Will destinations in the U.S. take up the example of Visit Britain, which recently announced the publication and release of its GREAT Names for GREAT Britain campaign, in which 101 of its most popular attractions (and some not-so-popular) had been renamed by Chinese fans and followers on its microsite and social media pages with the ostensible goal of having them travel to the country and taking photos of themselves against the landmarks that they had named.
Some examples: Here are some places and activities have already been renamed, including the following:
—The Shard in London is now called Zhai Xing Ta, meaning “the tower that allows us to pluck stars from the sky”
—The Highland Games are referred to as Qun Ying Hui or “the strong-man skirt party”
—The Beatles have been renamed Pi Tou Shior, or “the gentlemen with long hair”
—The Gherkin building in London has been called Xiao Huang Gua, which translates as “the pickled little cucumber”
Unable to readily locate any U.S. destinations that are doing something similar, Inbound turned to Evan Saunders, CEO of Attract China, which helps U.S. businesses and destinations in understanding and working the China market, and asked him what he knew about this phenomenon.
He noted, however, that “private companies are doing this proactively … not just with the names of places, but in their taglines.” For some, Saunders explained, the company tagline does not make sense in Chinese, because such phrases are often very colloquial and idiomatic and don’t translate well. So, he said, the companies will change their name in Chinese in order to be more China-friendly. Saunders emphasized the point that “the goal is to be true to yourself –changing you name without changing who you are.”
Chinese visitors are still going to come to the U.S., he told us, but U.S. travel businesses and DMOs should be pro-active in accommodating them. Asked which U.S. destinations he could cite as being pro-active in better accommodating the Chinese visitor (online and otherwise), he mentioned Visit Seattle, the Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, the San Francisco Travel Association and the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board as “great city tourism bureaus that have been and are being proactive.”
But, he emphasized, no matter how well a DMO or travel supplier is doing through its website, its social media presence and with its presentation in the U.S., one really needs an in-country presence or representation to get their message across: “You have to have boots on the ground in both the western world and in China in terms of your knowledge of the culture.”
Saunders had a caution, too, for destinations and businesses that have turned to hiring Chinese students in the USA—there are about 300,000 attending U.S. colleges and schools in the current 2014-2015 school year—as interpreters and tour guides. “It is a source” he acknowledged, but pointed out, “but they are not professionals … and it doesn’t mean that they know how to translate.”
The nature of the translation challenge came when Inbound’s editor prefaced a question with “Off the top of my head …” when Saunders politely explained with a chuckle, “that doesn’t translate at all into Chinese.”
(Evan Saunders will be a featured presenter at next week’s Attract America-China Summit at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas, discussing “The Hot New Market for FITs and How to Access Repeat Visitors.”)