French CE members learn more about the Chinese traveller
“We introduced all the presentations to the travel agents by a map positioning of the Cruise Europe regions and the large choice of itineraries,” explained Conan, director cruise department Le Havre Tourism.
Organised by Atout France, the French government tourism agency, the trip also enabled the representatives to schedule meetings with major travel agencies of Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
The objectives were to get insight about the evolution of the Chinese market, to identify the key contacts, to highlight France’s offer in terms of maritime and river cruise ports, both for transit, turnaround and varied excursion experiences, as well as the immense potential of pre- and post-cruises stays available for the Chinese cruise passengers, explained Valerie Conan.
Chinese professionals highlighted the intense growth of the cruise market over the last 10 years, and especially to the Mediterranean. Northern Europe, however, is well identified and attracts an increasing number of visitors.
The delegation took home some key messages:
- All brands represented by travel agents are present on the French territory, either in transit or on turnaround
- There are still difficulties to obtain visas for Chinese citizens to visit some countries that need to be solved
- Following the 10-year growth of the Asian market (not only in volume of departures from China to Asia but also for fly-cruises packages), travel agencies confirmed that Europe is definitely a major destination (second most popular after Asia), that offers the greatest potential and attracts repeaters, already familiar with cruise holidays in Asia
- Ports and destinations must get ready to welcome this market and deliver quality services to meet guest expectations
- Tailormade shore excursions with Chinese-speaking cruise guides. Middleclass Chinese passengers want to experience time with locals.
- Shopping is still trendy: new services should be implemented locally for the Chinese market with the possibility of payment by WeChat.
- Cruiselines should develop new homeports to widen the variety of destinations
- On board cruiselines must deliver services dedicated to this market, for example
Chinese-speaking guides and crew to solve the language barrier (reception, services, catering )
- High-quality Chinese cuisine and food is key.
Conan went on to explain: “Interest in the French destinations goes far beyond the cruise product only, as many Chinese visitors combine their cruise experience with a pre- or post-stay, offering great prospects for territorial spin-offs. To achieve this, however, the specific needs of Chinese customers will have to be considered.
“And their expectations are more precise than one would think. Hence, the approach of the French delegation was warmly welcomed by all interlocutors, who are already familiar with the French tourist assets such as the many UNESCO sites for instance, and they rely on their support to identify new products, in order to satisfy their customers in search of immersive and authentic experiences, off-the-beaten track.
“Thus, each destination has been able to assert its own attractions, but more importantly, the relationship is being forged for a longer-term collaboration.”