DALLAS: International hotel brands will need to adapt their marketing strategies following new research that shows more Chinese travellers are travelling independently rather than as part of a group and that their numbers are rising.

The Chinese International Travel Monitor, from Hotels.com, the hotel booking website, surveyed more than 3,000 Chinese international travellers and more than 1,500 hoteliers around the world and found that 62% of Chinese travellers said they preferred to travel independently.

Half of hoteliers reported an increase in the number of Chinese guests during the past year and over the next three years 10% anticipated an increase of more than 50%, while a further 47% foresaw a rise of between 11% and 50%.

The profile of Chinese tourists is also changing, with their average annual salary now standing at about $17,750. Nigel Pocklington, chief marketing officer at Hotels.com, told the Financial Times: "Yes, there are an elite that the luxury goods retailers are interested in, but the Chinese tourist is now genuinely middle class."

Hotels will need to respond to the issues raised by the Chinese travellers in the survey. Three quarters said hoteliers needed to improve the provision of translated items, such as welcome literature, websites, TV programs and newspapers. And 42% wanted to see more Mandarin-speaking hotel staff.

The extent of the current disconnect becomes clear when looking at hoteliers' existing provisions for Chinese tourists. One quarter said they offered cultural awareness training to staff, but just 11% produced welcome materials in Mandarin.

Crucially, the ability to accept Chinese payment methods was highlighted by 26% of Chinese travellers as a key area for improvement.

Decisions on travel destinations relied to a large extent on personal recommendation (30%), online sites and social media, and Johan Svanstrom, managing director of Hotels.com Asia Pacific, advised hoteliers to focus their marketing strategies on the last two of these.

He worried, however, that "the pace of growth in the volume of Chinese travellers appears to be outstripping the pace of change in the hotel industry".

An area beyond marketers' control is how easily Chinese tourists can obtain visas, a factor which takes on greater significance when travelling independently. The UK China Visa Alliance, for example, claims that the British economy misses out on more than £1bn of extra spending due to its stringent visa rules.

Data sourced from PR Newswire, Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff