As the number of Chinese outbound travelers continues to grow, new opportunities and challenges for destinations around the world are on the rise as well. Given this, 2018 finally saw an impressive uptick of savvy Western destinations and cultural institutions staking their claim to this most desirable travel segment. Here, Jing Travel offers our year-end look at 8 (traditionally a lucky number in China) of the most important tech trends and innovations that influenced Chinese outbound travel this year.
Klook Introduces Luxury Hotel Digital Concierge
The Hong Kong-based travel activities app partnered with Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts to broaden its customer base by offering recommendations to high-end travelers. The digital concierge will be rolled out in cities popular with Chinese tourists before being expanded to Shangri-La Hotels around the world.
Fliggy Facial Recognition at Hotel Check-in
One of the newest technological innovations of the year was the introduction of facial recognition for travel purposes. Alibaba’s online travel agency Fliggy began offering hotel check-in service via facial recognition software. The company also began using the technology for ticketing purposes at attractions around China.
Chinese Mobile Payments Gain Popularity Overseas
It was a record year for China’s mobile payments, with more overseas destinations accepting the payment options. During the Golden Week travel period in October, WeChat Pay and Alipay reported a significant uptick in transactions abroad.
Weibo Wins the Travel Influencer Market
While so many brands have taken to WeChat in an effort to generate sales and interest in the Chinese market, it was social media platform Weibo that was most popular for travel inspiration. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for other platforms like Little Red Book to make an impact in the travel industry.
Chinese Travelers Have an Easier Time Staying Connected
While it may be an afterthought for some travelers, mobile phone service abroad can be important – and overseas telecom operators are looking to capitalize on Chinese tourists’ desire to stay connected. Australian and North American telecom companies teamed up with Alipay and WeChat, respectively, to offer Chinese travelers phone service during their journeys.
Virtual Reality Brings the Experience Closer to Home
Some travel experiences are out of reach for Chinese jetsetters, but that doesn’t mean that they have to be distant. Travel companies are experimenting with VR to bring destinations to Chinese consumers, with the EU even opening a virtual tourism fair to reach a wider audience.
More Destinations Add City Guides on WeChat
Cities have jumped on the WeChat bandwagon this year and launched mini-programs aimed at helping Chinese independent travelers to navigate the destinations. Vancouver, Helsinki, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. were among the destinations to reach out to more Chinese tourists through mini-program guides.
Tencent to Rebuild National Museum of Brazil
While it may not bring an increase in Chinese tourists to Brazil, Tencent is testing out some new technology that will help rebuild the National Museum of Brazil’s collection that was destroyed in a fire this year. With the help of crowd-sourced photos, the tech giant plans to recreate a digital version of the museum and its collection.