Small businesses set to reap the rewards of eastern promise
– Ian Wheeler is vice president of marketing and distribution at Amadeus. The opinions expressed are his own.-
In the last year, 45 million tourists (near to the population of Spain) travelled from China to the West. In fact, tourism from China grew by an average of 27 percent a year between 2002 and 2008.
As western households rein in their spending and rediscover the virtue of living within their means, Chinese consumers are taking full advantage of their higher savings rates and an enormous government stimulus package. In its latest travel industry report, The Amateur-Expert Traveller, Amadeus, has highlighted the opportunity for the UK market to gear up, ready to make the most of this trend.*
The growing importance of non-western cultures in the make-up of the world’s travellers has very real consequences and opportunities for small businesses. It is essential that the UK tourism industry taps into this market and looks to develop new products, services and working practices to suit this new and lucrative influx from the East.
The resulting trend within the market is the development of niche services, services that are built around specific traveller requirements – gone are the days of the one-size-fits-all approach. The opportunity for travel agents and travel service providers is clear. It all comes back to the old adage of know your customer, only then can you really tailor your services to this growing customer base. In a culture where trust is an important factor in ensuring your customers come back again and again, SMEs would be well advised to get ahead of the curve.
However, it is not just about eastern tourists bringing their cash to Europe. There is significant appetite among Europeans to visit emerging and far-flung tourist destinations, like China. Travellers are increasingly swapping sangria for Tsingtao. Social networking and user generated content have been cited as drivers for this shift, as technology acts as a cultural leveller, opening up new parts of the world to the adventurous traveller. As consumers roam further afield, travel agents now have the opportunity to provide that layer of consultancy, information that you cannot get from the internet, to their customer base. A perfect way to drive loyalty in a competitive market.
In conclusion, travellers want to be treated like individuals. The good news is, that small to mid-sized businesses are best placed to exploit these trends due to their entrepreneurial spirit and agility. The more that the industry, be that travel agents, hotels or service providers, can tap into this the better. As we see the rise of niches – both great and small – UK businesses, if they are smart, could be set to reap the rewards of this eastern promise.
*To read the full Amateur-Expert Traveller industry report visit The Amateur Expert Traveller