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Travel Marketers Aren’t Prepared for Flood of Affluent Chinese Tourists

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A recent article in Ad Age Global has reported that, according to Chinese travel experts, the global travel and tourism industry is ill-prepared for the coming flood of wealthy Chinese travelers.

The growing number of affluent Chinese travelers “will completely change the face of tourism,” especially in hot destinations such as New York, Las Vegas, London and Paris, said Pierre Gervois, president-CEO of China Elite Focus, which specializes in affluent Chinese outbound tourism…

“Everyone stands to benefit because the Chinese market is growing so fast,” said Bruce Ryde, general manager of InterContinental Hotels’ Hotel Indigo Shanghai on the Bund, who appeared on this week’s episode of “Thoughtful China,” a video program produced in China.

As early as 2012, China is expected to oust Japan as the world’s largest tourism market, with sixty-six million Chinese traveling in 2011, a number expected to hit 100 million by 2020, according to the World Tourism Organization. Despite the expected tens of millions expected inbound Chinese tourists in the next few years, most hotels, airlines and retailers do not yet understand how to successfully capture this market.

These travelers are  affluent expect customized travel experiences with some of the comforts of home. The first barrier that needs to be overcome is language – preparation needs to go into translating menus, hotel and travel information and basic conversational language for travelers, according to Ryde.

Photo: CurryPuffy, Flickr.

“The most important thing the hotels need to be thinking about is understanding and tapping into the cultural differences, and ensuring they understand what’s important to Chinese travelers,” said Gary Rosen, who recently resigned as senior VP and head of global operations for InterContinental Hotels Group.

Some hotel and retail chains have started to tap into this market. This summer both Hilton and Starwood introduced touches aimed at Chinese travelers such as stocking instant noodles, Chinese teas and tea kettles in mini-bars, offering Chinese TV channels and slippers in guest rooms, and serving congee (hot rice porridge) and dim sum at breakfast.

Food is especially important. Don’t be surprised, Mr. Gervois said, if Chinese tourists, both rich and poor, prefer instant noodles in the room over local cuisine.”

Certain hotels, tourist attractions and luxury retailers have made banking machines available that accept Chinese debit cards available since many Chinese don’t have Western credit cards. However, such strategies must increase in scope and sophistication – many Chinese chains, such as Shangri-la hotels, are branching out to western destinations and are primed to dominate the market. Other experts point out that Chinese travelers are seeking information on places to go but that there is little in the way of curated information for them, such as apps in Chinese on where to shop in Paris or eat in New York.

For more information, read the entire article by Normandy Madden, on Ad Age Global.

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