shutterstock 151420769 - Does travel broaden the palate?

Last year 100 million Chinese went abroad as tourists. Here are our thoughts on what wine businesses can do to build their connection with this new audience.

In the grand tradition of increasingly wealthy economies, China’s newly-monied citizens have been venturing abroad as tourists in spectacular numbers. Last year Chinese overseas travelers exceeded 100 million (source: CAPA-Centre for Aviation). By 2019, according to the latest analysis by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, 174 million Chinese tourists are expected to descend on the world’s main tourist spots, spending $264 billion in the process.

Among these destinations are many major wine producing countries and regions – chiefly France, Italy, Australia, and California, but with New Zealand, Germany and Canada not far behind (source: – where the tradition of Chinese group travel and the proximity of tourist-friendly wineries represents an easy win for tour operators.

So far, so good for the wine industry. However within this surge of interest, there is a danger that the opportunity to cement a proper brand relationship with a Chinese consumer may elude the tourism-oriented wine business that isn’t fully prepared. Here are three thoughts on maximising their benefit from the Chinese tourist windfall.

Know who they are. BOA Merrill Lynch’s study reveals that 62% of the Chinese overseas travellers are age between 15 and 34. According to Wine Intelligence research, this younger age group is the fastest-growing segment in the wine category and some are getting more involved in wine. Like their western counterparts, these individuals are highly wired and easily bored. Their ideal experience is a mix of authenticity, visual spectacle (which can be instantly posted on social media) and cultural enrichment.

Connect early, connect often. The social media revolution has allowed the brand experience to begin long before the individual reaches the destination, and to continue well after they go home. Tourists are now routinely sharing photos and vignettes from their trips –’s research shows that 84% of the overseas travellers now do so – but most also likely to research their destinations before they go. In the case of Chinese tourists, they will be seeking a mobile-friendly site with at least some text in Mandarin.

Make wine part of an experiential journey. Many Chinese tourists are still bent on acquiring designer goods, but their need for memorable experiences is also growing. During our recent research on Chinese consumers, one of the more involved respondents (classified as Adventurous Connoisseur in our upcoming China Portraits segmentation) said: “When I am travelling, I pay attention to wines that I can buy or learn more about. As my life journey goes on, wine will be part it”. Another respondent, a Developing Drinker, told me; “My most memorable wine drinking experience was with a bottle of wine that my father bought back when he travelled to New Zealand. It was a lovely red. We were tasting the wine at home, while listening to father telling interesting stories from his journey. It just makes the stories come to life.”

We believe that tourism can bring consumers closer to wine. If wine is part of the journey, it will have a positive impact on their perceptions of the product.

Wine Intelligence is publishing the China Wine Consumer Portraits Report 2015 on 7th May. Get in touch with should you have any questions.

Author: Rui Su