How to win the hearts of Chinese

MICE NOW survey uncovers the key issues for hotels looking to attract Chinese business travelers

International hotel brands have all turned their gaze onto China as the consumer market here continues to expand with increasing numbers of businessmen and businesswomen travelling away from home. According to a research paper released by the Global Business Travel Association, China’s business travel spending is estimated to have reached US$202 billion in 2012 and will hit US$245 billion in 2013, with outbound tourism expenditure projected to increase by 27% in 2013. A report from American Express also indicated that nearly half of the enterprises surveyed (49%) have expanded their budgets in the business travel segment. Understanding what Chinese business travelers need has become a top priority for international brand hotels looking to take a share of the growing cake. MICE NOW discussed the issue with three industry sources who gave rich insights in this area.

Convenience and basic needs
Leng Ya (General Manger of Shanghai Zunzun International Travel Service  (www.shvip.com):
The market for outbound travel on public duty has been shrinking due to the government’s restrictions on funds used for what are known as the “three public consumptions” -- overseas travel, receptions and official cars. But this has also contributed to an increase in the numbers of so-called business inspection tours. China’s business travelers, exhibition attendees in particular, attach the utmost important to the convenience that hotels can provide, primarily in the areas of transportation and telecommunications. Hotels that can offer timely support in terms of WIFI Internet access, document faxing and printing and courier services are going to be most attractive to MICE travelers. Another key to attracting Chinese businessmen/businesswomen is to provide space to hold business meetings or small events in hotel rooms or in the lobby. However, given the different lifestyle habits and customs, foreign high-end hotels still need to become more internationalized to cater to guests from various ethnic groups. An example is that when we stayed in a brand hotel at a well-known scenic spot in Turkey, Pamukkale, there was no hot water provided as local people only drink iced water.

Hotel brand and special needs
Zheng Qijun (marketing manager of Byecity.com):
China has witnessed rapid expansion of the outbound business tourism market with guest demands changing all the time. Of the various hotel elements, domestic business travelers care about “brand” most, which in their eyes is the emblem of a hotel’s quality. Having said that, international brands are not always in front position. Once I led a group of businessmen/businesswomen from Ningxia Region to attend an exhibition in Malaysia. There were two hotels available during our stay, one was a brand hotel in the Marriott chain, and another was a local brand called Palace of the Golden Horses Kuala Lumpur. Most of our guests preferred to stay at Golden Horses, which displayed the photos of visits by heads of state and created an atmosphere of nobility with its stylish decor. As the tradition of respect for authority has a long history in China, this approach is definitely what Chinese travelers appreciate. Hotel location is another important factor. The attendees of exhibitions prefer to stay next to the exhibition center, while incentive tourists like to stay in scenic areas. Lastly, given that many Chinese businessmen are smokers, it is necessary for foreign high-end hotels to have a floor that is dedicated to smokers and provide ashtrays in the rooms.

Chinese language service
Zhu Tiantong (Huitong Conference & Exhibition Services):
Chinese outbound tourists tend to choose brand hotels with “top of the world” titles so that they can fully experience the best. Domestic guests also regard Chinese language services as an important factor in selecting destinations since many of them are not good at English. Therefore, hotels need to provide more offerings ranging from Chinese TV programs, Chinese food to Chinese notices and maps. Business travelers come from all walks of life with a diversity of demands. Corporate decision-makers often appreciate a getaway from high-stress metropolises and prefer to live in low-key luxury resort hotels, while township entrepreneurs desire to immerse themselves into urban life and enjoy all modern amenities. Regardless, it is all about a warm welcome. Once I guided a business delegation to the US, and the local hotel made good preparations for the host, changing the colors of sheets and curtains to conform to the taste of guests, engraving their names on the ashtrays. All these details made our guests feel at home after a full day’s tough flight.