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Around 90 percent of travel bookings today involves going online compared to only 50 percent in 2006: GfK

High-end Chinese travelers prefer themed breaks that allow all rounded experience at their destinationse

The travel industry which solely relied successfully on traditional brick and mortar storefronts not too long ago has today turned into a business dominated by the Internet. Previously, customers queued up and patiently interacted face-to-face with one specific agent who took care of their travel needs. Today, this has become a less common occurrence, and even those who eventually purchased their ticket offline would have spent nearly three and a half hours researching online first, according to a recent GfK survey.

Another GfK study affirmed the rapidly rising dominance of the Internet in recent years, where a further one-third of all travelers have transited to using the internet for their travel bookings since four years ago—from 58 percent to today’s 90 percent. GfK’s Travel Director, Laurens Van Den Oever shared these insights at the recent China Tourism Industries Exposition held in Tianjin on 19 September 2014.

“Today, the internet is a part of the consumer journey for nearly all travelers, with some spending at least three hours researching for information—even if it doesn’t end up with them making the final purchase online,” said Van Den Oever. “A study conducted in Hong Kong showed that three in every four travelers (75%) used a combination of online and offline platforms, while 14 percent of used only the internet throughout the process leading to their online travel bookings.”

For the majority whose cross channel usage is strong—their purchase journey presents high complexity to companies and marketers who are eyeing the consumer dollar. For instance, the average online flight ticket purchaser visits 22 travel websites; including online travel agents, travel advisor, deals/group buys, airline companies, reviews/forums/blogs, facebook pages, etc.

“Destructive competition, concentration tendencies and an ever-increasing fragmented marketplace has greatly altered the supply chain over the years; making the travel market more sophisticated today,” said Van den Oever. “The consumer’s purchase journey has evolved to become extremely complex—so it is extremely vital that players in the travel sector understand the process and be in the right place with their message to secure the deal.”

Another interesting travel insight presented at the China Tourism Industries Exposition is the specific needs of niche Chinese travelers. According to a recent GfK study, high-end Chinese travelers aged 30 years and above exhibit a greater interest towards an all-rounded travel experience that encompasses learning about the local culture, history, and tradition of their chosen destination.

“Findings showed that China’s high-end travelers prefer to go online to make travel purchases; mainly using their PCs for their internet booking, whereas only one-fifth (20%) prefer using mobile devices like smartphones and tablets,” presented Alfred Zhou, Managing Director of GfK in China.

More than half of such travelers have joined or planned to participate in special theme trips which may include road trips by car, sports tourism and music festivals. The next most popular type of holiday destination among the country’s high-end travelers is at a beach resort.

“China’s tourism is booming and it is essential that we cater to the special needs of niche consumer segments, especially well-heeled travelers who have high spending power,” said Zhou. “With tourism anticipated to hit 100 million by 2020, the travel sector of the world’s most populous nation is set to be top market driving the development of global tourism industry,” he concluded.

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