At the 5th avenue Cartier Flagship store, a Chinese customer in Gucci flip flops, Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt and a Niuyue Mag Cap on his head is buying three gold “Tank” watches incrusted with diamonds “One for me, one for my wife, and one for my daughter, who is studying in Chicago”, he says with a big smile. “I’m also platinum member of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club”, he added ,“that gives me a VIP welcome in most of luxury stores here”.
Cultural training is imperative for New York-based luxury flagship store employees to build trust among affluent Chinese tourists and creating a custom experience for this group of travelers will help marketers gain brand loyalists, experts say.
Many luxury brands are focusing marketing efforts to Chinese consumers back at home, but with a rising wave of Chinese tourists coming to New York, it is important that brands cater to this group. Luxury marketers need to be more proactive to reach Chinese travelers by training employees and partnering with high-end travel services.
“New York flagships should be more aggressive in inviting and giving a fabulous experience to Chinese tourists,” said Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, New York. “The city seems to be behind in attracting and nurturing Chinese consumers.
“New York has been slow to appeal to Chinese tourists, even though there is such as large Chinese population in the city,” he said.
“Retailers need to create personal, emotional connections with these consumers by nurturing them and caring for them, which will create a lasting impression.”
In the capital cities of European countries, luxury flagship stores get 50 percent of their value from Chinese tourists, per Mr. Pedraza.
Europeans have been smart in the way they care for Chinese tourists, who tend to buy in volume on shopping trips.
Meanwhile, the United States has not been as open to tourists in its efforts and may have suffered, given the economic times.
According to Pierre Gervois, author of “How U.S. Retail, Travel and Hospitality Industries Can Attract Affluent Chinese Tourists”, “The U.S. travel and tourism industry has understood the financial power of the new generation of affluent Chinese inbound tourists, and how it can give a boost to the country’s economy, but needs to improve the way Chinese visitors are welcomed and understand better the intercultural issues of marketing”
In the past, European tourists were key for New York-based retailers, but tourism from Europe is on the decline. Travelers from China are now the largest group of tourists in New York, and Indian tourists are another group to look out for in the next decade.
To get Chinese consumers into New York flagship stores, luxury brands should partner with high-end hotels, tour operators and restaurants to keep the brand top-of-mind, according to Mr. Pedraza.
But the marketing strategy for luxury retailers also starts in China, when affluent Chinese travelers are planning their NYC shopping trip, and use Chinese social media networks such as Niuyue Mag, with 200,000 registered members, giving shopping tips and specific insights to Chinese shoppers.
Also airports, limos and hotel concierges play a major role in influencing affluent Chinese tourists since these are all stops on the journey to New York.
“There is no question that luxury brands should be using print and their Web sites to attract tourists to their New York stores by showing the experience that they can expect,” Mr. Pedraza said.
“The travel industry is also a huge opportunity,” he said. “Luxury brands have to romance travel agents to get on the map within the travel industry.”
“Brands need to do a better job at creating these partnerships with travel-oriented brands.” Once in-store, affluent Chinese tourists will need to be made comfortable. To do so, New York flagship stores should start by training their staff on the Chinese culture and traditions.
Stores should have, at minimum, Mandarin-speaking employees and may also want to train in other dialects from Asia.
“Employees should be well-educated in relationship building, not just to process tourist transactions, but to develop longtime relationships with the brand,” Mr. Pedraza said.
“There are luxury brand stores in Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong, so these tourist transactions are not a one-shot deal,” he said. “They can also be relationship building.”
Luxury retailers should be aware of the Chinese holiday calendar to understand buying habits during certain holidays and target Chinese consumers for in-store gift buying, per Ken Morris, principal at Boston Retail Partners, Boston.
The holiday calendar may also hint at the time when Chinese tourists are more likely to travel.
Training sales associates on cultural greetings can quickly build trust with incoming tourists and encourage foot traffic.
Stores should also offer in-store shipping options so that Chinese consumers can ship items home. This will eliminate the need to pay sales tax and leave the customer more room in their luggage, per Mr. Morris.
“Not only is the size of the luxury market in China significant, but it continues to grow with a burgeoning middle class aspiring to own luxury brands to demonstrate their wealth,” Mr. Morris said.
“New York is a unique, international city where tourists can readily find bilingual associates,” he said. “By focusing on hiring multilingual staff, a retailer has the opportunity to offer exceptional customer service and make the customer comfortable shopping in the store.”
Source: Luxury Daily
President Barack Obama’s initiative to boost international tourism has pushed the US government to process a record 1 million visa applications from China so far during fiscal 2012.
“This extraordinary accomplishment represents visa processing growth of almost 43 percent over the same period last fiscal year, when we had processed just over 675,000 visa applications in China,” the State Department announced Thursday.
The US federal government’s fiscal year begins Oct 1 and ends Sept 30, so the department was referring to visa-processing totals through the end of the third quarter on June 30. As China Daily reported in April, through the first half of fiscal 2012, the State Department had processed 453,000 visa applications from Chinese citizens, up 46 percent from the first six months of fiscal 2011.
To reach the 1 million figure through the current fiscal year’s first nine months, department staff at the US Embassy in Beijing and the four consulates across China processed at least 547,000 visa applications from Chinese citizens in the three months from April 1 through June 30 – reflecting especially high demand for the busy summer travel season.
The State Department credited the opening of more windows for interviews, expansion of consular office space and better-maintained waiting areas for visa processing at the Beijing embassy and its consulates in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenyang. Furthermore, it said the average waiting time for a visa interview has been reduced to about a week from the several months it used to take to get an appointment.
According to Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus and the author of the Book How U.S. Retail, Travel and Hospitality Industries Can Attract Affluent Chinese Tourists “This initiative is the direct result of a very successful lobbying campaign organized by the retail, travel, and hospitality industries that were the first-hand witnesses of the incredible purchasing power of Chinese tourists in the last few years. Roger Dow (president of the United States Travel Association) and Joe McInerney (president of the American Hotel & Lodging Association) have done a fantastic job of explaining to Washington the vital necessity to the American economy of finding ways to increase the number of Chinese leisure visitors.”
Dong Xue, a senior at Purdue University in Indiana, has just returned from China and it took her only a week to get a visa, even at the peak of summer. As a repeat traveler to the US, Dong was able to use a bank drop-off service to renew her visa. Without having to go for a personal interview, she submitted her paperwork through the bank and got her visa in five business days.
“As the Chengdu consulate (nearest to her hometown of Chongqing) was very busy then, their colleagues in Guangzhou processed my application,” Dong told China Daily. “It’s so fast. Usually it will take two weeks.”
The Obama administration, pointing out the value of travel and tourism to the US economy, introduced in January a strategy to make the United States the top destination for foreign visitors. More than 1 million jobs could be created over the next decade if the US increases its share of the international travel market, Obama has said.
In 2011, about 1.18 million Chinese visited the United States and the number is expected to reach 2 million in 2015, according to the National Tourism Administration of China.