A new app targeting millions of Chinese social media users has been launched by VisitScotland on Chinese New Year – in a major push to promote Scotland as a key destination for travellers.

The mini-app is housed under VisitScotland’s account, 旅行Scotland (Travel Scotland), on Chinese social media platform WeChat, which has one billion monthly active users (MAU).

It forms part of a larger focus on China, now a priority market by the national tourism organisation, which has an estimated international tourism expenditure of $257.7 billion.

Since 2011, there has been a 316% increase* in visitor numbers from China to Scotland with VisitBritain – the tourism body for the UK – predicting Chinese visitor numbers across the whole of the UK will rise by almost half over the next five years.

The mini app divides Scotland into four regions and allows users to browse an initial 200 Scottish businesses – activities, attractions, food and drink, and shopping – which have tailored their products to engage with the Chinese visitor market, for example, by having mandarin translations or mandarin speaking staff. The app will allow for additional businesses to be added.

Last year saw increased engagement with the Chinese market in Scotland including the first ever direct flight from China to Scotland, the largest contingent of Chinese buyers attending Scotland’s premier B2B travel trade event VisitScotland Expo, and the launch of social media channels in China by VisitScotland.

VisitScotland hosted its biggest Chinese travel trade mission to date in November last year. Sixteen businesses joined the national tourism body on the business development mission in Guangzhou, Beijing and Xi’An. The Chinese business development mission gave Scottish suppliers the opportunity to engage with Chinese buyers face-to-face to help them to shape future products for the Chinese market.

Last week, VisitScotland was recognised in the Hurun UK-China Awards 2019 as “Outstanding Contributor to UK-China Relations, for Services to Inbound Tourism”.

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, said: “We have recognised for some time the tourism potential of China and it is now considered a priority market by VisitScotland. Scotland currently accounts for almost a fifth of all Chinese visitors to the UK and with enhanced air connectivity there is a real opportunity to grow that market further.

“The mini-app will give visitors practical information at their fingertips on the many tourism businesses in Scotland who are catering for the Chinese market, making it even easier for them to plan their first or even next visit to our shores.

“It further complements the ongoing work we are doing in building relationships between our Scottish partners and Chinese tour operators to support the creation of more products to suit this important market.”

*Based on a three-year rolling average of 2009-2011 with 2015-2017. Source: IPS.

Visit here for the Insight Department’s research paper on China.