More and more Chinese tourists are travelling abroad. The number of Chinese people who can afford to travel internationally will double to 600 million in five years, outlined Prof Dr Wolfgang Arlt, Director of the COTRI China Outbound Tourism Research Institute. This is the fastest growth in the Chinese source market.
How can European hotels and tour operators take part in this boom? A Deep Dive Session, the title of a new debate format at ITB Berlin, was devoted to this very question. This was initiated by Terry von Bibra, European General Manager of the Chinese platform Alibaba. Alibaba, often called the “Chinese Amazon”, is currently used by 642 million people. It should reach two billion by 2036.
Alibaba also offers a travel app within its platform: Fliggy is mainly used by Chinese millennials. “58 per cent of our users are born after 1999,” says von Bibra. However, Alibaba does not see itself as the industry’s only player, but instead as a technical “enabler” for its partners in the market. Fliggy is, therefore, not an online travel agency but an “online travel marketplace.”
This means that Fliggy offers access to the Chinese source market. The system also includes a mobile payment option called Alipay, common in China, and every Fliggy customer is required to register. Fliggy’s goal is to connect local partners from all regions of the world and make them accessible to Chinese tourists, says von Bibra. These partners can implement ‘post-post-payment options’ as permitted by the legal framework.
There are already partnerships between Fliggy and large tour operators and international hotel groups. But what about small tour and activity operators and boutique hotels? “This is still complicated,” Terry von Bibra acknowledged, as the expense of implementation is not to be underestimated. However, Alibaba provides experts that can assist when entering the booming Chinese source market.