Understand The Complexity, Reap The Rewards
US$215 billion: that enormous sum is the total spending of outbound tourists from China in 2015 alone. International travelers from China now spend more money in total than any other country, ousting even the USA and Germany. The number of Chinese tourists traveling internationally has more than doubled to 120 million people over the last five years. That means one in every 10 international travelers now comes from China. In order to win a portion of this growing segment, hotel operators will need both a deeper understanding of the Chinese traveler, and maintain a higher profile in China-relevant media.
Social Media: An Essential Tool
Social networks have become an essential and powerful source of information for Chinese travelers, withword-of-mouth marketing now playing a very big role for the Chinese travelers’ booking decisions. Social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are generally not available in China due to government regulations. Instead, the four social networks that dominate the digital sphere are WeChat, Qzone, Weibo, and Tencent QQ, each drawing hundreds of millions of users. Chinese travelers use these platforms to do research on holidays and, importantly, share opinions from their personal experiences.
Getting onto The Shortlist
As a hotel operator based in the West, it can seem daunting to get your business onto these Chinese sites. One of the most direct avenues into China is through the social media posts of your current Chinese guests: stunning photos of your rooms, facilities and surroundings will almost certainly be included in their messages on their social media accounts, along with reviews about your hotel.
To drive your hotel’s visibility on the Chinese social media platforms, consider establishing your own account. For example, WeChat allows Western companies to run business accounts, although the application process is not effortless and content restrictions must be adhered to. Naturally, all content needs to be available in Mandarin so you may wish to commission a Chinese agency to support you in this aspect.
Chinese Travelers and Lucky Numbers
Just as the number 13 is considered unlucky in many Western countries, the number “4” represents bad luck in China because it sounds similar to the Chinese word for “death” – avoid issuing the Chinese guests with rooms ending with “4”, or suites located on the fourth storey.
On the other hand, the numbers 2, 6, 8 and 9 carry a positive connotation.
As a hotel operator, you should also remember the number “7”: that’s the number of guests that make up a Chinese family unit, comprising a couple and their one child, plus both pairs of grandparents. You can consider offering special deals for groups of seven, and develop services targeted at these three different generations.
10 Tips on Making Your Chinese Guests Feel Welcomed:
1. Welcome guests from China with a polite Mandarin greeting: “Nin Hao” will suffice. Greet the oldest person first as a sign of respect, and offer an accompanying handshake when appropriate.
2. Present and receive items – e.g. room keys, credit cards and receipts, maps and menus - with both hands.
3. Ensure your “Do Not Disturb” and other signages include a Mandarin translation; or use internationally-recognized graphics and symbols. Offer feedback forms in Mandarin.
4. Supply chopsticks, along with Western cutlery.
5. Serve hot meals during breakfast as well as cold dishes -Porridge or a hot noodle soup are always great options.
6. Ensure that steamed or boiled rice is available during all meals. Offer a selection of Chinese condiments (chili sauce, dark sauce, soy sauce etc.)
7. Add Chinese teas to your menu: Green Tea, Oolong, Pu-erh and Chrysanthemum make good choices. Brew tea leaves in a teapot on the table – take note that if the teapot’s lid has been deliberately overturned, it means that the teapot needs a refill of hot water.
8. Make groups feel welcome with friendly gestures like personalized welcome signs. Take the initiative and offer to take group photos for the Chinese guests and ensure that the backdrop features stunning locations found in the hotel.
9. Having Mandarin speakers on staff is ideal. But don’t let the language barrier get in the way of building a warm relationship: as a hospitality professional, you know the power of a friendly smile.
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