The Chinese have become the biggest travel spenders in the world, and hotels are taking notice. Across Europe and the US, back-office planners and front desk clerks are learning about Chinese customs to attract new travellers and keep them returning.
The market is large, and growing. Chinese spent $US102 billion on overseas travel last year, the UN World Tourism Organisation says. Rising incomes, a relaxation of foreign travel restrictions and the sheer number of citizens have all contributed in fuelling the growth.
Scott Taber, a vice-president at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, said his company was updating its employee training and guest offerings to meet the 76 per cent increase in travellers from China. Bellboys, reception clerks and telephone operators were being trained to pronounce Chinese names, and Chinese newspapers, welcome materials in Mandarin, and green tea were being offered in hotel rooms in cities such as Paris, London and Los Angeles.
The Medallia company, which created the customer feedback system for Four Seasons, has translated it into Mandarin so Chinese guests can provide feedback worldwide.
Hotels that hope to attract and retain Chinese business teach their front desk staff and reservations agents basic cultural information. Guests from China are not assigned to rooms that include the number four, which is considered unlucky because it sounds like the word for death.
Chinese business practices and management hierarchy influence room assignments, so managers need to be assigned to a higher floor than their team, or given a higher room number.
The JW Marriott London Grosvenor House staffs a Chinese welcome desk for group arrivals, offers Chinese-labelled bathroom products and supplies a Chinese do-not-disturb sign.