US-China Tourism Year a boon for service providers
Following the launch of the US-China Tourism Year in Beijing on March 29, payment services and banks have started to offer new products and services to meet the fastgrowing consumption levels of Chinese tourists.
The tourism year was announced by China President Xi Jinping and United States President Barack Obama during the former’s state visit to the US in September last year. According to Xinhua News Agency, the initiative aims to boost tourism between the two nations by enhancing the travel experience, boosting cultural understanding and expanding the appreciation of natural landscapes.
Market experts said that experience-driven consumption such as hiking, fishing and trekking are closely linked to businesses such as car rentals, insurance and local guide services, which are in turn covered by the various service and product packages offered by bankcard associations and their partners, as well as other third-party payment services providers.
Bankcardassociationsandpaymentservicesproviders, Visa, MasterCard, China UnionPay,AmericanExpress,Alipay,and WeChat Wallet, have since March launched new products and services that provide Chinese tourists with more convenience when they are on holiday.
Similarly, banks such as Shanghai Pudong Development such as visa application, flight and hotel booking, transportation planning, translation and guides, as well as discount privileges, into a single platform.
Xie Yucheng, a consumption and consumer goods market analyst with Shanghai Jiesheng Consultancy Firm, said that services catering to China’s outbound tourists are becoming increasingly diversified and differentiated, and will better help travelers experience another country’s culture, landscape and lifestyle.
“A decade ago, a Chinese tourist may take a photo in front of the Statue of Liberty before showing the image to his or her family and friends, saying: ‘Look I have been to the US’. Now, it’s a different story as people can access pictures through WeChat and the information they provide is much more detailed. For example, they may say that they are having lunch at the Cheesecake Factory in Seattle, or fishing at Myrtle Beach at South Carolina,” said Xie.
“Detailed travel experiences are actually growth opportunities for services providers who can now help customers reserve a seat at a popular restaurant or apply for a license for outdoor activities,” he added.
According to data from the US Commerce Department, 2.56 million Chinese tourists arrived in the United States in 2015 and the number is expected to grow to 2.97 million this year. Analysts said that this massive number of tourists means that an even wider range of services is needed, and it also presents services providers with the opportunity to target niche market segments.
Many tourists have applauded these new services, saying that those that are mobilebased have been particularly convenient.
“I booked a taxi in New York using Didi, an Uber-like service, and paid using WeChat. It felt exactly like what I do back in Beijing. Without this option and fuss-free process, I might just choose to stay in the hotel and not hang out with my friends in the night, and that would mean that I end up missing a lot of exciting experiences during my trip,” said Huang Yuewen, a 21-year-old college student from Beijing.