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ITB Berlin Convention: China goes mobile - smartphones, apps and social media are keys to the Middle Kingdom of travel

If there's one thing the Chinese love, it's their smartphones.  "If they could take only three things on a trip, it would be their passport, mobile and selfie stick," explained Joseph Wang, Chief Commercial Officer of TravelDaily China, at ITB Berlin eTravel World.  About 1.2 billion mobile devices were in use in 2015.  Approximately 37 percent of these are in the hands of people under 25, and an equal number of users are in the 25 to 35 year age group.  Within just three years, mobile turnover in the travel market climbed from 2 to 24 percent (2013 to 2016).

The mobile China is young and fascinated with creative ideas.  Anyone wanting in here cannot get around a localized app.  "You do not need a huge portfolio for this market. Instead, use the popularity of our online celebrities to promote your products, and really get involved," explains Wang.

Chinese service providers push direct digital marketing.  They look for partnerships with the three major search and e-commerce portals - Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba - which distinguish themselves as OTA next Ctrip and Qunar.  They make sleek apps and smart products so as to not be constantly pushed out by low-cost portals before reaching the customer.

If it were up to Wang, service providers and travel agents would finally join together in networks to serve customers from a single source.  In that way, travelers would not have to visit over 30 websites, open more than 10 apps and answer over 50 check-in reminder and evaluation request emails during their customer journey, before even getting on the road.

Isabel Bommer

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