Switzerland contributes a great deal to the attractiveness of Europe as a destination for Chinese people. But the number of easily accessible destinations – e.g. due to the abolition of visas, visa facilitation, and better air links – is rapidly increasing for Chinese tourists worldwide. In the competition for their holiday budgets, Europe and Switzerland, therefore, have a difficult time. This shows a first trend-analysis of data on the travel behavior of the Chinese population, data which I collected in a survey in China together with Survey Yes.
Europe is popular and much visited – however negative perennials continue
With a market share of just over 16%, with a total of slightly more than 51 million international trips (outside Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan), Europe is an important destination for Chinese people. As first results of a pilot study on the travel behavior of the Chinese population show, Switzerland is the second most important reason to come to Europe after France – and ahead of Germany and the UK.
On our continent, the cultural, historical and natural richness, as well as variety and hospitality, are appreciated. Many Chinese are also pleased that a rich tour operator offer can simplify travel to Europe when needed – perhaps against a background of negative perennial favorites such as the individual Schengen visa, the difficulty of communicating in one’s own language, as well as the rather tense price-performance ratio for tourist core services.
Europe “loses” most of the time – and that’s probably our own fault
However, the generally rosy picture for Europe and Switzerland is clouded by the following background: In a typical Chinese travel decision-making process, not just one, but at least two potential continental travel destinations are evaluated in 60% of the cases (hence there is a real “choice set” from at least two different continents). And in most cases, Europe loses relatively clear.”
In a choice set, for example, together with North America (3.4% of all sets), Europe is subject to a ratio of 1:2, and in a set together with Oceania (4.3% of all sets) even to 1:3. Only in the choice set together with Asia (excluding the People’s Republic of China and neighboring countries, 3.3% of all sets), there is at least a draw 1:1. Europe thus loses most of its power in the decision-making process; only in the case of only European destinations in a choice set (3.3% of all sets) does Europe “win” as a continent – logical if no intercontinental competition is evaluated.
Based on an initial data analysis, I suspect that the still challenging Schengen visa process (compared to, for example, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) continues to be responsible for this result. In addition, the proportion of Chinese travelers connecting with friends and relatives is the lowest in Europe. This lack of Chinese personal relationships in Europe further reduces the travel potential (about minus 10%). What’s more, Schengen still differentiates visas from tourists and visitors – something that has long since been abolished in competing regions of the world, making it easier to link holiday trips with visits.
The proportion of pure group travel of Chinese is overestimated
Europe has the smallest share of Chinese Free Independent Travelers (FIT) in an intercontinental comparison. However, at just about 50%, this proportion is still higher than you would generally think – Chinese travel groups would realize. The possible reasons for this result are many. On the one hand, it can be stated that numerous hybrid alternatives of the travel organization are increasingly softening the rigid division into FIT or group travel, which makes a clear statistical distinction difficult. For example, it is not completely clear what applies when a traveler arrives at a destination as FIT but later joins a group there.
Then many trips take place under the title “city trips”. Here, in many cases, there is little organizational complexity and therefore hardly the need to organize the trip through an organizer. And last but not least, almost 20% of all journeys can be described as “free-wheeling”, that is to say as journeys in which many decisions (also about the route choice) are made only at very short notice. On average, Chinese travel to our continent takes eight days and includes two to three nights.
Online information and booking options accelerate the trend towards individualization
As other studies have shown – and can be confirmed in the present – Chinese have a very high online affinity across all generations, accessing a large number of different sources. On the one hand, this is reflected in the great importance of offline (but downloaded online) information: for 60 to more than 70% of all travelers to Europe, these sources are important (for example, the download of partially individualized printable brochures).
The proportion of those who also travel completely online (eg online travel agencies, airlines, hotel chains, etc., but also on social media and rating platforms) is, depending on the source, even higher at 70 to over 80% , However, even “old” sources such as trade fairs or media reports are not insignificant, as between 40 and 50% of all European travelers from China consider them to be significant.
In terms of spending, Europe is the front-runner – even if North America wins in shopping
Traveling to Europe, Chinese are worth an average of about 330 francs a day (all travel expenses included). This amount does not include the shopping spend of about 1300 francs per trip (of which less than half is spent on gifts). Europe is in the midst of shopping. The front-runner is North America, where spending close to 1,800 francs is spent per trip, of which only a third is used for gifts.
Europe and Switzerland continue to have good prospects
Overall, Switzerland and Europe continue to have good tourism prospects in the Chinese market. However, one has to be aware that different forms of Chinese travel can involve internationally interchangeable destinations and, at the end of the day, the nature and quality of the services offered there can be crucial. This starts with the visa process and continues with the services offered in the destinations and the “convenience” created for the guest (for example, in terms of language, gastronomy, logistics, etc.).
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