In 2008, Chinese visiting the Africa Continent accounted for 3% of their total numbers in outbound travel. But in 2017, outbound travel rose to over 10%, representing 11.3 million that had travelled to Africa. As highlighted by Chinese news website Cankaoxiaoxi.com, China's social media platforms have been abuzz about travel experience to African countries. The website also cited African media commenting that the average spending by the Chinese tourist is 40% higher than most European visitors. The hashtag "前往非洲避暑” (meaning ‘travel to Africa to beat the heat') garnered more than three million clicks on Sina Weibo.
So, why is Africa gaining popularity amongst Chinese visitors?
One obvious reason is due to summers in China plagued by temperatures hitting a high or exceeding 35 degrees Celsius. African countries on the other hand, being in cooler temperatures of the Southern Hemisphere as well as those in higher altitudes, are ideal places for a cooling-off respite, during China's summer months. China Plus, a news broadcaster of print, radio and television, featured a report by online travel agency lvmama.com – that in 2017, the number of people who had pre-booked holiday travels to Africa was nearly doubled that a year ago. It was also noted that the higher earners between the ages of 25 and 40 made up for most of the visitors to Africa, with single trips on average lasting eight days and spending between ¥7,800 ($1,229 USD) and ¥48,000 ($7,566 USD).
Other factors could have been generated by the three most popular Chinese reality shows, ‘Flowers On Trip', ‘Divas Hit the Road' and ‘Our Journey', all featuring celebrities traveling to Africa. Enthusiasms could have been created by Chinese blockbuster movie ‘Wolf Warrior 2' (a sequel to Wolf Warriors). It carried a patriotic theme about a retired Chinese soldier in Africa rescuing Chinese workers from local pirates. Settles in the movie were portrait as intermarries and living there for ages. The movie grossed over $800 million USD in China alone, making it the world's 2nd highest box office sales from a single territory after Star Wars 7.
More contributory factors could be; the Belt and Road Initiative as explained by The Economist; the increased in air routes between China and African countries; or African nations easing their visa policy to attract more Chinese visitors.
Efforts were also made by African countries during Investour 2018 jointly organized by Casa Africa, UN's World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and International Tourism Fair in Spain (FITUR) in Madrid, attended by 30 African Tourism Ministers. Topics included “Tourism Investment and Business Forum for Africa” and the “UNWTO/Chimelong Wildlife Conservation and Tourism in Africa, Asia and the Pacific”. The programs were favoured by China which has signed bilateral agreements with several African countries that are enjoying Approved Destination Status.
(Notes: The Chimelong Group is a Chinese conglomerate which owns and operates theme parks, luxury hotels, leisure entertainment businesses and fine-dining restaurants. It is the leading enterprise in China's tourism industry.)
In early January, China Global Television Network (CGTN) staged a special dialogue in anticipation of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum, to be held in Beijing later this year. The Forum is in-line with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's recent visits to four African countries and aims to facilitate further integration of African nations into China's Belt and Road Initiative.
While in recent times, African countries have generally come to favour the Chinese model of development and are keenly looking toward greater coordination on the Africa Union's far-reaching plans to be assimilated with China's vision.
The writing is on the wall
Indeed, it is inevitable that many more Chinese will journey to African destinations and their arrivals will keep rising to unprecedented numbers. For Africa-based hotels, hospitality or lifestyle establishments vying for a slice of the enormous influx of Chinese leisure or business visitors, they must first answer two key questions, “Has the website catered for browsing in the Chinese language?” If ‘yes'… “Are content reader-friendly, inspiring and equally engaging?”
If answers are ‘no', then that website will find it hard to sustain prominence amongst Chinese communities, whether over social media platforms, or to be spontaneously discovered in Chinese keyword searches. The investment to create marketing content in Chinese is relatively small, however the returns are in many, manyfold. It is because modern day Chinese tourists prefer the D-I-Y experience by making informed decisions from content that they can read and understand comfortably in their preferred language. It follows the natural instinct that we ourselves would want to be able to read and understand product labels and instructions – attesting to the age-old adage in marketing, “Can't Read, Won't Buy”.
To compete for the tourism dollars in global markets, success or failure rightly depends on the quality of reader-friendly information provided in their preferred languages.
It has also often been reported that the creation of local language content just by translation alone will be an uphill task to achieve its objectives. For hotel, hospitality and lifestyle establishments, only transcreation (translations infused with creative writing) will deliver that emotional connection with specific target audiences – in their preferred language. Click here to read "Why Transcreation Does More than Translation?".
The call is for a new breed of Language Service Providers to assist hoteliers, hospitality and lifestyle business owners overcome the linguistic and cultural barriers which are constantly at play.