo, the major social network in China. Culture, "French style" meaning luxury goods, the wine, or castles, is attracting more and more Chinese tourists annually. 2014, the year of the fiftieth anniversary of Franco-Chinese diplomatic relations, is particularly rich in acts of seduction. The acceleration of the issuance of 48 hour individual visas to Chinese travelers and the official visit of Fleur Pellerin, demonstrate these renewed efforts.



The Chinese continue to be attracted to the romantic image of Paris © Creativa - Fotolia.com
The Chinese continue to be attracted to the romantic image of Paris © Creativa - Fotolia.com
While they only represent 2% of foreign tourists in France, Chinese travelers hold a very strong potential for the country.

Several studies have shown that after Asia, Europe is the second most visited region, with France on top of the list.

But considering their vast country, there is no typical profile of a Chinese tourist.

"We are seeing a change in customer type, said Eric Golden, President of the Regional Tourism Committee of the Côte d' Azur.

The number of tourists has increased three times in the area over the past four years, reaching 84,000 stays in 2013.

More importantly, the traditional clientele, composed of seniors traveling in groups is decreasing and giving room for smaller groups."


This phenomenon, already observed in the Paris region, is gradually reaching other French regions, such as the Côte d' Azur, Bordeaux or the Rhone-Alpes region.

A younger clientele

Thus, alongside groups of Chinese travelers who spend 2 to 3 nights maximum in France, on a first 10-day Europe tour, is now being added a younger clientele, that focuses more on the discovery of a specific region, and its traditional cuisine.

"The traditional groups stay in 2 or 3 star hotels, they save on accommodation to enjoy shopping," adds Eric Doré.

And then there is this new generation of tourists, young people between 25 and 35 years, who are wealthy and who grew up with new technologies.

"These students or young workers will not follow the group mentally, likes agreeing to sleep in pre-chosen hotel or only eat in Asian restaurants, " commented Frédéric Dimanche, professor of marketing and director of the Department of Tourism Management at the Skema Business School.

His Chinese students in the 3rd year of Tourism and Hospitality management just did a survey on the expectations of Chinese tourist clienteles on the Côte d' Azur.

"The study pointed out that these young clients take more risks, they taste French cuisine, for example. They have a knowledge on wines , dishes, thanks to widespread access to the Internet."

The arrival of individual clients

At ParisCityVision, Chinese customers have increased by 50% compared to last year, especially individual travelers.

"Chinese tourists do not represent large amounts, says Corinne Le Cam, sales and marketing director ParisCityVision, but for the first time in 2014, the contracts we signed with Chinese tour operators last year are profitable.

Until now, the market for Chinese groups excluded us because the products were already packaged from China between Chinese tour operators, receptive and leading Chinese tours in France.

We only sold our dinner cruise on the Seine, as the boats belong to us. They still represent 60-70 % of the demand."


However, individual excursion demands are increasing in the capital, ParisCityVision is investing : excursions guided in Chinese, the website translated in Mandarin, promotional operations with Atout France and the Paris tourist office or hiring a Chinese representative in the commercial service.

"It is still complicated for a European company to break into the Chinese market, said Corinne Le Cam. There are currently no direct sales, everything goes through agencies and travel agents are young, they are around twenty years old and the turnover is huge.

Moreover, the sale of travel packages is mostly done via the Internet, but the codes are different, this is very complex from a marketing standpoint. The Chinese have entered straight into the third millennium."

Luxury shopping : France, a favorite destination for the Chinese

Many French luxury brands seduce the Chinese, according to the Hurun Report - DR
Many French luxury brands seduce the Chinese, according to the Hurun Report - DR
The arrival of these new tourists, younger, more educated, more curious about French culture has not yet dethroned the Chinese’s favorite activity: shopping.

For now, it is still their largest expenditure sector, especially luxury products.

"Shopping is an important cultural element for the Chinese, said Francois Navarro, deputy CEO of CRT Ile-de-France. It is a matter of honor and image.

Travelers have to bring back gifts to their loved ones, as a physical proof that the trip truly took place."

A business that is not ready to die out, China now has around 300 billionaires and 2,800,000 millionaires (in dollars), according to the latest Hurun 2013 Report on the profile of Chinese luxury travelers.

We learn that the France is a favorite international destination for Chinese luxury shopping, with 34% popularity, ahead of the United States and Singapore.

Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Chanel, Hermès and Dior are among the top selling brands. (See table.)

"The Chinese are important shoppers continues Frédéric Dimanche. In Paris, Louis Vuitton and Galeries Lafayette hired Chinese staff and are equipped with the Union Pay payment system, which is the most widely used in China."

And to adequately educate professionals on this specific clientele, the CRTs regularly organize training classes.

12 June 2014, the CRT French Riviera will deliver advice during a conference at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. "It will provide very practical advice for every type of customer, says Eric Gold, such as practical information on Union Pay, since only 5 hotels are equipped with it on the Côte d' Azur."

Investments on social networks

CRT Ile-de-France, meanwhile, has developed a booklet and a website called "Do You Speak Tourist" to the attention of retailers, to help them understand the codes of different nationalities.

Conversely, starting on June 15, a new "Yes I Speak Tourist" site will allow visitors to locate retailers speaking their language, thanks to Google Maps.

"One of Chinese particularities is they still speak few other languages," says François Navarro.

Some cultural differences that professionals will have to adapt to if they want to satisfy these customers.

"Hotel owners, for example, should focus on providing the Chinese channel CCTV or a kettle for tea and noodles, says Frédéric Dimanche.

The services must be adjusted by fitting the Chinese tastes in order to satisfy the customers and have them spread the word on their experiences, especially on social networks.”

Because the Chinese are very fond of the Internet and make extensive use their mobile phones for purchases and to go on social networks.

The CRT French Riviera, for example, has invested thousands of dollars on Weibo, a sort of a Chinese combination of Facebook and Twitter.

"We are doing is a large public campaign launched with 12 partners, set up with contests and games to discover the destination," explains Eric Doré.

In early summer, it will be the turn of CRT Ile-de-France to be present on Weibo. "Our Paris Tourism Facebook page, which includes 266,000 fans already has 20,000 Chinese fans," says François Navarro.

A positive outlook for France

For its part, Atout France is investing in both the short and the long term.

The tourism promotional organization of France has renewed this year’s campaign "France Romance" on Weibo, to always attract more fans.

Another promotional campaign in 2014 will be the highlighting of 4 themes representing France in the imagination of Chinese - wine tourism, cultural and natural heritage, romance and shopping - conducted with 11 partners on Weibo and other traditional media outlets.

"With this campaign, we aim for immediate effectiveness, says Christian Mantei, CEO of Atout France.

But faced with quickly evolving customers, it will be difficult to imagine in 10 years, what will be its potential interests."

Even so, Atout France is betting on the long term by holding its first roadshow dedicated to business tourism in Beijing, Shanghai and Taipei in early September 2014.

But something is certain for tourism professional: the acceleration of the issuance of 48 hour visas to Chinese individuals and the favorable opinion of Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to open shops on Sundays to boost tourism development should attract more Chinese travelers...

Written by Anaïs BORIOS translated by Joséphine Foucher the 14/05/2014
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Tags : China

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