Over 100m Chinese will travel during Chinese New Year

And other news in Greater China

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SHANGHAI--With the Chinese Lunar New Year just around the corner, eight in 10 Chinese, or 110 million consumers, are packing up for a week-long vacation, according to ACNielsen. Family reunions are the major reason for many Chinese taking a trip during the "golden week" holidays, including Chinese New Year.

Among those planning to travel, more than one-third will stay within the country to attend a family event during Spring Festival, as Chinese New Year is officially called by the country's Communist leadership, while 18% will travel domestically as tourists and nearly one in 10 will go overseas.

Many Chinese move to other cities or provinces for better job opportunities, and "after a year’s hard work, Spring Festival and a family reunion are occasions they have been looking forward to. In recent years Chinese people have become increasingly mobile, and as travel restrictions are relaxed, many are choosing to spend the week-long vacation outside the country," said Shanghai-based Grace Pan, ACNielsen's head of travel and leisure research in China.

This year, going south is the preferred choice for a lot of Chinese travelers with Hong Kong, Macau and the rest of Asia the most popular destinations. Among those who have booked trips overseas, up to 74% are visiting Hong Kong during Chinese New Year.

Other Asian destinations at the top of Chinese travelers’ list are Macau (43%), Singapore (23%), South Korea (19%), Taiwan (17%), Japan (16%), Thailand (15%) and Malaysia (14%). More Chinese are opting for long-haul travel as well, with 16% planning to travel to Australia. Despite the cold weather, 13% have chosen Europe as a destination, followed by Canada (7%) and the U.S. (6%), even though neither of these countries have been granted approved destination status for Chinese travelers.

“It’s worth noting that while only 13% are planning to travel to Europe for the coming Chinese New Year holiday, one-third voted Europe as their dream travel destination if time or money were no issue to them," said Ms. Pan.

Chinese consumers prefer to take control of their travel itineraries. More than 50% of international travelers and 62% of domestic travelers said they organize their own accommodation and travel itineraries.

“With the emergence of various online travel information sources such as online travel diaries and online travel discussion forums, there is no doubt Chinese travelers are more informed and therefore able to make their own personalized travel plans," she added.

Known to be big spenders on their travels, Chinese tourists are setting out with a bulging wallet. More than half claim they will spend $130-$650, and nearly one-fifth will spend over $650, with a large proportion earmarked for retail spending. Accessories and leather goods sit at the top of the shopping list for over two-thirds of China’s overseas travelers. About 63% will also shop for gifts, and perfume and cosmetics. Other items on the shopping list are souvenirs (61%) and jewelry and watches (47%).

“Shopping is still at the top of the agenda for many Chinese when they travel, especially on overseas trips. The year-end bonus payout by many companies and the appreciation of the Chinese yuan versus the Hong Kong dollar, for example, are both good reasons for many Chinese consumers to be more enthusiastic about shopping when they take their vacation this year," said Ms. Pan.

Lenovo partners with Formula One
BEIJING--Lenovo Group, the Chinese computer manufacturer that acquired IBM Corp.'s PC division in late 2004, has signed a sponsorship agreement with the AT&T Williams team competing in the Formula One World Championship. Lenovo's technology will be used bu the Oxford, U.K.-based team for ignition checks, race operations and other functions. In exchange, the Lenovo logo will be displayed in the dominant branding position on the 2007 cars of drivers Nico Rosberg and Alex Wurz.

The latest move by one of China's most successful companies to raise its global profile, the partnership allows Lenovo to "catch a considerable global attention in one of the world’s most compelling sports. Lenovo has risen out of the ashes of IBM, with great intensity and passion to become a truly global company in a very short period of time," said Beijing-based Greg Paull, founder and principal of R3, an independent marketing consultancy that is tracking brand and star performance connected to the 2008 games. Lenovo is the only Chinese company to become a global sponsor of the 2008 Olympic Games. In October 2006, it signed a global marketing partnership with the National Basketball Association.

The first Tesco opened in China near Beijing
BEIJING--Tesco, the biggest retailer in the U.K. and the fourth-largest in the world, has opened the first store in China carrying the Tesco name.

Le Gou Tesco (le gou means "happy shopping" in Mandarin) is located near Beijing and marks the start of a major expansion of the Tesco brand across China. The Tesco store would be recognizable to a U.K. shopper, using similar branding and packaging in-store, and on own-label goods.

The retailer, which entered China in 2004 in a 50-50 joint venture with the country's largest noodle manufacturer, Ting Hsin, has a stake in 46 stores in the country, which are currently branded Le Grou Hymall. Hymall is an established retailer in the region, and its orange branding will maintain a presence alongside Tesco's blue and red colors.

In December, Tesco upped its stake in the joint venture to 90%, and has applied to rebrand all its Chinese stores as Le Gou Tesco. A Tesco spokesman said, "Our international model is to go with local experts who know the market. We bring retail expertise."

The company has focused on a strategy to grow in three key areas of China - the north (including Beijing and Tianjin), the east (including Shanghai) and south (including Guangzhou).

Terry Leahy, chief executive of Tesco, said in a statement, "We have seen exciting growth in China and are looking forward to the partnership entering a new phase. Ting Hsin continues to be a large shareholder in the business. They are a valued supplier of food products and we benefit from their unrivalled local knowledge as we grow the business together."

Tesco commands a 31.5% share of the U.K. supermarket sector and already has a presence in 12 countries through joint ventures with companies including Carrefour. Tesco has just launched in the U.S. under the name "Fresh and Easy Neighborhood Market" with small stores similar to Tesco Express in the U.K.

Tesco began as a U.K. market stall in 1919 and had a major growth phase in the 1990s when it shook off its unfashionable image. The expansion was spearheaded by the launch of a hugely successful loyalty scheme and the innovative Tesco.com, which claims to be the world's leading home delivery grocery site. Consistent growth means that only Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Home Depot are now larger than Tesco.

It employs 370,000 people and operates 2,800 stores generating $750 million profit a year in Thailand, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Slovenia, Turkey, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan as well as China, U.S and U.K.
--by Emma Hall, Advertising Age's London correspondent

Visa and Bank of China forge Olympic alliance
SHANGHAI--Two sponsors of the 2008 Olympic Games, Visa International and Bank of China (BOC), have formed an alliance to optimize payment facilities at Olympic venues, including construction of a secure payment platform. Visa, a global sponsor through an agreement with the International Olympic Committee, is the exclusive official payment card and payment service provider for the event. Bank of China, a national partner signed by the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG), is the exclusive provider of commercial and investment banking products and services.

As Visa’s partner in providing Olympic venue payment facilities and services, BOC will support Visa card acceptance at the Olympic Games ticketing systems, POS terminals, ATMs and online ticket sale transactions. In addition, Visa and BOC will jointly promote Visa Olympic-themed cards and expand merchant acceptance networks in Olympic cities.

NBC issues license for local version of "Access Hollywood"
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA--NBC Universal's international television distribution arm has licensed a Mandarin-language version of its entertainment program "Access Hollywood" in China. The series, produced in Beijing, airs as a one-hour weekly program and is hosted by Chen Juan. Produced by Small World Television, a U.S. production company that specializes in providing indigenous, local-language content to Asia's television marketplace, "Access Hollywood China" can be seen throughout the mainland.

"The appetite for international entertainment lifestyle content in China is increasing dramatically," said Jon Goodman, CEO of Small World Television. "We believe this series will be a huge success and will help build the international gateway for creating indigenous television programs in China."

Wyeth taps Tribal DDB for Centrum in China
SHANGHAI--Wyeth’s consumer healthcare division has selected DDB Worldwide’s Tribal DDB division to create an online campaign in China to expand over-the-counter vitamin brand Centrum. A digital platform will debut by the end of March, according to Diana Jim, managing director of Tribal DDB, Shanghai. The agency won the account in a pitch against two local digital shops, Agenda.com and @PR. There was no incumbent. Iinteractive campaigns previously were handled by local agencies or by Wyeth's above-the-line agency partner, Leo Burnett Worldwide. Media planning and buying remains with Zenith Media.

Unilever launches regional Lipton campaign in China
SHANGHAI--Unilever has developed a TV spot to use across Asia to promote its Lipton milk tea brand. Created by JWT's offices in Shanghai and Singapore, it is now on air in China and Hong Kong, debuts next month in Thailand and will roll out in the rest of Asia during 2007. The spot is supported by local print ads and advertorials in each market. Media buying is handled by MindShare.

Aimed at young office workers in need of a mood uplift during their long working day, the spot's storyline suggests Lipton can help consumers cope with the daily grind of work. During the ritual of making tea, a young Asian woman's clouds are literally transformed into a rainbow.

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