Five tips for establishing your museum in the Chinese tourism market
The Chinese love museums. Art galleries and historical exhibitions continue to grow in popularity for Chinese tourists seeking a more cultural and educational experience in their overseas travels. As a result, many international museums have established themselves on the itineraries of organised tour groups and FIT travellers. The Chinese market is one of the fastest growing tourism industries in the world, and asserting your museum’s brand in the orbit of Chinese tourists is fundamental for success in this valuable market.
So how do you go about increasing your museum’s presence in China?
Here are China Travel Outbound’s top five tips for promoting your museum to the Chinese traveller.
Find out what they’re saying about you
Any attraction worth its salt keeps a firm eye on its TripAdvisor review, however, that’s not going to mean too much in the Chinese market. Although there is a Chinese TripAdvisor, China has its own ecosystem of social media platforms and travel sites which you need to explore to find out what people are saying about your museum.
China’s review sites are extremely influential. C-Trip, Mafengwo and Qyer are among the top three options with a collective unique monthly visitor rate of over 300,000,000! Mafengwo, in particular, is extremely influential with the FITs, and you need your museum to a) be listed as a Place of Interest and b) to be receiving some positive reviews on Mafengwo and its ilk. This is such a vital factor for Chinese promotion which many museums are missing out on; either with no profile on these sites or profiles with incorrect names, opening times, location information or very poor images. PR companies are able to audit these sites for you and make recommendations for improving your profiles and generating more reviews. At China Travel Outbound, we have good relationships with the platforms and are able to ask them to take down misleading imagery or incorrect information and replace it. It is not in the interest of the sites to be inaccurate, so they are happy to work with us, although there are certain verifications we have to go through.
Once you’ve got your listing looking great, you can get to work on building those positive reviews.
Find the influencers
Chinese Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) are exceptionally important in a country where people have a collective culture and like to follow trends and advice from those they trust.
A visit from the right KOL, even to the smallest museum, can change its fortunes.
If your museum piques the interest of one of these influencers, you may end up with coverage and recommendations for your museum to their fan base which can sometimes reach into the millions!
KOL coverage comes in various forms. The more common is a blog about the KOL’s personal trip experiences. However, Chinese influencers don’t run their own websites. They post their blogs on third party platforms (such as Mafengwo, CTrip and Qyer) and the blogs run to several thousand words and contain many professionally shot images. What is also important is that the website itself will be offering the reader the opportunity to book tickets for the trip alongside the blog. So your coverage is supported by a direct distribution channel.
KOLs also post about their experiences on personal Chinese social media, for example, on Weibo and WeChat. These posts tend to be more immediate, although it is not unusual for a KOL to spend some time manipulating the images to make sure the posts are beautifully constructed to show your museum in its best light.
Livestreams – Occasionally, influencers will livestream their visit to your museum with viewership levels that can hold hundreds of thousands of users. Livestreams allow audiences to experience your museum as close to first-hand as possible when living on the other side of the world. Influencers can interact directly with their audience, discuss and outline the various attractions of your museum and offer their immediate impressions and recommendations while still onsite. The authenticity of livestreaming appeals greatly to a population subjected to so many copies and fake products.
Museums with a commitment to the Chinese market should definitely consider investing in their own social media platform. Weibo and WeChat are the most popular choices. A recent survey found that Weibo had the strongest influence in the trip planning of FIT millennial travellers. WeChat is another of the largest social platforms in China and one which already sees many international museums’ profiles well established on the site. Check out JingTravel’s museum index to gain an insight into which museums have most effectively capitalised on the exposure provided by a WeChat profile.
For more information about WeChat and Weibo, please read our article.
Remember the Chinese Travel Trade
The lion’s share of Chinese bookings comes via the Travel Trade. If your museum is large and well established in the market, you may want to consider working directly with the Chinese travel trade and signing contracts directly with operators. Alternatively, you may wish to work via Destination Management Companies (DMCs) based in your own country. Either way, you are going to need to promote your museum to the Chinese travel trade to encourage them to accept its inclusion within itineraries, or to push it themselves to their customers.
You can approach this in a number of ways. Going out to China on a sales mission to meet operators is effective for finding a few key contacts to build on. Attending trade shows can also work but you’ll need to go frequently and build relationships as it is quite hard to get stand out, unless your brand is already a very famous one. However, whatever you do, you need to carefully consider your long term strategy, as building relationships in China takes a long time and a lot of effort. A more effective and sustainable approach is to work with a representative based in China to help you deliver your messages, train agents about your museum, and follow up on all meetings to ensure points have been actioned.
With itineraries tailored to families, students, business large groups and many more; positioning your museum strongly within the Travel Trade could be the most effective way to boost inbound Chinese tourism in the direction of your business.
The number of Chinese tourists visiting the UK has never been higher so now is the time to work on ensuring your museum is featured on itineraries. Don’t be dismayed, however, if you are just one of the options listed for, say, a free afternoon in London. That in itself can deliver profile. And once your museum starts to be listed by one Chinese operator, the others will start to take you seriously. Remember, copying is a fundamental aspect of Chinese business!
Open your museum shop on Tmall
Once you have followed the previous three steps and are more established in the Chinese market, another way to increase exposure and generate profit is to offer some of your products online. The Chinese have a lot of interest in these kinds of high quality museum-branded products and making these items available yields great potential for success; as the British Museum had discovered when doing exactly that and continues to do so to this day.
Sites such as Tmall and Taobao would be recommended to offer this service and it provides yet another means of cementing your position in the Chinese tourism market, as it increases brand awareness and draws more traffic to your travel and social platforms.
China Travel Outbound is experienced in working with European museums and we can help promote your museum to the Chinese. If you would like to find out more about how Chinese representation, marketing and PR can help you promote your museum brand to the Chinese market, please get in touch with us for a chat.
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