Tourism agencies are turning to WeChat to attract tourists

Published on : Friday, November 29, 2019

Tourism agencies are slowly turning to the most popular social media app of China, WeChat, to attract a major section of the rising outbound tourism market.


On Tuesday, the social messaging app introduced an agreement with some 30 foreign tourism agencies, including the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), to promote and use its in-app tools to get maximum Chinese visitors.


The number of Chinese tourists is increasing progressively as the country develops. In 2018, 149 million tourists went to overseas, almost 15 per cent higher than 2017.
Also, these tourists spent over US$130 billion (S$178 billion) overseas, leading some tourism experts to label Chinese visitors “walking wallets”.


For Chinese tourists, Thailand is the most preferred foreign destination as Singapore ranks seventh.


Dr. Zhang Yang from the China Tourism Academy observed that the outbound tourism market has experienced double-digit growth for the last 15 years. However, the market is evolving as well as the Chinese become are well-travelled. Where they once travelled in tour groups, at present more are opting for independent travel to “experience the local lifestyle”, she said.


“When people travel abroad now, they find information on social platforms including WeChat. In the past, they travelled with travel agencies, but now they like to plan their trips themselves,” said Dr Zhang.


The WeChat app has over 1.1 billion monthly active users, who use it for everything staring right from paying bills, booking train and plane tickets to researching attractions.


Also, it permits for mini-programs, which are sub-applications that can be customized for different purposes like buying coupons, travel insurance or serving as travel guides.
The industry grouping – Welcome with WeChat Alliance – targets to help international tourism agencies in setting up tools to reach out to the consumers in China.


For tourists, both local and foreign, it is the newest move from a Chinese company to make things seamless, after Alipay and WeChat Pay explained in November that they have designs to open up their e-payment services to foreigners visiting China.


On Tuesday, WeChat pointed out that STB was the first international tourism agency that introduced its own WeChat mini-program for the visitors from China to Singapore in 2017. It has two WeChat accounts and three mini-programs catering to different types of visitors.


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