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Here’s Jing Travel’s weekly guide to stories providing insight into Chinese travel trends and how they affect the industry’s main players.

ITALIAN STYLE

Italy saw a 200 percent year-on-year increase of Chinese tourists in 2018, but it’s set for further gains with the news that Sicily has struck a partnership with Ctrip. The travel service provider has over 300 million users in China and the deal will allow the island to develop its brand of historic importance and rugged beauty to a wider audience. The regional tourist board hopes to harness Ctrip’s China media savvy and connectivity. Italy and China are currently enjoying close relations, Xi Jinping visited Palermo in March and 2020 will be the Italy-China Year of Culture and Tourism. The Ctrip and Sicily deal follows previous ones with Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board and Tourism Ireland, among others.

SKY PAY

WeChat’s longstanding engagement with Chinese travellers is adding a new dimension with the launch of offline payments for flights. Spring Airlines is currently trialling a Mini Program that allows users to spend up to 200 RMB ($28) while up in the air provided they meet a WeChat Payment credit score of 550. The system is currently in beta stage testing but is expected to be rolled out across numerous airlines in the near-future. China is the world’s largest mobile payment market with the number of transactions growing 79.6 percent year-on-year Q1 2019.

GROWTH SPURT

Fresh data from China Tourism Academy details the steady growth of China’s outbound travel market in 2018. Chinese tourists made 149 million foreign trips spending $130 billion in the process — increases of 14.7 and 13 percent respectively. August proved the most popular travel month with the 14 million overseas trips marking a 17 percent year-on-year increase. At present, 89 percent of overseas trips are to other Asian countries, a statistic that highlights the vast potential for grow to other destinations.

ISLAND TIME

Hainan, a tropical island in southern China that receives more than 70 million tourists annually, experienced slowing growth in the first half of 2019. Hainan’s travel agencies attribute this decrease to competitive offerings from budget-friendly travel destinations from across Southeast Asia, such as Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Although the ambition to boost international visitors to Hainan exists, such efforts have been hampered by the limitations of China’s visa-free travel policy and tax-free policy. In addition to making visa policy more flexible, those connected to Hainan tourism cite the need to partner with art and cultural institutions so as to broaden the island’s appeal and further develop its brand.

VLOG-RRIFIC

When it comes to promoting travel content, video blogging, or vlogging, is king. This was a key takeaway from Sina Weibo’s Travel Influence Panel held in Chengdu, August 4 to 5. For DMOs, museums, and cultural institutions looking to boost their engagement with Chinese travellers, vlogging is a way to engage viewers with authentic and informal content. Chinese museums are increasingly using this tactic, for example, M Woods Museum, a contemporary art institution in Beijing, invited a handful of livestreamers to the opening of its Nicolas Party exhibition in November 2018, with one such video by Da Gai Shi Jing Yue receiving 2.3 million views.

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