With close to 40 percent of China’s online travel market, Ctrip performance often reflects the temperature of the world’s largest travel market. The key Q3 takeaway? A dip in domestic travel numbers contrasted with robust international growth (air ticket volume grew by triple digits for the twelfth  quarter in a row). This will likely increase competition for Chinese tourism dollars as regional Asian players hone their marketing strategies and domestic destinations up their efforts to entice travelers to journey closer to home.

In Ctrip’s quarterly earnings call, CEO Jane Sun reaffirmed the company’s commitment to strengthening international products and services noting that “our journey in the overseas market has just begun”. For onlooking European and American DMOs, the message is clear; a strong presence on Chinese travel platforms, such as Ctrip, is more important than ever before.

For close to two decades Chinese travel agencies did the hard graft of sourcing and steering outbound Chinese travelers (and their spending) to western sites, shops, and restaurants. But today’s Chinese traveler is independent and uses platforms such as Ctrip to research, browse, and book — DMOs must react accordingly.

“Chinese travelers are spending more money year-on-year,” said Jimmy Robinson, Co-Founder and Director at Ping Pong Digital, at NEXT China Conference in New York, “as they go onto new digital platforms to read and discover new things, we have to provide information [on new platforms].”

This means working directly with online travel agencies and guides such as Ctrip to offer landing pages, promotions, and in-depth travel information. Any strategy should also include establishing a presence on review sites Mafengwo and Zhihu and getting China-smart with WeChat and Weibo. As Robinson laid out in the digital marketing masterclass, businesses and destinations that fail to adapt to the new digital platforms are jeopardizing their discoverability with Chinese travelers.

“Younger audiences are doing their own research themselves… the harder we make it for them…they will just go somewhere else because the other place is providing the information they want on the platforms they want to use.”