Insights Dubai: Four opportunities to capture the growth of Chinese travellers

Dubai as a destination is discussed in terms which are quite different than the typical major world city. In reviewing conversations from more than 600,000 social posts across a range of online sites and social networks, we found that for Chinese travellers, the city shares more characteristics with theme parks or resorts, rather than a city.

How can properties and brands use this to their advantage?


Chinese tourism to Gulf states is predicted to increase 81% by 2022, and with Dubai making big efforts in creating closer ties to China, the city is more and more looking to capitalise on the approximately 156 million Chinese outbound tourists in 2018.


In our review of Chinese travellers’ habits within Dubai, we noticed a few key points:

  • Women are under-served and under-engaged – Women would typically account for the vast majority of conversations (70%+), yet we are seeing barely half of conversations coming from women. Despite still being the majority, it shows that the types of experiences that women are seeking out and sharing are an untapped opportunity for growth.
  • Malls are seen, but not used – The type of conversations we see around malls show that they are viewed as monuments to be seen, rather than places to enjoy an experience. Tourists are treating them as one-off destinations, rather than a hub for repeat activities and spending more time (and money). Finding ways to take a mall’s hottest WeChat/Instagram photo spot and link it to other relevant content & experiences is critical.
  • Travel professionals have a big share of voice – We were surprised to see almost 20% of conversations being led by this group, which includes influencers, tour operators and travel media. This is significantly higher than the typical city and makes it challenging to raise awareness about sights and experiences that are new and/or different from the existing tourist hotspots. Bringing them on-board will give a big kickstart to any initiative.
  • P2P conversations, not branded content, drive the best engagement – Whether it is an airline, hotel or mall, Chinese travellers are not engaging with brands’ content, it is falling on deaf ears relative to content from other tourists (or travel professionals). Traveller-generated content, and in particular their suggested itineraries, accounts for 51% of conversations and is the biggest driver for discussions about Dubai and the destinations within it.


For Chinese travellers, destinations within the city are discussed more like attractions, this has implications for owners and operators in the city – whether in retail, hospitality or travel – on how they must approach the creation of experiences and communications in order to attract the attention of this fast-growing travel demographic.

We’ve identified four sub-groups that are ripe for growth:

  1. Spa & Shopping Mavens
  2. Aerial Adventurers
  3. Luxe Resort-goers (surprisingly not as strong among Chinese travellers today)
  4. Culture Seekers

Each of these four traveller profiles has their own unique tastes and styles. Understanding these rapidly evolving profiles is key to identifying the right messages, channels and experiences that will not only draw them in, but turn them into advocates that drive more footfall and revenue.