As more Chinese travel abroad, many hotels and tourism businesses may be wondering, “how are these Chinese tourists different from other nationalities?” Well, without trying to generalise, Chinese tourists ARE different – largely because they are travelling for different purposes to other, more mature tourist markets. And although Chinese tourists are becoming increasingly sophisticated, accommodation providers need to make sure they get the basics right in welcoming Chinese guests. So, what are the basics? Here are our top 5 practical tips for you.
1. Free wi-fi
Firstly, some statistics:
- 4 out of 5 Chinese tourists share photos of their travels online through WeChat, Weibo and other platforms1
- Approximately 93% of Chinese travelers under 35 share information about their trip on social media2
- 71% of Chinese tourists aged 20 – 40 rely on social media for travel inspiration
What do these statistics mean? Basically, make it easy for your Chinese guests to get online and talk about you! Like most of us, Chinese are unlikely to use expensive global roaming options on their mobiles when abroad, so they are relying on you. And upgrading your internet to make wi-fi free doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg – the price difference could be as little as adding an extra $1 onto your nightly rates.
2. Accept UnionPay
When you check-in to a hotel or book online, how do you normally pay? For most Australians, the answer would be Visa or Mastercard. However for most Chinese, paying with these credit cards are still very foreign concepts. In China, the overwhelmingly dominant form of payment is UnionPay. In fact, there are over 4.6 billion UnionPay bankcards globally.
Accepting UnionPay is a real low-hanging fruit, which shows Chinese guests that you understand them and how they like to pay for items. Take the UK retailer Harrods for example. Back in 2011, the upmarket British department store announced that it had installed over 80 UnionPay terminals at checkout counters at its landmark Knightsbridge store and airport branches. Seems like a lot of effort for just some Chinese tourist dollars right? Wrong! According to some accounts, £1 in every £5 spent by Chinese tourists in the UK is now spent at Harrods.3
And yet, despite the clear benefits, according to Hotels.com’s 2016 Chinese International Travel Monitor, the lack of UnionPay card facilities is still one of two biggest challenges for Chinese travelers.4 So, don’t stuff up something so easy – make sure UnionPay is included as one of your payment options. And don’t forget to update all your promotional materials to indicate this!
3. Learn some Mandarin (or hire someone who speaks it!)
Question: If finding places that accept UnionPay is one of the two biggest challenges for Chinese tourists, what’s the other one? A gold star if you said “a lack of Mandarin-speaking staff”.
Although some 300 million Chinese claim to speak level of English, you can bet for most of them it is pretty rudimentary. So why not try to meet them in the middle, with some rudimentary Mandarin of your own! There are few things that Chinese appreciate more than a “laowai” (foreigner) who has tried to learn some Mandarin – a language that all Chinese will readily admit is one the hardest in the world to learn.
Failing that, there are plenty of people of Chinese ancestry and Chinese international students in Australia, so you could always hire a native speaker – but at least learn how to say welcome (“hwan-ying”) before you do!
4. Translated information guides/welcome materials
If learning some Mandarin or hiring someone proves to be too difficult, at the very least make sure you have a translated information brochure. Think about it – even if your Chinese guest is fluent in English, they’re going to be a lot more comfortable with something written in their native tongue. Particularly if that something is a detailed guide to a location they’ve never visited before. Chances are you’ve already a great information guide or brochure in English, so contact us to get a quality translation done, tailored for a Chinese audience.
5. Add a little extra (eg electric kettle/disposable slippers)
According to Hotels.com, the second most commonly requested item from Chinese hotel guests (with free w-ifi in top spot) is a kettle. And slippers are also a very popular request. Why? Well, in China, people avoid wearing their shoes inside the house, leaving them inside the front entrance and then transferring into slippers. It is extremely rare for Chinese to walk around bare foot. So, show your cultural understanding, and lay out the slippers, a kettle and a variety of teas. You’ll score points with your Chinese guests for sure.
The big hotel chains are all spending big bucks to improve their ability to welcome Chinese guests. Hilton International, for example, has rolled out its “Huanying Program” (huanying = “welcome”) to hundreds of hotels around the world.
For small and medium sized hotels, some of the features of these programs are not practical or affordable. However, that does not mean you should do nothing! Follow our easy steps and you’ll be well on your way to making your existing Chinese clientele feel more welcome, and recommending you to their friends and family.
China Ready Now is here to help you tick-off these 5 steps – get in touch today to find out how easy it can be!
- Social Pressures – Chinese tourists keep exploring, CLSA, January 2015.
- How Chinese travelers use apps before, during and after travel, Mailman Group, 12 June 2015.
- How brands are falling in love with Chinese tourists, CKGSB Knowledge, 7 April 2015.
- Chinese International Travel Monitor 2016, Hotels.com, July 2016.