China Inbound: how to prepare for Chinese guests

With an anticipated 300% growth in Chinese visitors to the Middle East by 2023, Hotelier gives our tips for making sure your hotel is a top choice.

Opinion, Reports, Travel, Comment & analysis, Operators, Top 10, China, China outbound, Chinese, Chinese travellers, Tips for hotels, What do chinese travellers want, What do chinese travellers want from hotels
Opinion, Reports, Travel, Comment & analysis, Operators, Top 10, China, China outbound, Chinese, Chinese travellers, Tips for hotels, What do chinese travellers want, What do chinese travellers want from hotels
Opinion, Reports, Travel, Comment & analysis, Operators, Top 10, China, China outbound, Chinese, Chinese travellers, Tips for hotels, What do chinese travellers want, What do chinese travellers want from hotels

The Middle East already has a variety of residents from the Far East living and working here but Chinese visitors are expected to rise dramatically in the next eight years, particularly to the Emirates.

IHG has released a report that shows an anticipated 300% growth (from 2013) in tourists from the massive Eastern country to the Gulf by 2023.

China is the fastest growing source of tourism in the market and Chinese guests stay longer in hotels than the average long-haul guest, which means their tourism is a coveted one. Chinese guests have a penchant for hotel restaurants, keeping your per-customer-spend high and their expensive taste makes the Middle East and its luxury shopping experiences a target for Chinese leisure travel.

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A lot has been written about the China Outbound phenomenon, but what do Chinese guests want? Why do they choose the hotels they stay in? How can you make them most comfortable and most importantly, how do you create brand loyalty amongst the myriad Chinese visitors who will be filling Middle East hotels?

With 97% of Chinese travellers going abroad go for leisure, we’ve focused on the needs of a leisure traveller.

Below are Hotelier’s 10 tips to raise your brand’s awareness with this key demographic.

Before they travel

1) Find a good Chinese translator and PR firm, or employ a translator or marketer yourself – PR firms can help you advertise and provide the same help within China that they provide in your home market. The China Business Network and China National Tourism Administration can help with this.

2) Be careful with online marketing and boost your e-commerce -- As many sites that the rest of the world commonly uses are blocked in China (Google, Facebook, Instagram), it’s helpful to know where your advertising revenue is best served if your site’s url is outside of China.

Many articles and adverts are blocked, even if they’re not on blocked websites. Website Pulse, a website monitoring service, can help you conduct article-blocking tests before you publish, to see whether your site will survive behind the Great Firewall of China.

3) Be visible on Chinese social media sites – marketing on Facebook and Twitter and Google SEO won’t help you reach this market. Efforts are better spent training your marketing team or the PR agency you engage to be au fait with the most popular social media sites in China.

91% of Chinese citizens online are on a social media site (as opposed to only 67% in the US, for example).

The most popular sites are Q Zone and Pengyou (Facebook-similar) Tencent Weibo and Sina Weibo (Twitter clones) and WeChat (similar to WhatsApp).

42% of respondents in a recent Hotels.com poll said that they made their travel decisions via social media, so ramping up your presence on Chinese social media is a no-brainer. And 53% (the highest percentage) are booking through Chinese-language travel guides – so make sure your property is known in the Chinese tourism industry.

However, 52% said they still rely on the word of mouth of family and friends – making the classic ‘Chinese standards’ (good service, good in-house restaurants and rewards programmes/deals) one of the more important aspects of your Chinese traveller demographic marketing plan.

4) Attend tourism fairs in China – the most popular are the China International Travel Mart in November and the China Outbound Travel and Tourism Market in April.

5) Target Chinese residents who are already living and working in the Middle East, Europe or America – they will travel between these locations, just as others living in those locales do, and they also bring their extended family with them from China – one family trip could represent as many as 20 hotel rooms for up to two weeks.

To get in on the resident Chinese market, contact representatives from the embassies, associations, chambers of commerce and groups in your area for promotions and to see how mutual relationships can benefit your property.

Once they’ve chosen your hotel

1) Most Chinese tourists tend to spend only 1-3 nights in each country, unless there is more than just tourist destinations. They spend a longer time in countries with casinos such as Lebanon or Las Vegas, USA, for example. Countries where sporting activities are a bigger part of the culture also rated well, with camel and horse racing in the region piquing interest.

Only having 1-3 nights in a country means they don’t want to wait – prompt, efficient service is a must. Offering an itinerary service to help Chinese travellers make the most of their stay will boost your property up the list (but make sure it’s advertised on the right channels). Most of the China Outbound market doesn’t holiday to relax – they want to experience. Help them do that on your property.

Remind your staff that despite a Chinese diner’s pleasure with a meal, their culture is not a tipping one, with 71% not typically leaving a tip in any situation. Training may need to be provided to keep services high and your staff culturally aware.

2) The top activities for Chinese travellers are shopping (luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Hermes are their favourites), visiting landmarks, gambling and golfing.

Nai-Lin Yeh, a guide who organises tours for Chinese tourists in the UK, says: “In China the branded goods are very expensive and they worry about counterfeits. When they go shopping they want to spend a lot.”

If your property is near a mall, you’re in luck – you’ll already be a top destination for Asian tourists. But what if you’re in a more remote location? Organising shopping tours for your travellers and publicising widely is a good idea. Themed shopping trips (e.g. ‘Luxury Brands of Abu Dhabi’) are a big hit, even amongst younger Chinese travellers, who are more prone to take more leisurely holidays than their older counterparts.

And make sure your in-property shops are good and offer luxury brands and extended hours.

3) Get China Ready and Accredited – a quality assurance accreditation system for Chinese travellers, China Ready provides Chinese tourists with vendors and products who are certified to provide a pre-determined level of cultural awareness, understanding and service quality. More and more Chinese customers are looking for the China Ready logo when booking accommodation and travel tours. China Ready also provides marketing and connects foreign companies directly with Chinese customers.

4) Provide basic services that many hotels seem to overlook: allow Chinese guests to pay via their preferred methods: China Union pay or Allpay.

The in-property food options are one of the most important aspects of Chinese guests both choosing a hotel and rating their stay highly. This is still the F&B option that Chinese guests spend the most money on when abroad. And 73% of respondents choose a restaurant based on its China-specific offerings.

Providing Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking hotel staff (at least one on shift at all times) and Chinese-language travel and tour guides was lacking in most hotels according to 54% of respondents – this was the area most-marked for improvement by Chinese guests (80% saying it needed to be improved in hotels).

And though many hotels, even in the Gulf, are moving away from offering smoking rooms, 40% of Chinese guests in a recent Hotels.com poll said that hotels rarely provide them.

5) And lastly: focus your China-ready energy on your three- and four-star properties, as these are still overwhelmingly the most popular amongst the China outbound demographic, with only 17% opting for five-star choices. Price is still not an issue for most Chinese travellers and Dubai is still the city where they’re paying the most per night ($300).

What are your experiences with the China inbound guests to our region? Weigh in on Twitter and Facebook.

For all the latest hospitality news from UAE, Gulf countries and around the world, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page.

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