The tourism industry has borne the brunt of this black swan event. The outbreak of COVID-19 changed travel plans of over 400 million people, which dealt a heavy blow to the 10 million-plus workers in the tourism industry. The Spring Festival was supposed to be a tourist season, but many people ended up spending the holiday at home. Tourism, like catering, retailing and other industries in the service sector, is closely related with traffic and movement of people, for most of their service can only be provided offline. Thus, tourism is among the most severely damaged in this epidemic.

Now with the virus still in rampage, it’ll be tough for them to recover from this year’s rough beginning. Hard as it is, the tourism industry needs to gradually return to the right track and pull through this crisis by self-salvation.

 

1. How Can the Tourism Industry Under Shutdown Make It Through the Epidemic

 

The rapidly changing pandemic has put the whole tourism industry under huge pressure, including hotels, restaurants, and online and offline travel agencies. Ctrip, a giant in this industry, is no exception. It once released a report that anticipated 450 million trips to be made during the 2020 Chinese New Year. But everything was turned upside down by the epidemic. Though the pandemic is still ongoing, judging from what happened after SARS, people in tourism are mostly confident about the rebound after it ends. SUN Bo, CMO of Ctrip, said that data in the past indicates that the number of travels tends to bottom out in a conspicuous V shape after public health incidences. 

 

When there is an epidemic outbreak, the tourism industry will hit the bottom. For example, due to the SARS outbreak in 2003, 11,615 travel agencies across China barely had any business; 1,062 A-level tourist spots saw the number of visitors and their turnover drop by more than 80% year-on-year. Based on data released by Ctrip, after 3 months of stagnation, the tickets sold on the platform surged two-fold in July, 2003, the month that SARS ended. The first week-long holiday for Labor Day in May after SARS witnessed a five-fold increase of tickets sold on the platform. (Source: Lazar Finance) Therefore, although hit hard, the tourism industry is expected to experience the fastest recovery. Its loss of offline traffic can be compensated by online technologies. Compared with apps that takes longer and more money to develop,Mini Programs are in a better position to help companies seize opportunities when the rebound approaches, for they can bring more traffic with its unique functions like message notifications, QR Code scan and official account association.

2.Mini Program: A Powerful Weapon for Tourism to Fight the Epidemic

 

A.Independent customer acquirement

Mini Programs can recommend routes and popular spots and help tourists make itineraries. They can also provide services that integrate online and offline traffic. For example, traveler can scan QR Codes to book rooms and use their value-stored cards with membership privileges. Users with enough WeChat Credit points can be exempted from paying deposits. They can also order foods or apply for Fapiao on Mini Programs. Such digital functions can pool users scattered in different channels and scenarios into the platform, which helps businesses to achieve all-scenario operations to gain more commercial value. 

Because of the decentralized ecosystem of Mini Programs, scenic spot managers can acquire customers by themselves without paying extra.They can know more about their visitors so as to draw them back again.

 

B. Customized user data analysis

In addition to their basic social fission abilities, Mini Programs are also strong on data analysis. They can do analysis based on users’ gender, age, location, frequency of clicks and consumption preference. Graphs can also be drawn.Companies can use these functions to make timely adjustments to their marketing strategies to produce content that is attractive to users.

Decision makers can formulate marketing plans targeted at different demographics, such as family trips, internet-famous sightseeing, one-day short trips, etc. The combination of trips and Mini Programs provides users with varied options to meet their needs. The tailored experience can reach users in an accurate manner so as to boost marketing efficiency.

 

 

C. Mini Programs fit non-committed users 

Services in the tourism industry are mostly in offline scenarios and are used in low frequency since users don’t go on vacations every day. Most users only travel a couple of times in a year. For them, independent apps take up their phone storage and take time to download. WeChat Mini Programs, however, can meet users’ need for basic travel information and help lower companies’ costs and risks.

D. Integration of online and offline traffic 

The internet made it fashionable to integrate online and offline traffic. Traditional companies want to acquire customers and buy stocks through online platforms, while online companies need traditional companies to provide products and services. Mini Programs serve as the bridge between online and offline channels. They can draw traffic from offline scenarios, transform it to online ticket sales, then entice users to travel. What’s more, WeChat Mini Programs can lead users to follow official channels of companies and enjoy membership service, which forms pools of private traffic. To interact with users, companies can hand out coupons and send messages with official accounts, which turns dormant users into active ones that buy things a lot, or even prompt users to bring new ones through sharing. After customers leave their hotels, the hotel managers can still inform them of discounts to their taste. Such targeted and efficient marketing enables hotels to promote sales through unconventional channels.

3.Successful Cases

A. Tencent Smart Scenic Area

 It is a Mini Program launched by Tencent that provides smart, light-weight and convenient guiding services in tourist attractions.

In the Mini Program, the whole scenic area is presented on a map, where spots are pinpointed that pops up introductions after being clicked. It’s worth mentioning that the Mini Program for Longmen Grottoes also has an AI avatar that serves as tour guide for visitors. When connected with Tencent AI voice assistance, it can introduce the 81 scenic spots for tourists and can help them plan routes or find services nearby. On the Mini Program, tourists can quickly search for places like entrances, restrooms, restaurants and shops. Routes are also recommended on the Mini Program from where users can know about the attractions along the routes, how far they are and how long it takes to get there. Tencent utilized location-based data and integrated all the services that tourists need on the Mini Programs.

 

 

B. Example of hotels: Country Garden Phoenix International Hotel 

Only 5 hotels managed to join the alpha test of WeChat Mini Programs participated by 200 institutions, and Country Garden Hotel was one of them. Its Mini Program provides essential functions like reservation, membership and shop. 

The company employs a “Mini Program + Official Account” Model. Such a model enables it to keep managing the subscribers on the official account while leveraging the traffic the Mini Program brings through entrances like Discover and Search. Thanks to these promotions, 20% of its subscribers booked its rooms and 5% made purchases in its Mini Program shop.

 

C. Example of traveling platforms: Ctrip

 Ctrip was among the first to have their own Mini Programs, so it knows clearly about the value of Mini Programs and in what scenarios they can be applied. People don’t go on vacations very often, but they often need to take trains, so Ctrip added train ticket booking into its Mini Program. During the 2018 Spring Festival travel rush, the ticket grabbing function helped 10 million users to buy tickets home and 80% of new users went on to use it for a second time. On average, one user can bring in 7 new users. Ctrip is well aware that Mini Programs have social functions in nature, so it takes advantage of that to bring itself more users. To make its Mini Program go viral, Ctrip also seeks more social fission through activities like coupons, red pockets, and group purchase discounts, which activate the users and lead to more sales in other business and products.

 

 

D. Singapore Airlines 

People that fly a lot may have quite a few apps for airlines, but for those that don’t travel by plane that often, having so many apps on the phone is a sheer waste of resource. To solve problems like this, we provide Mini Program solutions for companies, such as the official Mini Program of Singapore Airlines. The Mini Program has the essential functions like flight booking, flight updates, order management, seat selection and check-in. In addition, it is coupled with its WeChat official account to promote sales and improve service on mobile devices. Compared with the variety in the app, the background management system is highly unified. It consolidated the service resources which helps to boost efficiency in operation and management.

 

 

The use-it-and-leave-it Mini Programs are innately suitable for the tourism industry: people open them simply by scanning QR Codes. Such easy accessibility enables Mini Programs to cover all the scenarios in trips. They are very similar to independent apps in terms of user experience and performance, and they don’t require installation or subscription to official accounts. Their management and development costs are also much lower than apps. 

As the epidemic gradually declines, the tourism market is looking to a rebound. Against this backdrop, W-axis Technology can help companies achieve new breaks through Mini Programs, so that they can obtain new business value based on WeChat’s open ecosystem, contents, traffic, and potential for products. By promoting in various ways, companies can reap the dividends brought by Mini Programs, reconstruct how user travel in the future, and become forerunners in the digital update of the tourism industry.