For small hotel owners, there is always the question of how to compete with the big brands in attracting international guests – especially Chinese travellers, who are estimated to be the largest growing traveller market.

Here are some tips on how to attract more international guests, with specific tips for getting those Chinese travellers to stay at your small property.

Where can you start?

To tap into the international market, you will need to…

Establish partnerships with tour operators and travel agencies that service international markets.

There are a few ways to find them.

LinkedIn. On LinkedIn, there are plenty of travel groups started by associations, or those that represent domestic and international travel agents. Joining these groups gives you the opportunity to build relationships with its members, many of whom are from top travel companies. Do a quick search of ‘travel agents’ or ‘tour operator’ in Group search and you are bound to find what you’re looking for.

Join trade associations. Often, tour operators and travel agents will send out a message when they’re looking for suppliers in new destinations.

List on local OTAs and connect with TripAdvisor so they will find you! Also, travel agents openly state that they use TripAdvisor to check out a property before offering it to their clients.

But before you reach out to them, make sure that you fully understand what they’re looking for. This requires an understanding of who their clients are, and what will appeal most to them.

Don’t just send a generic message to all of them, but tailor each one so that they know you’ve taken the time to truly understand how your small property fits into their tour package.

Of course, make sure your website is up to par by stating your unique selling point (location, history, or distinct characteristics) that will be of interest to international travellers. Fill it up with descriptive photos and testimonials to build a solid online reputation.

Distribute your rooms through a number of OTAs

It’s wise to connect with as many OTAs as you can, because you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket. If one site suddenly goes down, then a large chunk of your rooms don’t get sold!

Many small hotels are worried they won’t be able to manage more channels, but this is where an online reservation system comes in. Using a pooled inventory model, a modern system like Little Hotelier makes sure you’re never double-booked, but you sell as many rooms as possible, through as many booking sites as possible.

How can small hotels attract Chinese travellers in particular?

Chinese travellers are the most-wanted segment in the travel market at the moment – and it’s no surprise, because they are the world’s biggest spenders (SMH).

To attract Chinese travellers, your small hotel needs to be listed as one of their options when they’re doing their research – whether it’s online or offline.

While traditionally, they use Chinese sites Baidu and Daodao, there’s a new trend of savvy, young Chinese travellers booking their stays on international platforms.

To get them to stay with you:

  • Include traditional online channels in your distribution strategy. Independent tourists are more savvy, and are likely using online channels that are popular where you are – such as TripAdvisor and Airbnb.
  • Increase brand visibility in online and offline Chinese travel guides. Sometimes, independent tourists use local providers to book travel arrangements. However, they will still use Chinese language travel guides to navigate their way around the city. It’s important that your business is listed in these guides and resources.
  • Connect with Chinese OTAs. It would be a mistake to neglect the OTA market in China.

At the very least, you should connect with Ctrip, as it dominates China’s OTA travel market with 54.2% of market share (China Internet Watch). Its mobile app has been downloaded more than 160 million times.

A modern online reservation system like Little Hotelier should connect you to Ctrip.

Other OTAs to list with include Zanado and eLong.

Tailor your offering

Besides personalising their experience by welcoming them in their own language, Ctrip reports that you can attract them by offering:

  • Chinese-speaking customer service staff;
  • Chinese TV programs; and,
  • Chinese menus.

Upsell services like shopping tours and Chinese language services, as Chinese travellers are well-known for their interest in luxury shopping while overseas.

Looking to tap into the international market? Why not take a free trial of Little Hotelier? We will connect you to hundreds of booking sites, including Ctrip.

Looking to tap into the international market? Why not take a free trial of Little Hotelier? We will connect you to hundreds of booking sites, including Ctrip.

By Dean Elphick

Dean is the Senior Content Marketing Specialist of Little Hotelier, the all-in-one software solution purpose-built to make the lives of small accommodation providers easier. Dean has made writing and creating content his passion for the entirety of his professional life, which includes more than six years at Little Hotelier. Through content, Dean aims to provide education, inspiration, assistance, and, ultimately, value for small accommodation businesses looking to improve the way they run their operations (and live their life).