Chinese Tourists’ Behavior as Seen Through the Use of "Nitori Public × NRI" DX service: Connecting Behavior History to Hokkaido's Tourism Marketing
Jul. 18, 2019
Many Chinese tourists visit Hokkaido every year. Nitori Public Co., Ltd. hopes to revitalize tourism in Hokkaido by utilizing the strengths of the Nitori Group, which is expanding its operations in China. Therefore, Nitori Public and Nomura Research Institute, Ltd. (NRI) worked together during the 2019 Sapporo Snow Festival and the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival to collect information on the behavior of Chinese tourists. We spoke with both the companies about their new initiatives using the social networking app WeChat*1, which boasts an overwhelming share of the Chinese market, and ideas that can be used for future tourism marketing.
Increasing number of Chinese tourists, but insufficient information on them
The number of foreign nationals visiting Japan is increasing every year, reaching a record high of about 31,190,000 in 2018. Of these, about 8,380,000 were Chinese tourists, of whom 720,000 visited Hokkaido. Thus, Chinese tourists make up the largest number of visitors from a single country (24% of the total) and also spend the most per capita, thereby representing a huge business opportunity.
"Shingo Yamamoto of NRI, who was researching the digital usage of Chinese people, gave me the idea of obtaining location information from the operation logs of mini-programs*2 in WeChat, which has about 1 billion Chinese users. I realized that their behavior could be visualized by performing a time series analysis," says NRI’s Tomofumi Watanuki. This led to the establishment of the WeChat mini-program "Hokkaido Complete Capture" to collect and analyze behavior history.
Use of the WeChat mini-programs
After this, it was decided that the project would be implemented during the Sapporo Snow Festival and the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival, which see the largest number of Chinese tourists annually. Members of Nitori Public called on local tourism associations, stakeholders, and stores to participate in the project. Moreover, since Chinese people trust word-of-mouth more than advertising, they used influencers to spread the word, organized stamp rallies (collecting series of stamps at railway stations, tourist spots, etc.), and provided prizes to increase interest and usage.
Takaaki Kurasawa of NRi Digital explains the challenges with the project: "The technical difficulty was that there was no way to estimate access numbers. Although there was a possibility that server access would be concentrated at certain times of the day, building a server capable of handling a huge amount of data would be costly. Hence, we spent time studying the kind of system that should be built." As a result, the system was designed and developed in the cloud environment of AWS (Amazon Web Services) China*3 with a serverless architecture that can flexibly respond to changes in the number of accesses. Data management and system operations are carried out in NRI Beijing, China.
mpressed with the results of this project, Mr. Nonaka says, "The WeChat mini-program eliminates the need to download a separate app. Moreover, tourists can access information on Hokkaido simply by scanning the QR codes at tourism spots and stores. Since the barriers were so low, I introduced it to Chinese tourists who visited the snow festival site, and they immediately tried it."
Keeping the goal in sight is important in digital technology use
Analysis of the collected data revealed that there was a high volume of traffic between Sapporo and Otaru, and visitors tended to make detours on this route. "I was interested in why there were so many visitors to this place called Asari, which even Japanese people do not visit much. Upon researching, I found that it was the filming location of a movie that was released last year in China. I realized that it was possible to have a large number of visitors even in comparatively under-appreciated places," says General Manager Nonaka. "In the future, we would like to create a platform which would be well appreciated by tourists, containing information on new places to visit along their route and other such content. This would be useful not only for tourists but for tourism businesses as well."
“When I hear the word digital, my first instinct is to think that it means the work can be completed magically. However, I realized that it was essential to set it up carefully while thinking about what I want to achieve.
“This time, I knew that an enormous amount of data would be collected. Although I constantly wanted to try all sorts of things with it, I found that packing it full of functions would result in an inconvenient system.
“In order to make the best use of digital technology to produce results, it is necessary to think about what is really important. We intend to continue these activities for future projects as well," said President Arai.
- *1 WeChat:
A free instant messaging app created by the major Chinese IT firm Tencent.
- *2 WeChat mini-programs:
Applications available in WeChat. Since they do not need to be downloaded from the AppStore, they are convenient to use.
- *3 AWS (Amazon Web Services) China:
Cloud computing services offered by AWS in China