VisitAberdeen’s Jenni Fraser recently undertook a fact-finding trip to Beijing to find out exactly what Chinese travellers look for in a holiday destination, and to spread the word about Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.
My mornings in Beijing began at the China Outbound Travel and Tourism Market (COTTM).
The COTTM is the largest outbound travel exhibition in China, with over 3,800 leading outbound operators arriving to network with 350 exhibitors from 65 different countries around the world.
As business development manager at VisitAberdeen, I am used to working on exhibition stands to sell the city to travel and tourism operators however it still took me a little time to get used to pitching through my translator, Miranda.
Within a few hours, though, we were working well as a team and enthusiastically spreading the word about Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.
Sharing a stand with my colleagues at the China Business Network, who have worked with VisitAberdeen on a number of China-focused tourism initiatives, I was able to speak to a number of key tour operators and
find out exactly what Chinese tourists expect of their holiday destinations.
I found out that the Chinese tourism market is moving away from package holidays, and instead those travelling overseas are looking for something new and exciting – they’re seeking out new destinations that have interesting stories to tell.
Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire have these in abundance, and throughout my time in Beijing I noticed a considerable rise in interest among tour operators who previously had very little knowledge of the region.
Lunchtime in China was always an adventure. Whether visiting restaurants with new contacts or sharing a mixed platter of Chinese delicacies at the stand. I was always able to try something new and delicious. One of the most memorable treats was a traditional Chinese “sweet” made with red bean paste.
In the afternoon, I was back on the stand speaking to more outbound tourism operators, and I also had the chance to visit the World Travel Market Vision Conference. It was fascinating to see the similarities and differences in the way different locations market themselves to the Chinese market.
The Chinese International Tourism Source market is number one in the world – by over £21.7bn – and it is speculated that over 500 million Chinese tourists will travel abroad over the next 15 years. VisitAberdeen believes that the north east of Scotland can offer accommodation, dining and activities that will please all Chinese travellers.
At the COTTM, I was also lucky enough to be presented with an award from the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRI).
This recognised VisitAberdeen’s key China-focused projects, including social media activity, attendance at trade fairs, and our Chinese language website – run in partnership with the China Business Network – that is hosted on the China Wide Web.
It was a fantastic opportunity to be able to pick this up in person in Beijing, and means a lot to me and the rest of the team.
The evening presented more opportunities to network, but also allowed me a little time for some sightseeing of my own.
A night-time wander around the idyllic hutongs – streets and alleys lined with traditional Chinese buildings – was unfortunately cut short by an unexpected sand storm.
Throughout my time in Beijing, I gained a much better understanding for the needs of the Chinese tourist, and was able to make a number of very strong contacts who will be invaluable in promoting Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire to the Chinese tourism market.