“China Ready,” a term that found its way into the business language of the inbound tour and travel industry five years ago meant then that U.S. hotels, destinations and other travel suppliers: had learned to use Chinese language print material and collateral; have Chinese-speaking staff or tour guides available; have in–room tea kettles and Chinese food offerings; and honor the UnionPay bankcard or credit card.
Things have changed.
This was the not-so surprising consensus of the panel of tour and travel experts (pictured, left to right)—Charlie Zhou, president, CPTrip Service; Christine Leader, marketing director, New Sun International Travel; and Denny Xia, travel trade director, East West Marketing—who discussed the subject at the Active America-China Summit last week in Fort Worth.
It’s All about WeChat and Free Wi-Fi: In a wide-ranging answer to the question “How has the concept of ‘China Ready’ changed?” Zhou said that it is reflected in the single most important step that one can take in accommodating Chinese travelers—especially Millennials—free Wi-Fi. Chinese travelers, he said, “On WeChat, they want to connect every singly second of the day. They want to take pictures of what they see, what they hear, and send them right away.”
(Five years ago, WeChat hadn’t even been heard of, as it was launched in January 2011.)
And because of the language translation apps available, they want to share information and scenes described in English and translate them, he added. “That’s why you need to have Wi-Fi!”
“Connection” is indeed part of the definition of being China Ready in other ways as well. Noting that nearly everyone in the U.S. travel trade now have their business cards and their presentation materials translated into Chinese, Zhou said, they still need to stay connected personally. He suggested that sales and marketing professionals see Chinese tour operators in person at least once a year. For starters, he recommended the Active America Summit as a convenient place to do that.
As for specific customer-friendly steps that hoteliers and suppliers might take in order to be more China Ready than they were five years ago, here are a few from those suggested by panelists.
—Provide for group tour bus parking right in front of a hotel. Chinese travelers would rather take their luggage into a property themselves rather than pay porterage fees and wait for their luggage to arrive at their rooms.
—Because so many groups have established room selection and arrival times online, hotels should provide a group leader or someone with the ability to give travelers their hotel room key before arrival so that they do not have to wait for a group check-in and key distribution.
—One can make Chinese guests checking into a hotel feel welcomed by setting aside a VIP room for check-ins, rather than make them wait in a general lobby. Give them their key, a small amenity and the language challenge fades, said Leader. If Chinese guests feel like VIPs, then “No Chinese. No problem.”
When Bob Jing, head of East Coast marketing for UnionPay—had made an earlier presentation—got up and said that hoteliers and travel suppliers should make sure to accommodate UnionPay, Jake Steinman, NAJ’s founder and CEO, who was moderating the panel discussion, drew chuckles from the audience when he told Jing: “That’s 1.0. This is China Ready 2.0”