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CNTO's New Marketing Campaign

Written by  Marian Goldberg


Two summers ago, I took my then-12-year-old son, Gavin, to China. We spent the first part of the trip gliding along the Yangtze photographing the natural scenery and taking in the breathtaking views. I loved it, but he was completely bored. We went to see the Terracotta Warriors uncovered at Xi’an. His history textbooks had come to life, but one tomb was enough for him -- not three hours.  Again, he was bored. However, things started to pick up for him when he got to play with a Chinese yo-yo in the Beijing hutongs with some local children, when he took a motorcycle sidecar ride to the Great Wall, and when he got to watch the chef-owner at the boutique Orchid Hotel ( prepare a gourmet breakfast of peppered eggs with coconut milk -- a dish Gavin still recalls as the best eggs he ever had.

Gavin is not alone in his experience or his travel needs. A research study of over 2,000 travel consumers was conducted last year, by PhoCusWright. The goal was to enhance the knowledge and understanding of potential U.S. travelers who have recently traveled to Asia or are interested in traveling there. Some of the key findings were that China’s landmarks are its most compelling feature. China came out on top of all Asian destinations for its history and culture with a number of bucket list destinations, like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. Nevertheless, just “seeing” landmarks can become quickly boring for many travelers, especially younger ones. Therefore, China wants to let Americans know what other more spiritual, active, and contemporary experiences they can find in China. This includes getting up close to the attractions on a bicycle or trying their hands at dumpling-making in a local’s home, or practicing morning tai chi in the park with those who live there.

This need for both experiential travel and the combining of traditional and modern cultural touch points is the backbone of the new China National Tourist Offices’ (CNTO) sales and marketing campaign, China Like Never Before: Ancient Treasures, Modern Wonders.  The campaign includes a new logo, both video and print media, and a sales aspect that involves the creation of new tour packages.

Creation of a new logo was an essential element of the new strategy to broaden China’s appeal to U.S. travelers and enhance the country’s brand.  The logo combines two iconic buildings in China. The ancient Temple of Heaven in Beijing represents the ‘A’ in China and the Canton Tower in Guangzhou, China’s tallest building, represents the ‘I.’  Thus, explains Mr. Yaping Xue, director of the China National Tourist Office, even “our new logo evokes a sense of both traditional and contemporary China. This is enhanced further with the tagline ‘China Like Never Before,’ which highlights the new travel experiences and communicates an urgency to ‘go now.’”

The promotional video ( features opinions and observations by respected public travel experts Arthur Frommer and Peter Greenberg. These experts point out that travelers want a “genuine authentic experience combining the old and the new where they can ‘one-up their friends.’”  They want to “expand their personal horizons,” in terms of “culture, culinary, and living like a local.” They want to have in-depth, modern culinary experiences in a city, such as Shanghai, which Greenberg notes has restaurants that “can do battle with any restaurant in New York City.”  Frommer adds that China has only begun to see the beginnings of tourism, and while “it’s quickly becoming the single most visited destination on earth, the possibilities are greater than that!”  The  video presentation was created to explain China’s new brand identity. It was initially presented to the U.S. travel trade and is now being adapted for the travel industry in China to provide a better understanding of what today’s U.S traveler is looking for.

In September 2013, a U.S. trade campaign of 4/C, full page ads in print media and multi-size banner ads on-line was launched to promote the ancient AND modern aspects of travel in China. The campaign targets select markets by using dramatically juxtaposing images, such as the ancient Great Wall shown alongside the futuristic Bird’s Nest -- the national stadium built for the Beijing Olympics. Another example, with the headline “World Heritage Sites. World class shops,” depicts magnificent rice terraces contrasting with a happy American shopper in Shanghai. A third shows that the ancient Terra Cotta Warriors can be reached by advanced high-speed trains. And tranquil river boating is paired with young visitors bicycling in a bustling urban area -- in this case promoting “soft adventure” trips.

The objective is to attract more Americans to go off the beaten path and enjoy a wide range of experiences. Each advertisement is aimed at both first-time and repeat visitors. A consumer campaign based on similar themes is planned for next spring. It will highlight the fact that China’s modern infrastructure makes it easier to explore this fascinating country and meet the warm and welcoming people of China: Comfort does not need to be sacrificed for an exotic experience. And also that China’s modern cities create a whole new level of attraction.

New Tour Development
Most recently, the CNTO has been primarily focused on working with tour operators to assist them with developing a wider range of packages for U.S. travelers. The CNTO has supported the trade for many years, but this strategic initiative is to build awareness of the new travel opportunities in China that will enable travel agents to offer their clients -- even those who have already been to China -- new experiences. In addition, first time visitors will have an opportunity to visit the “must see” destinations, but with a more in-depth perspective.

New packages are being introducedby many tour operators, such as Wendy Wu Tours, General Tours, MG Tour Co Inc., Isram’s Orient Flexi Pax, and Ritz Tours. These new offerings are among several developed to provide a great start to introducing potential visitors to the multitude of other experiences they can enjoy in this vast country.

General Tours ( introduced three new packages: Hill Tribes of China & Vietnam is an 11-day tour that showcases the border region south of Kunming, including the Hani people’s terraced rice fields, a World Heritage Site. GT’s Private Touring Discoveries’ program travels from Guiyang to Guilin and is the company’s first ever in this southern region, offering stays in boutique hotels, inns and lodges. GT’s new Yellow Mountain program is a short, 7-night private program that combines Shanghai, Hangzhou and overnights in the Beihai Hotel, made famous as the visual inspiration of centuries of Chinese scrolls.

Wendy Wu Tours ( introduced a number of soft adventure itineraries, including: China & Tibet Discovery, Ancient China, Himalayan Adventure, Silk Road Explorer, and Dreams of Nature. In this latter trip, participants reach the summit of Mt. Huang, often referred to by locals as an ink scroll painting come to life.

MG Tour Co Inc. ( introduced a new 17-day luxury Deluxe Grand China Tour that includes Beijing - with a lunch in a hutong home, Pingyao, Guilin, Yangshuo, Xi’an, Shanghai, and the ancient water towns of Suzhou and Zhouzhuang.

Orient Flexi Pax ( introduced 9-day China Special Interest Tours by Private Car. These are a special selection of programs tailored to travelers with unique interests in architecture, cuisine or visual art, offering in-depth experiences in these areas.

Ritz Tours’ ( 10-day China Discovery, visits Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai and is ideal for first-time travelers on a budget.

Overall, the new campaign strives to introduce potential visitors to the real China with a vast array of experiences to interest and please all travelers, whether they want luxury, soft adventure, skiing, culinary, golf, local culture, modern architecture, fashion, design, visual and performing arts, or a combination of all these -- accompanied by world class shopping. At the same time, the campaign informs travelers that they can also visit any or all 43 of China’s World Heritage sites and behold the nation’s magnificent, often unexpected natural beauty.

Added to this, China now has a huge number of new luxury hotels, with over 3,000 four- and five-star properties. Whatever your clients are looking for, they are sure to find it in China.

In rediscovering its past, China maintains its majesty, mystery, and lost-in-time ancient wonder that tourists still expect, but at the same time, it truly is, as the promotional video proclaims, “a dazzling new world.” For more information, visit the China National Tourist Office at  www.chinalikeneverbefore.comCall their New York office at 212-760-8218, or Los Angeles
at 818-545-7507.

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