Destination D.C. is now marketing directly to Chinese consumers via the massive social media and payments app WeChat, making Washington the first U.S. city to do so. WeChat has 1.1 billion registered users around the globe and combines the functions of a payment app like Paypal or Venmo, a messaging app such as WhatsApp and social networks such as Facebook or Twitter.
In addition to continuing to market the city on an official “visitdc” account, Destination D.C., the District’s tourism marketing organization, can now offer members access to the platform, allowing hotels, entertainment venues, restaurants and others to market directly on the social network.
Destination D.C. members will be able to set up their own business accounts on WeChat, something that can be difficult for non-Chinese businesses. Without the Destination D.C. agreement, hoteliers or museums would have to apply to WeChat for a business account and provide a large amount of credentials and documentation. Destination D.C. said there was no monetary component to the deal.
On average, there at 15,000 WeChat users located in the D.C. area each month. And WeChat users spend an average of 90 minutes a day in the app.
Destination D.C. will also expand a pilot “City Experience” program on WeChat it rolled out late in 2017, which is a map-based interactive program that helps Chinese visitors navigate through Washington.
“The biggest challenge for Chinese visitors in any Western city is knowing where to go and what to do,” said Ang Li, Destination D.C.’s international tourism coordinator for Asia, during a May 1 event focused on inbound China tourism.
Destination D.C. began rolling out Mandarin language event and venue specific marketing, including those for Renwick Gallery’s “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man” exhibit. Destination D.C. also ran an inaugural Cherry Blossom Photo Contest through WeChat that garnered 245 submissions, with the winner being gifted flights from Beijing to Washington, D.C., as well as a hotel stay.
The effort is paramount as Destination D.C. tries to lure more of the rapidly growing sector of Chinese outbound travelers to D.C. Visitors from China make up the largest portion of overseas visitors to the region, with 304,000 Chinese nationals coming to Washington in 2016. (Though now the Department of Commerce is rethinking some of those figures.)
More and more, those travelers are beginning to come on their own as what’s known as “free independent travelers,” rather than through a larger tour group — meaning they need more guidance about what to do and how to navigate the city, which is where WeChat’s City Experience comes in.
D.C. currently has two direct flights between Beijing and Dulles International Airport, and come September, a third flight to that region will begin with direct service on Cathay Pacific from Dulles to Hong Kong. At 17 hours, that will be the longest flight flying out of the Washington region.
Next on Destination D.C.’s wish list? A direct flight between Shanghai and Dulles.
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Article & Image: Biz Journals