The WeChat Alliance sounds like a valiant organization tasked with protecting the people against a vast technological conspiracy. In fact, it’s Tencent’s latest push to bring China’s most used social media platform to destinations popular with the country’s estimated 140 million outbound tourists. And for destination marketing organizations (DMOs) around the world, membership should be a priority.
At a Beijing ceremony in late November, WeChat officially welcomed representatives from 30 DMOs into a network that will help them develop strategies to best connect and communicate with Chinese on WeChat. The initiative is focused on four areas; developing and implementing Mini Programs, expanding the WeChat Go ecosystem, incentivizing third-parties to develop travel-centric programming through its WeChat Developer Challenge, and hosting an annual Alliance Summit.
In 2016, the company launched WeChat Go, a move that reflected the ongoing shift of the Chinese outbound tourist away from group travel and toward trips planned and undertaken independently. The program serves as an entry point for international organizations and companies to use WeChat’s ecosystem to serve outbound Chinese travelers.
WeChat Mini Programs can be used to provide tourists with key travel information, maps, tickets, coupons, and travel insurance. They have been launched by a wide range of international tourism destinations from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to Auckland Tourism to Parisian cabaret show Lido.
Among the 30 DMOs to join WeChat’s latest push was Singapore Tourism Board (STB), an organization that has experienced the benefits of harnessing the powers of the platform firsthand. In 2017, it became one of the first foreign tourism agencies to launch a WeChat Mini Program and currently boasts three. China accounts for nearly 20 percent of all visitors to the island city-state and maximizing not only the experiences of these travelers but their ability to spend remains a domestic priority.
As STB’s Northern China director Nicky Seet put it, “we need to be focused about messaging and smart about connecting,” it’s a message that stands for DMOs worldwide.