They are the world’s most-wanted traveler, they have money to spend, and they are keen to see and experience the world outside China. But is the tourism industry ready to look after the Chinese tourist?
The term, “China ready,” has become a buzz word in the tourism industry over the past 12 months as hotel chains, casinos, airports, attractions, shopping centers, and many other suppliers to the tourism industry around the world strive to gain and increase their market share of Chinese tourists.
Many of these organizations are providing menus, information briefs, and even websites in Chinese, a selection of Chinese teas, teapots, and slippers in hotel rooms, Mandarin-speaking staff, and food items such as congee and noodles. But is this enough?
According to one China tourism specialist, it isn’t. Trevor Lee, Managing Director of TravConsult, which specializes in international customer service and tourism development, says that even these elementary steps to becoming “China ready” need to be implemented carefully and correctly to avoid offending Chinese tourists and losing business and market share to competitors.
Lee said: “Written Chinese language comes in two basic formats – traditional and simplified – with simplified being standard in Mainland China, a fact known by most tourism professionals. However, simplified Chinese has a different linguistic style in Hong Kong and Singapore to that in Mainland China, so the person engaged to do the translations must have the skills and knowledge to translate in the style of Mainland China.”
Lee continued: “And when it comes to providing Chinese food, most western chefs simply cannot cook Chinese food that appeals to a Chinese person’s taste. Instant noodles would be better, as at the very least, the Asian flavor is appealing.” So employing the right chef or contracting the right restaurant to provide for your Chinese customers’ tastes and meal needs is crucial to their overall travel experience.”
TravConsult’s General Manager Lilly Choi-Lee reinforces this by adding: “Chinese people often greet family and close friends by asking if they have eaten yet, emphasizing the cultural importance of food in the daily lives of the Chinese. If you want a happy and satisfied Chinese tourist and customer, provide them with good Chinese food at least once every day and the rest of their travel should go smoothly.”
And when asked if it is possible to exceed the Chinese travelers’ expectations when it comes to food, Choi-Lee said, “Sure, provide good Chinese food that is typical of the region they come from in China, and you will certainly gain a repeat customer and more importantly, word-of-mouth recommendations, which continue to strongly influence the travel purchase decisions of Chinese consumers.”
Since 2004, Lee and Choi-Lee have been conducting “China Ready” tourism-specific programs for hotels, resorts, casinos, attractions, retail businesses, and destinations in Australia. In July this year, they delivered a series of fifteen “China Ready” workshops as part of the “Servicing the China Market Program” in five key tourism regions of Australia’s state of Queensland, under the Queensland Tourism Industry Support Package funded by the Federal and Queensland State governments.
Although conferences and reports alike are highlighting the actual number of increasing outbound travelers from China, Choi-Lee emphasized that: “It is crucial that tourism businesses focus more on the fact that Chinese tourists are evolving and changing rapidly as, too, are their levels of expectations increasing. Their awareness of different tourism products and services is greater, mainly due to how they use the Internet and communicate through China’s many social media platforms. Furthermore, they are becoming more affluent, which alone will change the face of tourism around the world,” agreeing with comments made recently by Pierre Gervois, President and CEO of China Elite Focus.
Lee said: “In 2004, our ‘China Ready’ workshops focused on the basic cultural differences between China and the west. Today, however, our ‘China Ready’ workshops take a holistic approach to enhancing an organization’s or destination’s ability to understand and successfully engage the Chinese tourist market. Furthermore, our ‘China Ready’ workshops are being fine-tuned all the time, as the Chinese consumer and traveler changes. We have developed executive-level workshops to help senior tourism professionals better understand, utilize, and keep up with these changes, as well as how their organizations can tap into the way Chinese consumers use local social media such as Weibo, Youku, and Renren.”
At the sales level, TravConsult regularly delivers “China Ready” workshops designed for key tourism managers who need to interact at the business and sales levels with potential Chinese partners and colleagues, while further front-line specific workshops focus on pertinent Chinese language and engagement skills and understanding and managing the service expectations, needs, and behavior of the changing Chinese tourist.
Lee concluded noting that, “Being China ready for tourism is not something that can be achieved in one stage. It needs to be ongoing, dynamic, flexible, and evolving just to keep pace with the changing Chinese tourist.”