The art of hiring a Chinese Market Sales Manager

The art of hiring a Chinese Market Sales Manager
Recruiting a Sales and Marketing Manager for the Chinese inbound market may be a tricky task for U.S. hotels, CVB’s and destination management companies. Luring Chinese consumers is never easy, but naive missteps can be avoided.

In July 2009, an average of one article per day about the surge of Chinese inbound tourists in the United States was posted on Twitter. By November 2009, there were three articles per day, and in March 2010, more than ten new articles per day were posted about this subject.
Every day, all over the country, major hotel chains, luxury boutique hotels, holiday resorts and budget hotels suddenly realize that luring a few of the 50 million Chinese outbound tourist should be a crucial part of their financial salvation in recession and post-recession times.

Taking into consideration that the United States is the number one “dream destination” according to the 2007 Travel Industry Association Research Report on China, and the fact that only 400,000 Chinese tourists actually visited the U.S. in 2009, it’s easy to imagine the impact for the entire hospitality and tourism industry once the flux of Chinese tourist will have reached its natural level — anticipated to be a minimum of one million visitors per year.
Thanks to the realistic approach of the U.S. General Consulates in China, and particularly in Shanghai, the issuance of tourist visas has been recently simplified and accelerated for Chinese tourists travelling in groups and individually.
For each hotel and resort of the United States, and particularly in the four states of California, Nevada, New York and Florida, the bottom line challenge is how to convince Chinese travelers to choose their hotel over another.

Just counting on the presence into Chinese hotel booking engines is like finding a particular grain of sand in the bottom of the Chinese Sea. The probability that a Chinese tourist — or a Chinese travel agent– specifically picks your hotel when preparing his travel online is close to zero. The fact is that these outbound travel booking engines are just bourgeoning in China and won’t have the necessary maturity, reputation and exposure to be meaningful for another two to three years. They can’t yet be considered an efficient marketing tool.

In most cases, the most proactive and efficient solution is to recruit a dedicated sales and marketing manager in charge of this promising, largely untapped and fast-growing Chinese market.
This manager can be located at the hotel (for small / medium size hotels), or, for major hotel chains or big resorts, being an expatriate (or a local employee) located in China in a representative office.
The job description requirements generally follows this pattern:

-Implementing marketing strategies in China to lure the new generation of affluent Chinese outbound tourists preparing a holiday trip to the U.S.
-Developing relations with Chinese outbound travel agencies, mostly located in Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou
-Building the hotel’s brand image in China
-Doing Public Relations with Chinese journalists writing in Chinese
outbound travel magazines
-And, last but not least, understanding the behavior and expectations of
Chinese travelers to the U.S. when they select a hotel

Which profile fits the best with these arduous tasks? Here are the profiles Human Resources departments think are the best and actually recruit on a preferential basis, according to our experience and examples taken in many hotels, CVB’s and Destination Management Companies within the U.S.:
-A candidate who has learned Chinese language at university
-An American Born Chinese (ABC) person
-A Chinese citizen (in many cases a former Chinese intern)
-Generally junior people

This kind of profile springs from two basic myths: that having a Chinese background is an advantage, and that youth is an asset.
Having Chinese origins and/or speaking Chinese language are neither advantages nor disadvantages for this kind of position. They are just irrelevant criteria.
We have often seen hotels that have recruited a “Chinese Market Sales Manager” on the sole criteria that the candidate was a Chinese citizen, despite having no previous experiences in travel, tourism, or marketing.
China Elite Focus has seen also some candidates with no Chinese or Asian origins even specifiy on their resume the fact that their spouse is Chinese, or that they “like Chinese food” hoping that it will positively influence the recruiter!
It is striking to see how many recruiters in the hospitality industry still commit these kind of naïve mistakes today.
According to China Elite Focus’ five years expertise in assisting various hotels, golf resorts and incoming travel agencies to recruit Chinese Market Managers, good recruiting criteria should be based on the following three golden rules.

Rule #1 : Recruit a candidate at least 30 years old
First of all, this position is not for junior, inexperienced people. Negotiation with Chinese outbound travel agencies to sell the hotel and convincing a Chinese Editor-in-Chief to publish a story about a resort in a travel magazines require experience and judgment that comes with field experience. Moreover, Chinese people prefer to discuss business with senior western people rather than freshmen. Shanghai is full of these young expatriates, who are cut into pieces during negotiations with Chinese senior business people. The process may be effective field training for the young recruits, but a disaster for their employers.

Rule #2: Recruit a candidate with a previous field experience in China, even if he/she has never worked before in travel or tourism industry
Having field experience in China is essential. The ideal candidate should have a minimum of three to five years proven track record of field experience in China. That experience should include demonstrated negotiation abilities with Chinese businesspeople and Chinese officials, preferably in the industries of Hospitality, Travel, Consumer Goods, Retail, Wine & Spirits, Entertainment, Luxury goods, or Media.

Rule #3: Take in consideration exclusively the professional business background of the candidate in China, not his ethnicity, nationality, or fluency in Chinese

The nationality, ethnic profile or fluency in Chinese language, so often mistakenly valued by recruiters, are not relevant criteria in any way. Candidates from any nationality or any ethnic profile, Asian or not, can master and understand the marketing strategies which actually work in China. We have witnessed examples of highly talented people from all over the world, some speaking Chinese, some not at all, who had obtained awesome results in China because of their personal talent.

The counter-argument we often hear is “Speaking Chinese is absolutely necessary to undertake marketing operations in China.” The fact is that having studied ancient Chinese poems of the Song Dynasty, though remarkably interesting for the pleasure of the mind, does not translate into marketing and sales abilities in the fast-changing China of the 21st century.
For a sales and marketing executive in charge of the Chinese market, working in team with a Chinese translator and interpreter is the best solution, and gives the best operational results. That is what really matters.

Pierre Gervois
President & CEO of China Elite Focus Limited (Shanghai)
Twitter @chinaelitefocus

Source: 2007 Research Report, published in january 2008 by the Travel Industry Association,written by Traverse T. Burnett, Director, research Products, TIA, Suzanne D. Cook, Ph.D., Senior Vice President, Research, TIA, Xiang (Robert) Li, Ph.D., Assistant Professor & Associate Director, International Tourism Research Institute, University of South Carolina.

Getting America ready for the Chinese Tourist Boom

Dr LiBy Dr Xiang(Robert) Li, Professor at the College of Hospitality, Retail, and Sport Management, University of South Carolina, USA.

Thanks to their sheer number and spending power, “Chinese outbound tourists” has been the buzzword in the American tourism community for a while. Our recent study showed that the United States is the No. 1 “dream destination” of Chinese citizens; and there are at least 11.5 million Chinese who have been or are interested in traveling to destinations outside Asia.  Below are some suggestions for American destinations and business interested in turning this opportunity into business reality.

Build a unifying image.

The United States needs to centralize its promotions, create a clear brand identity, and deliver the message effectively. The fragmented efforts by different American destinations and businesses could confuse potential customers.

Become more visitor-friendly.

From visa application, customs procedures, to signage in major cities and attractions, the United States needs to show genuine hospitality and respect to Chinese visitors.

Understand your guests.

The new Chinese outbound tourists are savvy global travelers. American destinations and businesses need to better understand their preferences and expectations, which starts from conducting sophisticated marketing research.

Partner with Chinese travel trade.

At the current stage, most Chinese leisure tourists still travel to the U.S. in groups. Thus, the focus of marketing communication efforts is Chinese tour operators, travel agencies, and travel media.

Grab late-mover advantage.

The U.S. is unfortunately among the last couple of developed countries obtaining the ADS (Approved Destination Status). However, this also allows American destinations to observe and learn from other countries’ experiences and lessons.

(Article previously published in “The new Chinese Tourist”, March 2009)

For more information about Dr. Li, please visit his web site at

Welcome to our blog!

Dear Readers,

My name is Pierre Gervois, I’m the President & CEO of China Elite Focus Limited and I have the pleasure and the honor to launch the official blog of China Elite Focus, the best marketing agency in the world (we believe it) to convince affluent Chinese tourists to choose your hotel, resorts, or destination over your competitor.

We will share with travel and tourism professionals the art of luring the new generation of 50 million Chinese tourists who spend an average of $6,000 per person and per stay in the United States!

Let’s be proactive. This is the biggest opportunity ever in the Hospitality industry to make money with a whole new generation of customers.

Thank you to be a reader of this blog.

Pierre Gervois

President & CEO

China Elite Focus Limited (Shanghai)