CHINAVIA – Chinese Tourists in Scandinavia – Lessons for Australia

Clean, green, relaxed is the image Scandinavia portrays – sounds familiar, doesn’t it!
Lack of Chinese Translation is a Problem – something Australia is addressing pretty well.

Our correspondent Kate Ritchie has recently returned from a ‘study’ of Chinese tourism in Scandinavia.

”Chinese tourists collect destinations. They are often in a hurry …They want a lot of services and a feeling of luxury …Taking photographs at the destination is an important part of the journey.”

”The Chinese tourists can’t believe that you can roam freely in nature! If they stop long enough to get out in the scenery they love it. The problem is getting them there.”  Research study at the Linné University in Växjö, Sweden, 2010

The destinations in Scandinavia are idyllic and beautiful nature abounds. Problems like lack of information in Chinese and lack of Chinese speaking service staff; poor service, irregular transport, poor Chinese food and early closing times also abound!  Sound familiar? Reminds me how far Australia has come in its attraction and support of Chinese tourists. Other countries, like Denmark, are not so far advanced, but quickly catching up.

China-Denmark Tourism Year in 2017

And Australia thought it was the only one! In 2017, Denmark is also celebrating China-Denmark Tourism Year. And Chinese tourists were busily enjoying the fruits of that promotion in Denmark and further afield in Scandinavia.

Under a common logo with a panda and a mermaid, both countries marketed themselves as tourist destinations to each other’s population throughout the year.

Denmark is the first European country to get a Tourism Year agreement with China. “We look for the greatest tourism potential,” Flemming Brunh, director at the National Danish tourism organisation, Visit Denmark said – again sounds familiar! Next year all of the EU will be beneficiaries.

With 125 billion Chinese tourists expected to travel overseas in 2017, there is huge potential in Chinese tourism, as we all know. More and more Chinese are making the long hike to Scandinavia: the number of Chinese bednights in Denmark tripled from 2008 to 2014, and in 2016, Chinese stayed 218,000 nights in Denmark, according to Bruhn.

An analysis from 2015, made by the Confederation of Danish Industry, shows that each Chinese traveler spent 250 US dollars per day in Denmark – almost four times more than the average tourist to the little kingdom. Again, sounds familiar.

But how to increase places visited?

Visit Denmark set up a goal to increase the number of Chinese bednights in Denmark by 25 percent to 272,500 by 2018. Furthermore, Denmark wants Chinese tourists to stay for an average of two days instead of the current day and a half, and to get out of Copenhagen. Again sounds familiar but how to achieve?

Tell Stories

Despite Denmark’s attempt to re-brand itself as a modern, trendy and vibrant destination, the Danish tourism authorities are still selling the country’s historical sights and Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales to attract that growing number of Chinese tourists. Indeed, in the logo to celebrate the Year of Tourism is the mermaid, alongside the panda.

Andersen is the quintessential icon of Denmark to Chinese; Chinese students are all familiar with the writer. They have read his fairy tales at school. It is thus considered wise to tap into the preconceived ideas of the Chinese and build an awareness of and affinity for Denmark. But as one tourism official lamented: celebrating Andersen’s fairy tales is not consistent with the attempt to brand Denmark as a cool, modern country. This shows a tension between “dated” preconceptions that have strong commercial value with cultivating a new desired destination identity.

Also trying to get them to extend their stay: “We tell the Chinese that the hometown of Hans Christian Andersen, Odense, is a must-see. We tell them that the original Legoland is to be found in Billund (and not in Malaysia). We tell them about Vikings and plan trips that make sure they travel around the country. We don’t do this to drag them away from Copenhagen but to make them stay in Denmark a little longer,” Bruhn said in an interview with gbtimes.

Increase accessibility
According to experts, growth in Chinese tourists is due to a range of factors.

In early 2012, SAS Airlines opened a new route between Copenhagen and Shanghai, and Copenhagen is now becoming a cruise destination that many tourists are interested in; the Year of China Denmark Tourism and the promotion around that will also draw more visits.

Anyone who spends time in Copenhagen’s city centre will have inevitably encountered the hordes of camera-clad Chinese tourists recently. Not speaking Danish, I found it refreshing to be able to converse with other tourists in Chinese. And there has been a drastic increase in Chinese tourists in Denmark, with figures rising 127 percent since 2010.

Problems to overcome – Chinese Tourist Demands

While Chinese tourists are impressed by the historical architecture of the city, they do not find the European heritage to be as rich and exciting as other European cities, such as Rome, Paris or London. Hence the need for a good narrative (in Chinese). A strong digital presence is required for trip planning and “selling” the stories.

The Chinese find their experiences are hindered by language. There are few signs in Chinese and not many service staff speak Chinese. We noticed minimal tourism information and brochures in Chinese translation. Tourists’ English language skills are generally poor. Quality of Chinese tour guides was variable – there were a lot of bored looking tourists following those ubiquitous flags around.

Desirable souvenirs – businesses are trying to generate another class of souvenirs that Chinese tourists could appreciate since minimalistic Danish design and the high cost of goods do not appeal to them, whereas Andersen fairy tale creatures  do. A good point to note!

Chinese tourists want to see clean and green; they want to indulge in serenity and tranquillity and they want to broaden their minds by exploring local history, culture and society – authenticity is key. Chinese Translation is the bridge.

Training of staff and preparation of destinations for Chinese visitors needs to be improved; good Chinese food is important (more than local food!) and was lacking; companionship and the propensity for larger groups needs to be catered for.

Welcoming Chinese Tourists – what they want

  • Tell a good story about the offering with lots of pictures and in Chinese Language
  • Translate all relevant information to Chinese and make available online and on social media like WeChat and Weibo
  • Exclusive offers and shopping specials and signs translated in Chinese
  • Payment methods that the Chinese can use
  • Make videos showing Chinese enjoying the experiences (Chinese subtitles)
  • Train guides who can conduct groups to the key points of interest, recount some history and allow ample photo opps
  • Cater for groups and make it quick and easy
  • Free wifi and plenty of whistle stops on those tour buses
  • Affordable souvenirs that continue the story
  • Extend shop opening hours.
  • Develop a rabbit hopping or other unique experience (The Amazing Race TV series is back in Denmark promoting the destination to Chinese. Rabbit hopping is destined to be a hit sport in China, I reckon)



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