E-tourism in China: it’s Weibo the favorite travel app


As the purchasing power grows in China, a new DIY e-tourism is rising. No more travel agency thus: Millenials love to build their own adventure and Weibo turned out to be their favorite travel app


While a new middle-class was emerging in the PRC, Chinese started to travel the world as never before. According to the China National Tourism Administration, in 2017, tourism experienced an increase of 7% from the previous year. However, what is truly significant is the rise of a “do it yourself” travel trend.

More and more netizen now prefer to organize their own trips so that new travel apps have born and even old platforms had to update their offer in order to respond to this rising need. No more travel agency thus: Millenials love to build their own adventure!

As travel has become a need for new generations, sharing on Social Media has become a must. The Dragon’s Social Networks has thus inspired millions of young Chinese, changing their way of seeing the world and becoming the hub for travel bloggers. E-tourism is the result of this brand-new way of thinking travel: a combination of DIY and content sharing.

However, while e-tourism was growing in the Middle Kingdom, travel agencies started to lose efficacy. In fact, nowadays most of the daily actions are made through smartphones. Paying bills, booking tables at restaurants, calling a taxi, these are only some examples of how society is changing into a world with a fewer need of physical offices or stores.


e-tourism in china - chongqing - cifnews

©123rf. In 2017, 95% of the GDP related to tourism and travel in Chongqing was generated by Chinese travelers.


In the country with the largest number of internet users – 50% of the world’s online users – of which nearly 80% are on smartphones only, e-tourism and DIY travel quickly became netizen’s favorite option when organizing their holidays abroad.

Through their favorite apps, new generations are able to make their own choices without the need of a counselor. They can also read direct reviews on travel platforms where every information needed is easy to find without further searches.

In addition, Chinese new tourists are from 20 to 40 years old and their cultural level is above the average. Therefore, they represent the emerging middle-class who have the means to travel and the curiosity to discover new cultures beyond national borders.

They are heavily connected to the internet where they look for former tourists’ advice, book their trips, share their photos and then give travel tips. Social Media are thus part of the experience. Indeed, while traveling, Millennials’ first demand for hotels is to have WiFi, even before the need for a hot water kettle.


e-tourism in china - shen wei - cifnews

©Weibo. With 5.95 million followers on Weibo, Shen Wei 神威 is China’s most famous travel blogger.


Among these travelers, new key opinion leaders stand out. The travel blogger has recently become the number one in gaining people’s trust so that these new KOLs are now the first source of information for Chinese who plan to visit other countries.


The Dragon’s society gives an enormous value to sharing and comparing with the community, so travel KOLs receive total trust from the consumers.


Molly is one of the favorite travel influencers. 貓力 Molly is among the most influential profiles of the new Chinese generation who decided to make their life a unique experience discovering the different cultures of the world. In her interview with the Reading Time Journal, she told how she began visiting the poorest places in Asia, almost penniless, and how she found fortune by sharing her trips on Social Networks.


e-tourism in china - molly - maolimaoli - cifnews

©Weibo. 貓力 Molly before becoming a star among Chinese travel bloggers, she was a simple college student. Since then, she gained 5.45 million followers on Weibo.


“It’s not that hard to ‘do in Rome as Rome does’, you only need to open your heart, and stop adhering strictly to your little perspectives on the world,” Molly said on her Weibo. Weibo is, in fact, where she found her fortune. On this microblog, she has millions of fans who follow her adventures and take notes for their future trips.


Although online travel agencies like Ctrip has 23% of the market share, it is the Social Network Weibo the favorite app for Chinese e-tourism.


Weibo is the microblogging website created by Sina in 2009. As one of the most popular Social Network in the PRC, it has about 500 million registered users. Its touristic strength is that it allows agencies, hotels and various services to stay close to their customers.

In the platform, major travel KOLs share content related to their trips influencing their community about destinations and services they used. They are seen as experts to consult before planning the holidays.

According to ParkLu agency’s latest report, in 2018 more than 30,000 influencers preferred Weibo to share their content. Moreover, the microblog dominated most of the conversations related to the Golden Week holidays destinations, followed by Little Red Book, Douyin, and WeChat.


e-tourism in china - weibo - cifnews

©123rf. Weibo is one of the most visited sites in China, it is estimated that more than 30% of people who have access to the internet in China uses Sina Weibo.


With a profit of $ 99.1 million in the first quarter of 2018, Weibo’s media value generated by KOLs on destinations chosen for summer holidays have been $ 19.8 million for Tokyo, $ 13.5 million for Paris and $ 13.27 million for Los Angeles.

This preference is due to the attraction of travelers to Social Media based on photo and images where the visual content is the protagonist. Moreover, despite netizen also consult WeChat to plan their holidays, its reach is limited compared to Weibo where travel influencers get a wider visibility.


Therefore, while WeChat is the preferred online environment for private contacts and for Chinese travelers who want to impress their social circles, Weibo is the favorite choice to get to an extraordinary potential visibility.


In fact, although actors, singers and travel influencers have tens of millions of followers on Weibo, they do not on WeChat.

Weibo KOLs are the perfect ambassadors for both brands and travel industry as they can reach a massive audience sharing their experience. Online travel agencies, as well as travel services or destinations, have thus integrated their offline strategy with Weibo in order to attract tourists.

In addition, Chinese companies saw an opportunity in e-tourism so that many capital investments were allocated to develop the field. In fact, big online travel agencies started to make partnerships with foreign countries, airlines or companies to ease tourism process.


e-tourism in china - two girls travel in hong kong - cifnews

©123rf. Travel app changed trips organization drastically. As people used to consult travel agencies, in China now KOLs became the experts and Social Networks became the place where people seek for travel tips.


As a signal of this changing of directions of Weibo towards the e-tourism field, it now advertises a new partnership with the International booking portal, Airbnb. The big Hangzhou colossus Alibaba also followed the trend and it recently launched its own tourism platform, Alitrip.

As the middle-class emerges, Chinese tourism is becoming more and more important. Moreover, although there is a fan base that follows high-level KOLs on Weibo, destinations’ mentions are mostly provided by micro-influencers on which e-tourism platforms started to invest for their Social Media strategy.

Social Networks are now turning into a mix of useful activities and there are no boundaries among Social Media, e-commerce, entertainment, carrying out daily tasks or e-tourism anymore. Online platforms are now ready to respond to every need of the customers with extraordinary success among users.

However, for what concerns travel trends, Weibo is the app that sets the rules. Now it is time for other big platforms to be inspired by travel KOLs in order to keep their strategy up-to-date.



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