Tag Archives: travel trends 2014

WTM Report Reveals WeChat’s E-Commerce Expansion

With the travel industry descending into the capital en masse for World Travel Market 2014, the latest trends and forecasts in the tourism sector are emerging thick and fast. We’ve been keeping an eye out for the ones that mean the most to our clients (and ourselves!) and something that’s really caught our eye is the rapid rise of WeChat (Weixin) in China.

WeChat is China’s fastest-growing mobile platform, and has become the second largest global messaging service, with 440 million active users to rival WhatsApp’s 500 million. It’s so popular in China that it has become Weibo’s biggest competitor, further fuelling the enduring rivalry between internet service providers Sina and Tencent.

Inevitably, marketers have been turning their eye towards the platform, and some brands have already established a presence on there. The WTM Global Trends Report 2014 indicates that this popularity shows no sign of slowing: In fact, the platform is emerging as a viable sales channel for travel companies.

The report, in association with Euromonitor International, has revealed that WeChat is expected to generate revenues of US$1.1 billion in 2014 and grow by 40% in 2015. Although most of this revenue comes from online games, the company is currently focusing on increasing its revenues from mobile commerce and payments. Given that surveys suggest that it is the most popular platform in China for the sharing of travel experiences, this can only be good news for those wishing to sell their offering to the Chinese market.

WeChat (as well as LINE, a Japanese-based service which is gradually gaining traction in China) now allows companies to manage customer support through their app, which is particularly useful for the travel trade, where a swift response to customer issues can make the difference between a positive and negative interaction. Several travel businesses are already taking advantage of this. Leading online travel agency Ctrip is selling air, rail and attractions tickets through WeChat, whilst Chinese taxi app DidiDache saw its users double to 40 million in one month after beginning a partnership with company. Low-cost carrier Spring Airlines also launched a WeChat service in April 2014, allowing users to book flights and check in using the app.

According to the WTM Global Trends Report 2014, WeChat is expected to be lauched on all internet-connected movile devices including smartwatches and smartglasses, meaning that the platform will tap in to another key growing trend. As World Travel Market’s Senior Director, Simon Press, commented: “Instant messaging platforms have emerged from nowhere to become an important sales channel in one of the world’s fastest growing travel markets, and there is still more growth to come.

“And as accessing the internet from a smartphone becomes commonplace, instant messaging as a transactional channel could take off in mature markets as well.”

China’s significance as a growing travel market isn’t waning, and emerging technological advances such as WeChat’s should make us all sit up and take notice. The ability to provide customer service via the platform is ideal for companies based outside of China who have previously found providing real-time customer service a challenge; whilst the expansion of its e-commerce capabilities means that brands enhancing their presence on the app can follow customer interactions through to purchase. The app’s early adaptation to mobile devices, including wearables, means that it is well-placed to continue its trajectory as one of China’s leading social media platforms.

In short, there’s no reason to delay in embracing WeChat as the best new way to interact with, and sell to, the vast Chinese travel market. Language barrier a problem? It’s not a problem for us at Rhubarb Fool, so why don’t you get in touch?

UK Tourism: What’s Sport Got To Do With It?

Are you excited about the World Cup? We certainly are. Nothing seems to bring people together like sport, and of course, we’re rooting for England.

All eyes are on Brazil right now, and we can’t help but think of the effect the tournament will have on their tourism industry. The question is even more pertinent when we consider the fact that we’re hosting our own world cup (the Rugby one) next year here in the UK.

Ever since the Olympics in 2012, we’ve seen tourism figures for visitors to the UK go from strength to strength. We were lucky to avoid the so-called post-Olympic ‘curse’ that sparks a lull in tourism.

The spotlight was put on London, and London delivered. Its status (and by proxy, the whole country’s status) as a must-visit destination doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon. What role does sport play in this?

Some would argue that the recent success of UK tourism is not so much to do with the golden aftermath of the Olympics, and more attributable to the fact that there were a series of internationally high-profile events in quick succession: the royal wedding, the Golden Jubilee, the royal birth.

There is probably an element of truth to this – the fact that the royals are a significant draw for tourists can’t be underestimated. But it would be obtuse to deny the role sporting attractions have to play.

We are a sporting nation, famous not only for ubiquitous football, but for cricket, tennis, rugby…the list goes on. The homes of these sports, such as Lords cricket ground or Twickenham stadium, draw plenty of visitors to their museums and stadium tours.

Then there’s the fact that we are home to some of the most high profile football clubs in the world. Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal are just a

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few examples of clubs with an international brand and fans across the globe.

For these fans, the chance to come to the UK and experience the home grounds of their favourite clubs first hand is more than enough reason to pick the UK as a holiday destination.

A wealth of organisations benefit from the slew of sports tourists visiting the UK. Sports tour operators arrange visits to stadium tours and games, and sports bars and restaurants such as the recently opened Café Football in Westfield Stratford City also capitalise on the trend.

So what will the future hold for tourism in 2015? Inevitably there’ll be plenty of rugby enthusiasts descending on the capital to enjoy the games and the atmosphere. And if current trends are anything to go by, the tournament will only enhance the UK’s reputation as a globally significant sports tourism destination.

London tourism is booming. Here’s why ….

According to London & Partners, in 2012, 27.6m visitors stayed in London and spent £12.9bn.

15.5m of these visitors were from overseas. They spent £10.1bn, which represented 56% of the market and 80% of the total spend.

In 2013 London is set to be the world’s most popular destination for foreign travellers– smashing the 16m visitor mark by the end of the year. Total visitor spend is up 11% on 2012.

By 2015 another 2.1m overseas visitors are expected to visit. The increased visitor figures are being driven by reinvigorated markets in North America (17%), Latin America (22%) and Asia Pacific (23%). These markets deliver the highest spend per head.

Since August 2012, 12 high-end hotels have opened in London. Not exceptional in itself, were it not for the fact that London hotels continue to deliver occupancy rates of over 80%.

Another 20-plus hotels are scheduled to open in London by 2016. All indicators point to the fact that London’s tourism industry will go from strength to strength in the coming years. But why?

Rhubarb Fool account manager Constance Mance reflects on its growing popularity.

… Over recent years, London has become one of the world’s premier tourist destinations, and the trend looks set to continue. This is not new information. But what exactly makes our capital city such an irresistible place to visit?

Just take one trip on the tube or a walk down one of our bustling streets and you’ll hear native Londoners moaning – about the weather, about the crowds, probably about the tourists themselves! But something about this place makes visitors tick.

It seems like London is a place of constant evolution. The Shard, the tallest building in the European Union, now looms over our skyline as a striking and unavoidable reminder of modernity. It represents not only the development of the London Bridge quarter, but development of the city as a whole.

With it, and other developments of its kind, a whole new experience is open to both Londoners and visitors. Districts that used to lie on the periphery of the main attractions now have an identity and a draw of their own. Shops, offices, restaurants, hotels – even an observatory –

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they all find a home in one remarkable structure.

This is the essence of modernity and convenience. Viewing the city from the Shard you can see just how sprawling it is, how diverse. It is this diversity that is ripe for exploring, and that draws visitors in.

Individual places of interest cease to be the main draw – the city itself is one big, incredible attraction – a playground in which there are virtually no limits on what can be discovered.

Panoramic city views and contemporary developments with luxurious multi-purpose complexes give London an explicitly modern flavour. This is heightened by the extensive development the city saw in advance of the 2012 Olympics. London’s identity has been invigorated and given a worldwide image as a cutting edge city that moves with the times.

But modernity and consequent change doesn’t obscure the rich heritage our city has to offer – it is more of an enhancement, an extra layer.

All over the city beautiful architecture and places of interest from all ages still stand proud – from gorgeous Georgian townhouses to obscure wedge-shaped medieval pubs, to a formidable river fortress. These create a sense of living, breathing history – a visible timeline, if you like. It’s the juxtaposition of extremes of old and new that gives London part of its unique edge.

Such an environment is a fertile ground for creativity and vibrant culture – and the proof is all around us. London is an unparalleled location for the arts, fashion, music, theatre – all of these things are huge draws for tourists from all destinations.

And the beauty lies in that these things are always changing – evolving and pushing boundaries. Much like the city itself.

London’s capacity for reinvention, change, and juxtaposition of modernity and heritage gives it multiple identities – and therefore innumerable selling points as a tourist destination. It is a city of cutting edge modernity and design, a city of fashion, of shopping, of history and of culture. In short, it can be whatever you make it.

The city is your oyster, so tap into one of the many growing tourist markets and make the most of it.

Rhubarb Fool

Global Travel Trends for 2014

Rhubarb Fool picked up some key travel trends for 2014 from its trip

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to World Travel Market.

Hanky PANKy

There’s a new demographic in town: PANKs. Read “Professional Aunt, No Kids”. Sound crazy? Well, they collectively spend billions on travelling with nieces and nephews. yes, billions!

The emerging market covers women over the age of 18 who do not have children, but have a close relationship with children of friends and relatives.

As of 2010, just over 42% of women in the US aged 15 to 44 were childless, as women have children later in life or choose not to have children at all.

Almost half (48%) of PANKs enjoy travelling with nieces and nephews, and this figure is set to grow as the travel industry turns its sights on these generous aunties.

Concierge in Your Pocket

The Mobile Concierge – Ahead of the curve Rhubarb Fool has been banging on about the power of the “Mobile Concierge” for some time now. Don’t believe us? Then why not download our IN London iPad app! The best of London for high-spending tourists on your iPad.

We want to take it one step further though and imbed Concierge services into your app and reservation channels. So consumers can get real-time answers wherever they are on their trip.

By 2017, the mobile channel is expected to account for over 30% of online travel sales.

London is the world’s heartbeat.

Okay we knew this one already. Tourism in London and the UK is seeing a massive boost from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games – despite some pessimism in certain sectors ahead of the events. Almost two-thirds of senior industry executives say there has been an increase in demand for London after the sporting extravaganza, and more than half say demand across the UK is up too.

These positive indicators have led to companies boosting their capacity for London and the UK.

But Rio’s not far behind

The feel-good effects of the London 2012 Olympics look set to ripple outwards to Rio’s Olympic Games in 2016. Almost four out of ten (39%) of the senior industry executives polled say they are more likely to sell holidays coinciding with Rio events.

Also, 18% of UK holidaymakers surveyed say they are more likely to attend the Rio Games following the success of London 2012.

It’s Asia’s century though

Asia is poised to become a global travel and tourism leader, with almost one-third of the countries tipped for tourism potential being Asian nations. The nine Asian countries which the industry said are up-and-coming powerhouses are (in order): China, Vietnam, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Cambodia and Philippines.

China remains the most important emerging economy for the global travel and tourism industry – but some industry bosses at World Travel Market admit that their attention is no longer focused on the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). With China’s population now estimated at 1.354 billion, the Chinese are the most important BRICS market in terms of outbound travel. Also, the country is the most popular of the five in terms of its potential for inbound tourism, followed by Russia, Brazil, India and South Africa.

Travel agents may have had their day

TripAdvisor and similar peer review websites continue to have the single biggest impact on how UK holidaymakers plan their holidays. Other factors in the decision-making process include personal recommendations, tourist board websites, guide books, specialist travel magazines and newspaper travel sections. Much further down the list of influences were travel agents.

But guidebooks are still relevant

Guide books still have a place in the hearts and minds of UK travellers despite the dominance of digital information. Guide books compared well with other traditional sources such as newspaper travel sections and specialist magazines but blogs appear to be struggling to gain widespread adoption.