According to Hotels.com, almost 75% of Chinese travellers prefer to book their hotels via an online travel agent.
And no, that doesn’t mean Booking.com or Expedia.
The Chinese market is dominated by 2 other players: Ctrip and Qunar (which literally means “go where?”). These online travel agents (OTAs) account for about 70% of hotel bookings made by Chinese. And their inventory is huge – in Sydney alone, there are over 500 hotels listed on these sites.
To get your slice of the booming Chinese tourist market, it’s crucial your hotel stands out on these OTAs. To do that you need to have a high ranking. Let’s face it – no one is going to scroll to page 10 to find your hotel.
So, how can a hotel stand out, achieve a high ranking and start getting more bookings? Here are our top 5 tips.
1. Know your Chinese reviews
The new breed of independent Chinese travellers are some of the biggest researchers in world travel. According to Hotels.com’s 2016 Chinese International Travel Monitor, 44% of Chinese travellers rely on online reviews on OTAs for travel information, making these reviews extremely powerful.
For instance, a few bad reviews could push your hotel way down the rankings, meaning it will never be seen by the vast majority of users. Alternatively, a handful of great reviews or a recommendation by an “sleep tester” on Qunar could see your hotel shoot up the list.
2. Encourage more reviews
This one is simple! More reviews = a higher ranking.
In our audits of Ctrip and Qunar, a hotel with a 3.8 out of 5 rating and 50 reviews will greatly outrank a hotel with the same rating but only 10 reviews.
Your front-of-house staff are essential in this step! Before or during check-out, ensure staff direct your Chinese guests to leave a review on Ctrip or Qunar (or a travel guide site like Qyer or Mafengwo). Other options include having a translated sign on the front-desk asking for reviews, or offering a gift or incentive. If your hotel has set up a WeChat account (another thing you should be doing!), your front-desk staff could also ask to add them as a friend at check-out and then you can send a message a week later asking for a review.
3. Have the facilities that lead to higher rankings
Both Ctrip and Qunar use algorithms to determine a hotel’s ranking, and these algorithms prioritise certain features or facilities. For instance, having free wi-fi is one feature that both OTAs weigh heavily in their rankings. We’ve previously written on the importance of free wi-fi but it is worth repeating – Chinese guests want to share their travel experiences with their friends and family back home, and they expect internet to be included in the price of their room.
Want to take it to the next level? Apply to Ctrip to become a “Chinese Preferred Hotel”. Have a look at the top 4 hotels for Sydney listed on Ctrip below and see if you can see what 3 out of the 4 have in common (note that all 4 also have the “free wi-fi” symbol):
Notice it? It’s the red stamp on the right. That stamp says to Chinese guests “this hotel welcomes me”.
When you are “Chinese Preferred Hotel” your business will be ranked higher and be more visible. Hotels with the accreditation enjoy conversion rates 15% higher than those with no endorsement.
How can you get this endorsement? We can assist you with your application, but at a minimum Ctrip requires that you offer the following:
- Chinese language information;
- Chinese food served at breakfast;
- Free wi-fi;
- Acceptance of UnionPay; and
- An electric kettle in each room.
4. Ensure your listing details are up-to-date
As previously mentioned, both Ctrip and Qunar use algorithms to come up with their own custom rankings, and these algorithms prioritise certain features. As part of our online audits of hotels, we check to make sure that your listing correctly displays all your details and facilities – you would be surprised how often out-of-date or incorrect information is used!
5. Seek out key opinion leaders and “sleep testers”
When marketers talk about key opinion leaders (“KOLs” for short), they normally mean celebrities or at least in the Chinese context, online celebrities with lots of followers. However, while these types of KOLs can be successfully used by hotels to build their brands, there is one particular type of KOL that hotels should consider approaching.
Qunar, China’s number two player in the online accommodation market, has a special program which could be roughly translated as “sleep tester”. Over 10,000 part-time sleep testers have been recruited by Qunar since 2010, and they are required to find hotels, stay for a night and then write a thorough review on Qunar’s website. Qunar reimburses hotel expenses, but does not give its sleep testers additional pay. A recommendation by a sleep tester can really boost a hotel up the rankings, as the screenshot below shows. These are the top 5 hotels for Sydney (out of a total of 520), sorted by Qunar’s custom algorithm. Note that the top 3 all have a green box under their overall rating which says “recommended by our sleep tester”.
We can help put you in touch with “sleep testers” or KOLs who can spread the word about your hotel to a much larger audience.
Want to start capitalising on the Chinese independent tourist boom? Contact China Ready Now and we’ll get you on the path to improving your online reputation and getting more online bookings from Chinese guests.