Chinese digital platforms partner with tourism boards to drive growth in Chinese tourism

“The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.” – Sir Richard Burton

Travel. It’s no longer a luxury exclusive to the rich and famous. It’s now a mainstream activity for people around the world.

A study by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) reported that there were 1,322 million international tourists in 2017, a growth of 7% from 2016. This growth was shaped partly by the global economic upswing and robust outbound demand from many traditional and emerging source markets.

One of these emerging markets is China. China is one of the strongest contributors of international tourists, with an estimated 131 million outbound trips. That is a whopping 10% of the entire world’s population of international travellers!

According to a Nielsen report on outbound Chinese tourists, overseas travel spending by Chinese tourists reached USD $261.1 billion in 2016, which is an increase of 4.5% year-on-year.

As the top travel spenders, Chinese tourists are driving growth in tourism revenue for countries all over the world from the USA and Hong Kong to Europe, Thailand, and Singapore.

To capitalize on this massive growth of the outbound Chinese tourist market, online travel aggregators (OTAs) and social channels, such as Ctrip, Mafengwo, and WeChat, are enticing individual tourism boards to invest in their platforms to target Chinese tourists. The offering of multiple touchpoints within the platforms and partnerships is a proven growth driver of Chinese tourists for many countries.

This article discusses the successful tourism board partnerships of the 3 major travel platforms in China: WeChat, Ctrip, and Mafengwo.

Most popular destinations Chinese tourists(Source: Nielsen)



Connecting with 846 million Chinese people seemed farfetched before the birth of WeChat. Today, though, it’s truth.

The rampant usage of the super app within China has sparked a trend for tourism boards around the world to use WeChat for tourism marketing.

As part of the international business division of Tencent, WeChat Go was created as a partnership entity to work with tourism boards and tourist-targeting verticals, like telcos, hotels, and airlines.

WeChat Go partnership

(Source: WeChat)

Following a successful partnership between WeChat Go and the Netherlands Royal Communications Group to launch a WeChat Go SIM card that offers coverage in over 32 European territories in 2017, they launched the “Europe Experience” Mini Program in late March 2018.

As a one-stop platform for Chinese tourists to obtain detailed information about tourist attractions, great food, and shopping within Europe, the Mini Program helps Chinese tourists with daily information and necessities on their Europe travel escapades, from purchasing tickets for popular places to receiving promotional coupons for local vendors.

So far, WeChat Go enhances traveller experiences in Europe, the United States, and South East Asia and seeking more opportunities with overseas business partners.


Being the largest OTA in China with more than 300 million Chinese users, and only behind Priceline and Expedia on the global stage, Ctrip has no lack of “suitors” of potential partners from the tourism board and tourism industry leaders.

One of these suitors was the Hungary Tourism Agency, which led to a successful strategic partnership with Ctrip in November 2017. This partnership was backed by the rising trend of Chinese travellers to Eastern European countries.

Ctrip partners Hungary

(Source: Travel Daily Media)

The effort to help China recognise Hungary as a top travel destination was clear after a Ctrip-sponsored Chinese TV drama series “Love Actually” was filmed on location in Budapest and aired in China. According to Ctrip’s November 2017 statistics, Hungary enjoyed a 40% hike in growth year-on-year from trips made by Chinese tourists after the agreement.

Another successful Ctrip partnership is with the European Travel Commission to promote destination marketing and growth within Europe. Ms Jenna Qian, CEO of Ctrip’s Destination Marketing, said during the signing of the strategic partnership agreement,”Ctrip will become a bridge between China and the West and will support the development of distinctive tourism products and services for One Belt One Road countries.”

Jenna Qian Ctrip CEO of destination marketing

Jenna Qian, CEO of Ctrip’s Destination Marketing

Ctrip’s investments into their ABC (AI, big data, cloud computing) technology will continue to see more international partnerships and bridge effective communication between Chinese tourists and travel destinations around the world.



Driven by consumer-created content, Mafengwo focuses on experiential sharing amongst millennials, thereby creating a digital travel community. What attracts its 100-million-strong userbase is the user-generated content that provides credible reviews of travel destinations. Think Instagram + TripAdvisor = Mafengwo.

The rise of Mafengwo’s popularity in the Chinese travel industry has led to numerous strategic partnerships with tourism boards.

The most recent partnership was between Tourism Australia and Mafengwo in August 2018. Through the partnership, Tourism Australia aims to drive a higher level of engagement and growth with Chinese tourists and tourism footfall conversions via a dedicated Australia travel page to provide users with information about the Down Under.

Chinese tourists in Australia

Tourists overlooking the beautiful Twelve Apostles in Melbourne, Australia

Tapping into the big data of Mafengwo, this partnership provides Tourism Australia with valuable insights into Chinese consumers and how to market the best experience to cater to Chinese tourists visiting Australia.

The strong competition of Ctrip, WeChat, Mafengwo, and all the other Chinese OTAs and digital platforms will ensure quality digital offerings for tourism boards, brands, and advertisers to tap into the massive opportunities in Chinese tourists.

Chat Chat is a digital solutions provider, offering tailormade digital solutions to reach Chinese tourists in Singapore and across the region. We can help you target your audience. Get in touch.

Related Posts