Scottish independent tour operator Rabbie’s Small Group Tours is hoping to tap into the Chinese inbound market through a new deal with Chinese online giant Ctrip.
The Edinburgh-based company is due to start selling its full range of tours around the UK and Ireland later this month (April) through Ctrip’s online travel agency.
Rabbie’s, which operates escorted trips from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, London, and Dublin, expects the partnership with Ctrip to be worth £20 million over the next 10 years to the independent operator.
Heather Reekie, Rabbie’s head of marketing and sales, told tnooz that this is the first time it has worked with a major Chinese OTA, although it has been selling to the Chinese market through traditional agents.
“We are working directly with Ctrip – we can control the product shown on their system.”
Reekie adds that the Chinese market to Scotland should be boosted by new flights by Hainan Airlines from Beijing to Edinburgh, due to start in June 2018, which will operate twice per week.
Rabbie’s has already been catering for Chinese visitors by employing two Mandarin-speaking guides on its tours to Loch Ness last year, while one of its sales team is also a fluent Mandarin speaker.
The number of Loch Ness tours featuring a Mandarin-speaking guide will be increased from fortnightly to twice per week for the summer 2018 season.
Rabbie’s is also to produce an audio app for its tours offering around 10 “stories” at key points of interest on each trip. These stories are being translated into Mandarin and will be triggered by GPS on passengers’ mobile devices at certain locations during the tours.
“This app is going to be ready in early summer. It will not give audio for the whole tour but will offer a range of stories in Mandarin along the way.”
Reekie, along with Rabbie’s founder Robin Worsnop, visited Ctrip’s headquarters in Shanghai to seal the partnership deal with the Chinese OTA.
She adds that Rabbie’s in-house development team was working to establish the API link with Ctrip and all of its tours are due to go live on the site imminently.
“We work with other partners using APIs, but the language is one issue we have to navigate around.”
Rabbie’s is also looking at how to facilitate payment through the channels that Chinese consumers prefer to use, such as mobile solutions WeChat Pay and Alipay.
Another move will see the tour operator increase its profile in China using social media platforms, such as Weibo and WeChat.
“Awareness in China is through word of mouth so we want to open up those channels – it’s all about the sharing of experiences.”