7 steps to hotel heaven

7 steps to hotel heaven

The Chinese outbound travel market is not just the largest in the world – it also grew by 12% in 2016. Chinese tourists outspend and outshop all other tourists. And yet many hotels are missing out on this valuable market, because they think either that Chinese tourists are difficult to cater for, or that they all travel in large groups and stay in mid-market chain hotels on the unfashionable outskirts of cities.

But the Chinese market has moved on, and Chinese tourists are increasingly seeking out stylish independent hotels. And you’ll be pleased to hear that making your hotel Chinese-friendly doesn’t require big investment or massive changes – just a few tweaks to your offering, core information translated into Mandarin and some understanding of cultural norms can make you a great proposition to this market. Here’s our list of 7 great ways to make your hotel appealing to the Chinese …

1. Food: it’s not just about congee and chopsticks

Just a few short years ago, congee was widely touted as the ‘must have’ breakfast for Chinese tourists overseas. But these days food tourism is on the rise among Chinese millennials, and genuine local cuisine is an important part of the holiday experience. From Brighton’s Regency restaurant to The Plough at Cadsden, host of Prime Minister Cameron and President Xi Jinping’s fish and chip dinner in 2015, restaurants of all types are welcoming the modern Chinese tourist.

Make both first-time overseas travellers and millennials happy by offering a local hot breakfast option and having hot water available. Be ready to recommend local restaurants and regional cuisine too. From shortbread in Scotland to oysters in Brighton, Chinese food tastes are evolving beyond rice and dim sum.

2. Authentic experiences make you more attractive

While non-Chinese hotel chains such as Hilton and Kempinski are learning the value of adapting their product to Chinese tastes in China, this is outweighed in overseas destinations by the demand for authentic local experiences. If they are memorable, exclusive and Instagrammable, all the better – there’s a reason that China is now the 4th largest source market for polar tourists.

Remember that the Chinese are rarely travelling for relaxation, rather to experience different cultures and see how other people live. Make sure you promote experiences which offer genuine insight into local life, as well as VIP trips. Chinese now make up the 2nd largest group on winery tours in Australia; if you have vineyards nearby, why not partner to offer VIP tours with paired wine tastings?

3. A little Mandarin goes a long way (to making your Chinese guests feel welcome)

It isn’t always practical to have Mandarin-speaking hotel employees, but offering menus and general hotel information in Mandarin goes a long way to making your Chinese guests feel welcome. It’ll reduce cultural misunderstandings and unanswerable queries too (unless your receptionists already have enough Mandarin to communicate the location of smoking areas and explain that breakfast takes place from 7am). Making core hotel information in Mandarin available by QR code will also tick an important technological Chinese box, as well as making it easier to update.

Small cultural gestures, such as accepting credit cards with two hands, and addressing the oldest person in the party first, are also greatly valued as signs of understanding. Rooms including the number 8 are a great choice for Chinese guests, since the number 8 is considered lucky. Conversely, don’t ever give Chinese guests rooms on the 4th floor or containing the number 4, since the number sounds like the word for death in Mandarin.

4. China UnionPay: a surefire way to increase revenue

China UnionPay is by far the preferred payment method for Chinese tourists. Accepting UnionPay shows your Chinese guests you are serious about their custom; according to Australia’s Commonwealth Bank, Chinese tourists are 20 times more likely to use a business which accepts China UnionPay. Your afternoon tea probably costs less than £50 per head, but it’s still worth noting that The Ritz saw spend by Chinese visitors increase by 25% in the first year it accepted UnionPay.

5. Delight your Chinese guests with free Wifi

Over 80% of Chinese share photos of their travels in social media – a figure which rises to over 90% amongst millennials. And over 70% of Chinese under 40 years old rely on social media for travel inspiration. So it makes sense to offer free Wifi: not only is it a great draw for visitors, it also allows them to share content which will help to promote your hotel and region to at-home Chinese looking for holiday ideas.

And there’s another reason for offering free Wifi; Ctrip and Qunar, China’s two largest travel sites, give great weight to free Wifi in their hotel rankings.

6. Style and heritage lift your hotel above the crowd

Boutique hotels are taking off in China and the growing number of independent travellers are looking for something more interesting than a standard mid-market chain hotel. Stylish architecture, on-trend interior design and local heritage are all attractive draws, especially to millennials seeking that perfect Instagrammable moment. Promote your local roots and what makes you unique, whether that’s local music heritage in Liverpool or links to Royalty in London.

7. Welcome multi-generational families

A growing trend in Chinese outbound travel is multi-generational travel, where sons and daughters bring their parents on overseas trips for a shared family experience. You already know to address the most senior member of the party first, and it turns out you can probably offer the ideal room arrangement too. Make it possible for multi-generational parties to book several rooms together; the old family rooms linked by internal doors turn out to be perfect for this, allowing Chinese family members to create a common meeting space when holidaying together.

So it turns out that just a few small changes will make your hotel Chinese-friendly – and they’re your first step into a virtuous circle whereby your Chinese guests will help your promotion by sharing their experiences on social media. But first you’ll need to make yourself known in China. Our next blog will look at the key steps to promoting your newly-China-friendly hotel to Chinese travellers and travel agents.


Helena Beard

Founder and Managing Director of China Travel Outbound

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