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Overseas travel by Chinese citizens has exploded in recent years, including to Japan. Les Roches MBA student Johnny Qin tasted Tokyo’s luxury hospitality sector, and he has some interesting insights into how Chinese travelers can be made to feel welcome.
According to statistics from the China National Tourism Administration, Chinese tourists traveled overseas on 131 million occasions in 2017, an increase of 7% from the previous year. As we can predict that Chinese travelers will be second to none in the world tourism industry in the next few years, what comes next is that every destination wants to engage with Chinese tourists, get closer to them and learn how to meet their demands.
As the question of how to engage with Chinese travelers comes under the spotlight; the best way to answer it is to understand their culture, consumer behavior and, most importantly, their mindset.
Before joining the Les Roches MBA program, I was Assistant Guest Relations Manager of The Peninsula Beijing. During my time with The Peninsula Hotels, I was, fortunately, able to join the cross-exposure program to The Peninsula Tokyo for one month. This allowed me to experience the local market in Tokyo and to learn the essence of great Japanese service.
I met Mr. Fernando Bas, who is Front Office Manager of The Peninsula Tokyo, and is also a Les Roches alumnus. One of the questions I was asked was, as a Chinese person, what would attract me to a luxury hotel in Tokyo? This is important, since more and more Chinese tourists are coming to Tokyo, which is known as one of the most famous shopping spots in the world. Below are some of my personal opinions about it.
Personalized service and tailor-made packages are essential to touch everyone’s hearts. Nothing is more lovely than having a special package with your name on it when you are in a foreign country. Using their language is much more likely to leave a great first impression for guests, when it comes to things like welcome cards. Imaging your Chinese or Japanese name (made by the hotel for you and with explanations) on the welcome letter will make you feel unique, and that’s what luxury hotels create for a memorable experience.
Standing in the guest’s shoes to think from the other side is a frequent topic in the service industry. When I’m thinking as a traveler in Tokyo, what would be the top three things in my mind once I arrive in the hotel?
For example; I made a list called “For your convenience” including the nearest 7-11 convenience store, the nearest cosmetics store, and the nearest BicCamera (Japanese consumer electronics retailer chain) all with opening times and locations. That’s what Chinese customers want to know. There’s always a time gap before you head to the airport, when you can buy some souvenirs and cosmetics at the last minute; then you will realize how vital it was that the hotel provided a list for you at the beginning.
Also, when everyone recommends to visit Tokyo Tower, which is the city’s landmark attraction, I would suggest providing our guests with a list of some additional places like Prince Hotel and World Trade Center, where they can take the best pictures of Tokyo Tower.
Understanding culture and trends can help capture the guests’ real desires. More and more Chinese guests have evolved from the old travel stereotype – in which they only take a big bus to attractions to take pictures and have a group meal. Now they tend to dig more deeply into local cultures and styles. For example, they watch a Sumo show, learn how to make Sushi and eat it afterwards, as well as learning Japanese Samurai culture.
Making emotional connections with the local culture and finding the common touch is the spiritual way to see the customers as themselves and bring them closer to the destination.
In fact, there are lots of elements to Japanese culture that resonate with Chinese travelers’ cultural background. It could be a movie or a cartoon they watched from Japan; for example, younger Chinese people will always go to Kamakura-Koko-Mae (an iconic movie location) even though it’s a two-hour trip from downtown – just to bring their precious childhood memories back to reality. The most vital thing is finding the emotional resonance between the destination and the potential customers.
Nowadays, the Chinese traveler has more focus on spiritual experiences in traveling. So travel agencies like WildChina have been promoting a number of themed tours, like a tour of art, a tour of food-tasting and a photography tour, in order to engage with new customers.
I hope the opinions I mentioned above will help you think more about the trends in this highly competitive industry.
Johnny Qin, MBA1 Student Ambassador
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