Country Image Promotion

2015-7 Priscilla Sze

China has gradually become a major country with outbound travel. In 2014, the number of people travelling outbound has reached 171 million, making China the biggest exporter of outbound tourists to the world. The President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping claimed that the number of people travelling outbound would increase to over 500 million. The potential of the Chinese outbound travel market can be foreseen. 


Since China is such a huge market for tourism, national tourism boards all over the world are making great efforts to promote their countries in order to attract more Chinese tourists and stimulate local consumption. As a result, the market research company I am running has recently conducted a market research project for the national tourism board of a Southeast Asian country. The objective is to understand the needs and expectations of different travellers when they choose destinations, and different images of countries in travellers’ minds


Length of the holiday and budget are priorities when consumers choose destinations 

The duration of holidays has influence on Chinese consumers when they choose destinations. Generally, employees are relatively busy and generally have less than a week annual holidays. As a result, they can only choose some short-haul journeys. Therefore, major countries in Southeast Asia, such as Hong Kong, Macau etc., have become the first choices. Their attractiveness includes convenient traffic, relatively low-cost air tickets, mature tourist destinations and conditions.


Travelling companion is another important factor when consumers choose destinations 

Consumers have to consider different factors when they travel alone, with a partner or with their parents/children. There is less consideration when they are travelling alone. In terms of short-haul journeys, some research respondents said that many of them are influenced by the sales promotions of air tickets. Also, they enjoy the feeling of “said and go” kind of freedom. When travelling with a partner, consumers would consider more about other’s hobbies and interests. When travelling with parents and children, consumers would concern more about the country’s economic development status, peoples’ civilization, national safety, convenience of traffic, destinations facilities etc., there are more factors of considerations.


National civilization has great impact on the choice of destinations

Travelling is a happy and relaxing experience, outbound travel is regarded by Chinese consumers as a kind of high end luxury service experience. Therefore, they all desire to have the feeling of being respected and serviced, making them feel free and released from daily busy work. Under these circumstances, Hong Kong as a tourism destination has become less appealing. Many Chinese tourists stated that they have suffered from discrimination and disrespectful treatments, preventing them from visiting Hong Kong. On the contrary, national civilization of Japan and Thailand make Chinese tourists feel satisfied and pleasant. Japanese’s politeness leaves great impression on Chinese tourists. Thais are famous for their hospitality. They gain a good reputation of providing high quality services among Chinese tourists.


Currency exchange rate also affects choice of destination

Along with the depreciation of Euro and Japanese Yen, currency depreciations  lower the cost of travelling and shopping and increase the value for money, it  stimulates Chinese tourists to visit these countries further. Therefore, Japan has received 2.41 million Chinese tourists in 2014, an increase of 84% in comparison with that of last year. One of the reasons is the depreciation of Japanese Yen, allowing tourists to purchase cosmetics, food and electronic products etc. at a lower price in Japan.


Different countries enjoy different national images

Chinese consumers are always be exposed to different countries by different means including various tourism websites, moments in WeChat, as well as movies and videos.


Learning from different media, consumers form different national images towards different countries. Japan represents a shopping paradise and a combination of natural landscape and historical culture. Dubai represents high-end luxury. European countries represent historical cultural heritage. America represents advance and modernisation. Obviously, Chinese consumers find much difference between perception and reality sometimes. For instance, they find Los Angeles is just like a desolate countryside, much less advanced than Shanghai. When they arrive at Jeju Island, they find that it is not as beautiful and romantic as it is shown in the Korean drama. In one of the interviews, the respondent said that he thought New Zealand would be a trendy and beautiful country, and decided to visit since he has watched the movie “Lord of the Ring”. However, when he arrived, he was so disappointed because it was quite backward and very different from his imagination.


Emerging tourist hot spots

Palau and Vietnam become emerging hot destinations due to their recent successful promotions. For those consumers who prefer short-haul trips, they hope to find some unique and different experiences, and Palau and Vietnam can satisfy their  needs.   


Palau, as a small island in the Pacific Ocean, by owning their selling point “No.1 Global Environment Protection Place”, with pureness and harmony, and fresh air, it has huge attraction to Chinese consumers who are used to city life. Swimming with thousands and millions of jellyfish at Jellyfish Lake is absolutely an unusual experience. Furthermore, Palau has very convenient traffic. It takes only three and half hours by flight to arrive from Hong Kong. Therefore it is a good choice for short-haul tourists.


Vietnam's cultural heritage, low price level, convenient transportation, as well as friendly people and profound history and culture are the reasons why Chinese people gradually start to love the country.



Tourism Bureau and tourism related industries all over the world should make effort to understand Chinese tourists, which is a huge, rapidly growing and changing consumer segment, with unlimited attractiveness.