Chinese tourists are the fastest growing travel segment worldwide. As international travel becomes more accessible millions of Chinese nationals are making their first leisure trips abroad. Their preferences are increasingly including more long-haul destinations and higher-cost accommodation, and we are set to see an increase in per-trip and per-night spending by Chinese visitors. This boom is driving the need for Chinese-friendly accommodation, whether it be high-end, mid range or budget accommodation.
China’s travellers are expecting a comfort-level equivalent to the best lodging experience at home. Chinese consumer satisfaction surveys are indicating that accomodation experiences at global destinations are often falling short, impacting trip enjoyment and causing negative dissemination of the trip experience across networks.
Chinese travellers as a minimum are seekng Chinese-language websites, collateral and services, a welcoming and attentive guest experience, and food and beverage options.
The tourism industry across the world is adopting China-ready campaigns in recognition of the need to make amenities and services more inviting to Chinese guests. Qualmark, New Zealand’s quality assurance organisation, for example, has produced a series of advisory guides on catering for the Chinese tourist, from accommodation and food to colours and fengshui. Whilst implementing quality improvement advice is very much up to the individual provider, the luxury hotel brands have been surging ahead and are leading the way in offering a global hospitality standard for Chinese visitors.
The Hilton, Marriott, InterContinental, Starwood and Accor groups are subscribing to the Welcome Chinese hospitality standard. Welcome Chinese is the only industry standard recognised by the state-run China Tourism Academy.
The Welcome Chinese programme certifies hotels and other tourism businesses in return for providing services tailored specifically to Chinese tastes and habits. It is divided into three levels – Bronze, Silver and Gold – according to the quality and number of services that tourism businesses can guarantee to Chinese guests.
The three levels of the Welcome Chinese certification consist of a progression of required services aimed at Chinese guests:
- The Bronze level is given for the broadcasting of at least two Mandarin-speaking television channels.
- The Silver level requires, in addition, that a kettle and tea set be provided in the rooms, as well as acceptance of China Union Pay, which is the only domestic bank card in the People’s Republic of China.
- The Gold level requires more demanding services: a Mandarin-speaking member on the hotel staff, some traditional Chinese food for breakfast and the provision of a ‘Welcome Kit’ for the visitor. The kit consists of printed information, in Mandarin, to inform about the location, the tourism destinations nearby, and the hotel itself.
There is increasing interest from Chinese travellers in luxury hotel chains, and this is being attributed to the number of western hotel brands opening in China’s second, third and fourth-tier cities, thereby building brand awareness in parts of China where wealth is increasing and overall luxury hotel awareness may be low. After experiencing a particular brand in their home country Chinese tourists are now seeking out this familiar brand when they travel abroad.
The global hotel chains are rising to the challenge and fine-tuning service offerings to attract and retain the infux of new business from the outbound Chinese tourism market.
The Hilton offers, Hilton Huanying, a tailored experience for Chinese travellers. Hilton Huanying takes its name from the Chinese word for ‘welcome’, and extends authentic experiences with amenities, service standards and Hilton team training. Huanying offers a consistent guest experience with three signature hospitality touch points designed to make stays more enjoyable and comfortable – arrival experience, guest room amenities (tea making, Chinese language TV channels, slippers, welcome pack), and Chinese breakfast.
The Intercontinental Group (IHG) has its Zhou Dao global service initiative; integrating IHG’s Chinese name ‘Zhou’ with the Chinese philosophical concept ‘Dao’, intended to convey “attentive, thorough and considerate courtesy”. IHG entered the Chinese market over 30 years ago, is the the largest international hotel chain in China, and has built a deep understanding of Chinese consumers’ lodging requirements. Nearly 100 hotels across the globe are already participating in the Zhou Dao programme, and by the end of this year the number will more than double to 250 hotels.
This year, IHG will also open its first domestic hotel brand – Hualuxe Hotels and Resorts, which it intends to roll-out to major international destinations, in an effort to capture the outbound Chinese tourism market. The name Hualuxe is a combination of the Chinese words for “majestic China” and “luxury”.
Accor hotels have Chinese Optimum Service Standards to enable their hotels to better cater for the growing inbound market from China. This includes training for Accor’s staff in cultural differences, Chinese dishes included on menus, and Chinese newspapers and television channels.
Marriott International has created the Li Yu programme with a range of personalised services especially tailored for their Chinese guests. The name, ‘Li Yu’ expresses that courtesy is the service standard, including Mandarin speaking associates, hotel service directories and local area information in Chinese, Chinese breakfasts and in-room dining menu and teas, and Chinese newspapers and TV channels.
Starwood offers its Starwood Personalised Travel Program, which includes in-hotel Chinese specialists to assist guests during their stay and offers Chinese language collateral – welcome pack, local area, sightseeing, shopping and key hotel information.
The increasing number of Chinese travellers is a boon for accommodation providers to tap into. The independent Chinese traveller is requiring quality provision, from luxury to back-packers. Adapting amenities and services to offer thoughtful touches, that the Chinese traveller understands and appreciates, improves the guest experience and enhances opportunities for brand building and marketing into the China market, exponentially. The Chinese traveller is very focused on rich travel experiences, and comfort and service is very much part of the equation. Is your service standard China ready?