RD: What made you decide to tailor your app to the Chinese market?
SR: From the outside it must seem a bit odd focusing on a small segment of the travel market, but I’m actually the only British person in the Viva City Team. We are fully international, with two of my co-founders from China, so the focus on the Chinese market was slightly bias and the problems we set out to solve were based on the personal experiences of Szelee and Sukie. Lots of products in China stop at the discovery phase of dining out, so many Chinese travellers get an idea of where to go from Trip advisor type products, but then have no way to book tables, understand menus, find deals and pay using Chinese mobile wallets.
It’s a bit of a scary experience trying to do all that in a foreign language and even more troublesome in European cities where restaurant staff are often speaking in English as their second language too.
The team’s personal affinity has also been backed up with strong business sense. The Chinese travel market is growing at a ridiculous rate and we are seeing 80% YOY growth in Chinese visitors to the UK. Around 50% of the market now travelling independently, with many from an affluent backgrounds and wanting to book trips on their own terms, choosing where to stay, what to do, where to dine!
What has stopped them dining like a local so far is a lack of tools to help them. It’s not just a case of offering Chinese Language – you have to communicate and market your product in a way that Chinese travellers will understand. You have to build a product which functions well in the Chinese social media ecosystem of WeChat and Weibo. You have to fully immersive and focus on this segment to create real user value.