Why a Chinese Chat App is a Marketing Must for the Tourism Sector

WeChat is china’s version of Whatsapp and has one of the largest user bases among the ever-growing number of chat apps.

The stats really are quite startling:

  • The number of registered WeChat accounts has reached 1.12 billion, with 440 million monthly active users.
  • WeChat has more than 20 language versions, covering users in more than 200 countries and regions. It claims to be the #1 social app in more than 70 countries and regions
  • The number of WeChat public accounts grows by 8000 daily

WeChat has similar features to WhatsApp but some new innovations too. For example, you can shake your phone to talk with a random person that might also be shaking their phone at the same time. It also has a feature called ‘driftbottle’ which allows users to leave a voice message or text note in a bottle and drift in the ocean. You can pick bottles from the ocean and if interested in the sender of drift bottle, you can message them back. You can also use a new voice generated by your phone or identify a fellow WeChat user near you and connect with them via a text – like a friendship satnav!

But it’s more than just that - in China, WeChat has become an ‘all-in-one’ app. It can be used to buy an airline ticket, research and plan a holiday, call for a Didi Dache (China’s version of Uber) or read the news.

Messaging appears to be the next great platform for which developers will be building right around the world and WeChat appears to be leading the way. The idea is that messaging apps are where people spend a lot of their time. People send 30 billion messages per day on WhatsApp alone. If people are already coming to the app to communicate with friends, why not give them everything else they might want to do as well, like games and commerce?

As a social tool WeChat seems to be taking off, but what about as a marketing tool for business and leisure? 100,000 followers are required before a business can advertise on WeChat, but that hasn’t stopped some of France’s most famous tourist attractions from using the app to attract internet-savvy tourists from mainland China, with the Louvre, the Palace of Versailles, and the National Monuments Centre all announcing the launch of Chinese-language accounts on WeChat. The account provides maps, a visitors' guide and information on history and latest exhibitions – all in Chinese.

The Palace of Versailles, a national landmark on the western outskirts of Paris, also launched a Chinese WeChat account this month. The account was aimed at having “better communications with Chinese tourists”, it said on its website. All they have to do is to scan the QR code on the website or by searching for its account name “chateau-versailles”.

China Daily reported that the new luxury in China is ‘not buying Gucci bags but posting travel pictures as "Moments" on WeChat’.

At the International Luxury Travel Market Asia this week, Shaun Rein, founder and managing director of a Shanghai based China Market Research Group highlighted the country's distinctive social media habits for luxury travel suppliers worldwide to pay attention to.

London’s seen significant growth in arrivals from mainland China in recent years, with around 200,000 visiting London in 2014. By 2020, VisitBritain hopes that Chinese tourist spending in the UK will double to £1 billion.

In The Walpole’s Eastern Growth Summit in London last week theme that emerged was the importance of catching Chinese travelers’ attention before they leave China. Speakers cited research indicating that Chinese outbound shoppers make the majority of their purchase decisions pre-travel, making it difficult for brands to influence sales when on the ground in the UK.

WeChat is becoming a necessary tool to reach and influence Chinese tourist-shoppers, particularly as the third-most popular communications tool following traditional media and television.