WeChat, the mobile messaging app that is forecast to have 494 million users in China this year, has expanded its services for Chinese tourists visiting Dubai, London and Sydney. The company’s CityExperience Mini Program formed partnerships with Tourism Australia, VisitBritain and Dubai Tourism to help WeChat users visiting from China, per a statement.
CityExperience provides Chinese tourists with digital maps on their smartphones along with information about popular tourist sites. Travelers can use the digital guides to learn about the history and culture of the cities, while exploring attractions, shops and restaurants through images and audio guides.
CityExperience can also be used for travel planning ahead of time with sample itineraries, suggested durations for each attraction and information such as addresses contact numbers. The travel programs were presented at the “WeChat Mini Program CityExperience Showcase” event in Shanghai.
WeChat aims to be much more than just a messaging app for Chinese consumers with the addition of value-added services to make it an indispensable tool for daily living. Users spent more than 90 minutes a day on the platform this year, according to the company. WeChat not only includes standard messaging features like texting, video conferencing and photo and video sharing, but also has bill payments, ride services and food ordering.
The company wants to maintain its relationship with customers as they travel. China’s growing middle class consists of hundreds of millions of people who have the financial means to travel abroad. Chinese international tourism spending more than tripled to $261 billion last year from $73 billion in 2011, according to an estimate by Credit Lyonaisse. The investment bank estimates Chinese tourists will expand their overseas spending to $429 billion in 2021.
That growth means that the tourism industry — including airlines, hotels, restaurants and attractions — needs to be ready to help Chinese consumers who travel abroad. Luxury sales to Chinese tourists are estimated to reach 35% of global sales by 2020, with particular growth in gaming, cosmetics and luxury categories, Credit Lyonnaise found.