Last week the United States government gave back almost complete freedom of movement and activities to vaccinated citizens. Some states offer a million dollars in a weekly lottery to those who overcome their prejudices against vaccination, in others you get a free burger and fries.
In Europe, the number of persons being treated in hospitals for Covid-19 dropped to the lowest level for six months, and in many EU countries borders, shops, restaurants, and tattoo studios are reopening. In Hamburg, home of COTRI, the first-night curfew since World War II is over and a colleague from Munich sent me an email from her holidays in Teneriffa – who would have dared to dream about this happening in May 2021 last Christmas?
Therefore, jubilations all around? Unfortunately not, as the difference between the previous losers in the West and the previous winners in the East continues to widen in an unexpected direction. “The ideal match is when vaccinated travelers meet vaccinated locals”, wrote Raini Hamdi recently in an article for Skift. This will be the situation at least in the second half of this summer on both sides of the Atlantic.
But Asia, with some exceptions as Singapore and the Maldives, on one hand, has been so focused on health over the economy, but on the other hand, still lags in vaccinating its population. Countries such as India and Thailand can be seen as victims of their own previous virus containment success, resulting in governments being slow on vaccination while there was time for it.
Sadly, vaccination alone is not the only ingredient needed for a successful and safe reopening of the tourism business, as the “World Champion of Vaccination” Israel is demonstrating.
China reported no deaths and less than a hundred cases per week in the last two weeks, and about a quarter of the population, now officially standing at 1.41 billion according to the latest census, getting vaccinated at least one time. “Vaccinated travelers meet vaccinated locals” would work for Chinese visitors to Europe or the USA. However, the conditions in terms of visa, flights, and the end of quarantine regimes still need to be put in place.
One result of all this is the persistent lack of engagement with the Chinese market by European and US companies and destinations. Some marketing efforts are made, but the bigger part of the powder is left in dry storage for the time when the Chinese are starting to travel again.
This policy is, to put it politely, stupid. Culture, not language is the main challenge for success in the Chinese market, as became obvious years ago. In the same line, product adaptation, not marketing， is the main requirement for success in the post-pandemic period and the time to develop – in many cases for the first time – products and services tailor-made for the Chinese market is now, not when we all will be super-busy dealing with the revenge consumption of global travelers.
Your marketing campaign for cat food can be as sophistiCATed as it may, persons who do not own a cat will not be swayed by it to buy the stuff. Chinese travelers learned a lot during the last 17 months and they are much better now at identifying their wishes and expectations.
For the May holidays, the number of trips in the domestic market exceeded those of 2019 and spending reached almost 80% of the pre-pandemic level. They are ready to roll and to go abroad again, but it will not be enough just to open the door to make sure that they will come.
With Asia falling behind, the opportunities for destinations and companies in Europe, Africa, and the Americas are bigger than ever if only they acquire the necessary knowledge to grab that opportunity.