Happy New Year! For Asian countries, the new year is not only celebrated on January 1st, but also on the traditional Chinese New Year which occurs between the end of January and middle of February each year. Here is a link to find the date and corresponding Zodiac animal for each year through 2030.
Also known as Spring Festival, it is becoming increasingly popular to take long-distance trips during this two week period. This bump in tourism in the winter is great for many of us. It is a slower season when we are happy to see any visitor come through the door! Over the years I have leveraged this business through some simple actions that anyone can take.
Chinese New Year is a festive occasion with red lanterns, banners, and the Zodiac animal featured prominently. This article gives some great information on the most popular decorations.
I have been able to travel to Chinatown in NYC to get decorations at pop up shops that are sandwiched everywhere on the busy streets. I usually am lucky enough to get one of the office staff from my favorite tour operator to come with me and help me figure out what to buy.
One time when I went shopping alone, I ended up coming home with a poster that was particularly colorful and festive. I placed it prominently at our group check-in area, only to be told by a tour guide that it said ” Happy Marriage”! I ended up taking it down and giving it to a woman in my office who was getting married later that year. So unless you read Mandarin, its best to bring someone with you or choose items with no writing!
If you aren’t located near a major city, there are plenty of places online to shop for Chinese New Year decorations. We buy some that are generic and can be re-used, and then some that feature the Zodiac animal of the year. This is an inexpensive way to make Chinese guests feel welcome and special.
Offer Asian food
If you offer food, consider offering an Asian specialty during Chinese New Year. It is a good time to experiment since it typically isn’t busy, and your cafe can develop items that you might be able to offer full time as your Chinese visitor market grows.
One easy option- noodle cups. They are easy to display and there is a great sales margin on them. You will also see that customers tend to stock up- they will buy multiples so they can have them in their hotels. You do need to provide plenty of hot water. We learned quickly that the demand for noodle cups made it necessary to upgrade our hot water supply. But for starters, you can just use several urns that have never been used to hold coffee (that leaves the water with a coffee taste).
I have learned that the noodle cups that are popular in the U.S.( like Oodles of Noodles) are not what Chinese want. It is worth the effort to find noodle cups that are Chinese. We have gotten samples from our suppliers and asked tour guides to give us their opinion on which would be most popular. They appreciated being asked, and we got expert taste testers!
Try Something New
This can also be a good time to see if there is an activity that this market might enjoy – and pay for. Is there a hands-on element of your attraction that you can try? The Chinese tour operators are always eager for DIY projects (DIY is a more common term than ‘hands- on’ for the Chinese market) that they can sell to customers. The key is to make it easy, quick and something that won’t take up much room in the luggage. Pricing is important as well. Look for a future post on tour costs and the Chinese market.
Red money envelopes
These small envelopes traditionally contain money and are given out to friends and family. This article gives a great background. I have seen retailers such as the Mall of America give out Red envelopes that contained coupons for discounts, free passes to the rides, and other items. So smart! This small gesture shows that you are China ready. It would be easy to produce a discount card for your retail outlet and place them in an envelope. Red money envelopes are even available for digital distribution through WeChat! (If you aren’t familiar with WeChat, check out these posts.)
Retail products in form of Zodiac animal
Highlighting items in your gift shop that feature the zodiac animal of the year is another way to increase revenue. It is even better if your products can contain your destination or attractions name which will make it a great souvenir. Can you offer a product that has all the zodiac animals as options? I have seen people that would like to buy products that feature the animals of their family members. Or a whole set. Keep in mind that they have to be lightweight and easily packed.
Social media is very popular with Chinese and everyone takes photos and posts them for friends and family to see. First, off, make sure you offer free wifi. That should be a basic amenity. Second, are there photo ops that also include the name of your destination, your logo or your website? Let your guests promote you at no cost. Make it special for New year by featuring the Zodiac animal as a photo opportunity!
I have been offering workshops on becoming China ready, as well as trainings on how to use WeChat. As I often say, you don’t have to be fluent in Mandarin, but you do need to know WeChat to be successful in this market. Email me if you would like more information on the training and workshops.
I am looking to grow my subscriber list to 1000 by June 1. Can you forward this to a colleague or friend who might enjoy learning more about the tourism industry? Thank you!
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(Sally Berry is tourism sales and marketing manager at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York. A veteran tour and travel industry marketing professional, she launched The Attractions Coach nearly two years ago. A frequent speaker and program panelist at industry conferences and workshops, she will be making a presentation on “How to Market on WeChat” at the upcoming Active America-China conference March 25-27 in Atlanta. For more information, visit www.activeamericachina.net.)