As China’s outbound tourist market rapidly expands, high-end hotels and retailers across the world are vying for the business of this important group. In the United States, one company on the front lines of this trend is China Elite Focus, a New York-headquartered, Chinese-language publisher that has been producing luxury travel magazines for Chinese readers since 2008. With content focused on destinations, hotels, cuisine, retail, and philanthropy, the magazines were created to meet demand by moneyed Chinese travelers for content on authentic, upscale experiences.
In order to learn more about how China’s luxury outbound travel market has evolved over the past six years, we talked to China Elite Focus CEO and Publisher Pierre Gervois about the changes he’s seen in Chinese travelers’ taste. Read below to hear his thoughts on Chinese travelers’ interest in getting a taste of American culture, the decline of the Chinese “100 percent shopping trip,” and how this fall’s Golden Week fared for U.S. luxury businesses.
What inspired you to start China Elite Focus?
In 2008, after having served as the president of a consulting company specialized in foreign investments in China, I decided to start a new publishing company and to publish high quality luxury travel magazines in Chinese Mandarin. A lot of my Chinese friends complained to me that they could not find any publication in Chinese language with curated and sophisticated content for their outbound travels. So our mission, from the beginning, was to bring to them beautifully written travel stories about the world’s most spectacular and exclusive experiences. I’m very proud of the job we have done with our team of very talented travel editors, lead by our Senior Travel Editor, Elaine Ke. Today we publish there magazines: the Shanghai Travelers’ Club, Luxury Hotels of America, and American Philanthropy.
How is the content of your magazines tailored to a Chinese audience?
All the content of our publications is written at our Shanghai office by Chinese editors. We do not translate from English an existing article; we produce our own original content. We are in constant exchange with our readers through Weibo, and we know what kind of themes or destinations they want to read stories about. For example, we have noted a strong interest for travel to the United States over the past year, and we have increased the stories about luxury travel experiences in the United States.
We’ve been reading a lot about how wealthy Chinese travelers are becoming more interested in “experiential” travel rather than just basic shopping and sightseeing. Have you noticed this trend growing among your readers?
That is true. The time of the “100 percent shopping trips” is done. The new generation of affluent Chinese outbound travelers is now very mature, extremely well-informed, and wants to discover new experiences, off the beaten tracks. We have published stories about horseback riding experiences in the Nevada desert in Luxury Hotels of America which had great success with our readers. Chinese shoppers tend now to plan much more carefully and in a very sophisticated way their shopping plan abroad. They are looking for more limited-edition items of lesser-known brands they have discovered on social media networks, rather that already well-known global brands, who have saturated the market with products over-marketed to Chinese customers.
One of your magazines focuses exclusively on luxury hotels in the United States. Which U.S. hotels are the most popular with Chinese travelers at the moment?
Luxury Hotels of America features in particular historical hotels, or hotels with a connection to the American culture. The kind of U.S. hotels that Chinese travelers like are boutique hotels, lodges, and ranches with a connection to nature and wildlife. We have seen a significant shift from standardized, large-size hotel chains to much smaller hotels offering a personalized experience. In New York City, we have seen that hotels in Brooklyn, built in former factories, in “hip” neighborhoods were a great success with Chinese travelers, as well as properties in the American West, offering a genuine local experience.
How was this season’s Golden Week for luxury hoteliers and retailers in the United States?
We have recently discussed with several well-known retailers in the United States, and they have been surprised by the evolution of the shopping behavior of Chinese customers and their use of social media to compare brands and know exactly where to buy. It was not uncommon for them to see Chinese customers with their iPads and mobile phones texting to their friends about brands and retailers. The digital integration of the shopping experience is now extremely important and mobile payments such as the Apple Pay will definitely be very popular with Chinese shoppers in the United States. Since the beginning, we have integrated our content with social media, and we are very pleased with this trend.
What are some ways in which U.S. luxury businesses are doing a good job of reaching and serving Chinese tourists? What are some ways in which they can improve?
U.S. luxury brands and luxury hotels can do much better! They are doing all right, and have a big margin to improve their relations with Chinese travelers on the three following points:
-No more stereotypes about Chinese tourists. A lot of U.S. hospitality, tourism, and retail companies still create marketing campaigns with the stereotype in mind of group tourists traveling in coaches, staying in cheap hotels, with entirely pre-arranged shopping programs. Most Chinese travelers do not want to travel this way anymore and choose themselves their hotels and their shopping experiences, without the help of travel agencies.
-Chinese travelers to the United States are looking for a genuine American experience. Some U.S. hotel chains have developed programs specifically for Chinese travelers with rooms decorated in a Chinese style, offer Chinese food only, and entertainment programs linked with Chinese culture. This is exactly the opposite of what Chinese tourists really want. They write to our editors and complain with us that they want to find a real American experience in hotels, not a “fake” Chinese experience! They have traveled for thousands of miles to have a taste of American culture and civilization.
-A more sophisticated and thoughtful marketing strategy with Chinese customers. U.S. luxury brands must understand that, in order to sell to Chinese tourists in the United States, they must start to promote and do branding in China, with specialized digital media targeting Chinese travelers planning their trip to the United States. It’s too late and very little effective to promote their brands in printed magazines or tourist guides distributed in airports or hotel lobbies, because the purchase decisions have already been made several weeks ago, in China. Digital native advertisement (sponsored content) is also very effective to create brand awareness. Chinese customers are early adopters of the newest technologies, and old-school marketing does not work and looks “uncool” to them. Social media integration and sponsored content are the two pillars of a successful campaign with Chinese tourists coming to the United States.
Source: Jing Daily
There was no shortage of frocks and handbags in Milan last week as representatives of the $1.5 trillion global fashion industry gathered for the spring 2015 trade shows. Behind the glamour and gloss, however, there was discernible anxiety that the mighty Chinese consumer, responsible for one third of luxury goods and fashion sales, is not living up to expectation as a consumer of fashion and bling – and could even be developing a resistance to ostentatious western brands. Leading luxury conglomerates, including LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton) and Kering, owner of Gucci, as well as brands like Prada – which sent models down the catwalk wearing its spring/summer 2015 collection in Milan on Thursday – are reporting disappointing financial results, and have pointed their collective finger at China, where growth in the luxury goods market has slowed to 2% after rising 30% in 2011.
Analysts warn that after years of chasing Chinese consumers, domestically and as voracious luxury shoppers in foreign capitals, the big brands may be no closer to understanding the market. With analysts warning that shares in luxury brands could fall as prominent investors dump stock, the fashion industry is seeking answers to the riddle of China’s luxury consumer.
“China was everyone’s dream but it’s proved a lot more difficult than anyone expected,” says HSBC analyst Erwan Rambourg and author of The Bling Dynasty: Why the Reign of Chinese Luxury Shoppers Has Only Just Begun.
In response to a government corruption crackdown that has curbed the practice of “gifting”, wealthy Chinese consumers are reported to be wary of wearing visibly branded clothes.
Resistance to bling, says Rambourg, has harmed brands including Gucci, which showed in Milan on Wednesday, and Louis Vuitton – labels young consumers associate with their mothers. Without a radical shift in perception, changing patterns of consumption are unlikely to improve the outlook. In less than a decade, Chinese luxury consumers will be on average 10 years younger than their European counterparts and more than 15 years younger than consumers in the US. If projections hold, Chinese shoppers will account for more than half of all luxury sales by 2025.
Chinese consumers have developed sophisticated sensibilities more rapidly than western brand managers anticipated. “It’s what I call the French paradox, says Rambourg. “If you are a niche brand, everyone wants you. If you are a big brand, then by selling more you compromise a sense of exclusivity and the notion of luxury itself.”
Nor are Chinese consumers necessarily impressed by a luxury label alone. Raw material quality can be seen as a more important attribute than branding or fancy designs, Rambourg notes.
“They’re not only much younger and super-demanding, they’re also extremely well informed. If you’re complacent and don’t communicate the way they communicate, it’s going to be difficult.”
In the early years of China’s love affair with luxury, Chinese visitors to foreign capitals could be relied on to shop without restraint. Shoppers, often male, bought for their friends and relatives. Steep markups for products sold in China led to the growth of “haiwai daigou”, or overseas personal shoppers, estimated to be worth $12bn annually.
Now, even as more Chinese travel abroad, they’re spending less or choosing different destinations. Tax-refund claims by Chinese tourists in Europe grew 18% last year, compared with 57% in 2012.
“Hong Kong was cool. Western Europe was cool. But neither are true any more. The Chinese travelling abroad ditched Japan two years ago. So now they’re discovering the US and US brands.”
At home, Chinese shoppers – now more likely to be female – are balking at paying inflated prices, often 50% higher than abroad. Retailers have begun to discount but analysts warn of the risk of training consumers to wait for price cuts before buying, often impulsively, items they don’t want.
“We see a major shift in the behavior of affluent Chinese travelers”, says Pierre Gervois, Publisher of Luxury Hotels of America, a luxury travel publication for affluent Chinese tourists. “They now clearly consider that Western Europe is a little bit out of fashion, and want to experience U.S. brands”
Brands benefiting from the shift in perceptions include Burberry. “They’re the only legitimate global British brand competing against a sea of French and Italian brands. Its phenomenal appeal is linked to an association with Britishness and rock and roll rebelliousness,” says Rambourg.
The industry is taking corrective measures to rekindle the love of Chinese consumers. Last week, the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York announced that next May’s fundraising ball at its new Anna Wintour Costume Centre will celebrate the influence of China on fashion, film and art.
The chosen theme of the party, sometimes called the Oscars of fashion, offers a clear signal to designers to direct their research toward Chinese history and design. With the Chinese actress Gong Li and Wendi Deng, the ex-wife of Rupert Murdoch, selected as co-hosts, and Wong Kar-Wai, director of the epic In The Mood For Love as artistic director, fashion could be about to have a Chinese moment. Luxury-brand managers will no doubt be hoping Chinese consumers will reciprocate the love.
“If they only try to mimic, consumers will know it’s not genuine,” warns Rambourg.
As last week’s $160bn public offering of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba shows, faith in Chinese consumerism remains strong. When the French brand Hermès opened a substantial new store in Shanghai this month, chief executive Axel Dumas said the brand was still doing well. “We are very, very confident about the Chinese market. People are now buying for themselves, there is also a refinement, a knowledge of what is luxury.”
Source: The guardian, Edward Helmore
Huson International Media has been appointed by China Elite Focus Magazines LLC as the exclusive advertising sales force in North America for Luxury Hotels of America digital magazine.
Ralph Lockwood, President of Huson International Media, comments, “We are delighted with this new partnership which will allow us to develop the advertising revenues for Luxury Hotels of America. This technology-forward publication leverages the popularity of tablets, smartphones and social media to offer affluent Chinese travelers up to date and comprehensive information about the leading hotels and resorts in the United States. The new generation of international vacationers from China are more independent, and less likely than their predecessors to book packaged tours or use a travel agent, and Luxury Hotels of America is perfectly positioned to reach this audience, as they plan their US vacations. The publication is an ideal addition to our already robust portfolio of international media reaching affluent travelers around the world.”
As Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus Magazines and Publisher of Luxury Hotels of America, says “We have chosen Huson International Media as our exclusive advertising sales force in North America because of their proven track record of a leading media representation company. We have been impressed by their professionalism and understanding of the new generation of independent and affluent Chinese travelers coming to the United States. Working closely with Huson International Media will allow Luxury Hotels of America to increase its advertising revenues with North American advertisers such as hotels and resorts, luxury brands, airlines, entertainment parks and tourism boards.”
Headquartered in Silicon Valley, with locations in California, New York, the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands, Huson International Media has been representing media owners in Consumer, Fashion, Electronics, Computing, Business, and Finance sectors since 1988. With a current partnership line-up of more than 60 media-owners worldwide including divisions of Gruner + Jahr, Reed-Elsevier, Prisma Presse, and News Ltd, Huson International Media is one of the world’s leading media representatives.
Headquartered in Hong Kong, with offices in Shanghai and New York, China Elite Focus Magazines is the leading publishing company specialized in luxury travel magazines for affluent Chinese outbound travelers. With publications such as the Shanghai Travelers’ Club, Niuyue Mag, VIP Golf USA and Luxury Hotels of America, China Elite Focus Magazines provides a high quality content in international luxury travel and lifestyle to the new generation of sophisticated Chinese travelers.
In Los Angeles, many tourism officials see Chinese travelers as the wave of the future. California’s No. 1 market for overseas visitors is China, said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California, a non-profit geared toward maintaining and developing tourism marketing programs in the state. She said Chinese tourists spent more than $1.6 billion in 2012, and spending levels are expected to increase, with China’s growing middle class and the easier access to visas for U.S. travel.
“We’re seeing a trajectory on China that is once in a career or lifetime,” Beteta said.
And it’s that growth that many tourist attractions and venues want to capture in sales.
Beteta’s non-profit hosted a forum at the Langham Huntington hotel in Pasadena on Wednesday, where more than 460 people gathered to discuss tourism issues, including how to better cater to Chinese travelers.
The tourists are coming from large metropolitan Chinese cities like Shanghai and Beijing, as well as second-tier cities like Qingdao, Hangzhou or Chengdu.
Reports show a growing interest from affluent Chinese nationals to invest in American real estate, business and send their children to the U.S. for study. Additionally, Chinese millionaires tend to be on the younger side. The average age of a millionaire in China is around 37, compared to 57 in the U.S.
One key factor is also how much money tourists from China spend – an average $170 a day in L.A., which compares with tourists from other locales spending an average $163 in L.A.
But how to convince affluent Chinese tourists to choose a U.S. destination versus another? Chinese travelers have their secret weapon in their iPad. Several digital travel magazines entirely in Chinese mandarin are now published for the famous Apple tablet, and have a tremendous impact on how Chinese tourists plan their trip to America. Publications like Luxury Hotels of America, Niuyue Mag, or the Shanghai Travelers’ Club ( China Elite Focus publications) have gained tens of thousands of new readers over the last year. According to Sam Wang, a Shanghai businessman traveling three to four times a year to the U.S. “I read Luxury Hotels of America before choosing a hotel because they have a high quality editorial content about hotels that I can’t find in regular travel websites or booking engines in China.” He also said ” I want the top hotels where American famous people go, not the hotels for tourists that are advertised by cheap travel agencies”.
Businesses are hoping to give tourists more reasons to come to their attractions by pulling out all the stops. Hotels like the Hilton are offering Chinese breakfast, with dishes that include rice porridge. And stores like Macy’s are offering a 10 percent discount that can be used on some luxury brands.
“We’ve done a number of promotions to make it very easy and appealing for the consumers to shop at Macy’s,” said Brian Chuan, director of tourism marketing and development at Macy’s. “We have the products that they want. We carry all the American designer brands that they are looking for.”
He said Chinese tourists spend the most money at Macy’s compared to any other international group. Macy’s tracks the sales by how much the tourists spend on their international credit cards. He said it’s cheaper for Chinese tourists to buy the American brands here, because in some cases it might cost three times more in China.
“We see them leaving with an extra luggage filled with things they want to bring home,” Chuan said.
Chuan also said Macy’s accepts the China UnionPay card, which is a payment card associated with network of banks in China. That makes it convenient for shoppers who don’t want to pay in all cash.
Spending from international visitors make up just 3 percent of Macy’s overall sales at its 800 stores nationwide, Chuan said. But he pointed out that at some locations, spending from international tourists could make up 20 to 50 percent of a store’s total sales, he said.
Chuan travels to China to market Macy’s to groups such as tour operators and banks. Macy’s doesn’t have any locations in China, but Chuan said people there are familiar with the brand.
Macy’s has 13 stores with visitor centers, that allows customers to check in their bags. Centers in Southern California include one in San Diego and Downtown L.A., for its close proximity to the convention center and Staples Center. At key stores, Macy’s may have Mandarin speaking staff.
It appears to be working. Just one day last week in New York, buses dropped off about 1,500 Chinese travelers at the Macy’s, he said.
Source: Wendy Lee, Southern California Public Radio / Chinese tourists in America blog
Chinese consumers will soon be the largest group of global travelers, and hoteliers are gearing up to meet the expectations and demands of this segment with new products, services and marketing channels.
During a webinar titled “Moneyed, mobile and massive: China’s new traveler class,” travel research company PhoCusWright released data showing the potential for business from Chinese travelers. According to the company, the Asia/Pacific region is the largest regional travel market, ahead of North America and Europe. China is the largest travel market in the Asia/Pacific region, generating $96 billion in travel-related revenues in 2012. That market is expected to grow by more than one-third by 2015.
“While little is known about the more than 250 million Chinese who took a trip last year, one thing is certain: Habits are changing fast,” said Maggie Rauch, PhoCusWright research analyst and moderator of the webinar. “Large tour groups in matching hats on cookie-cutter domestic trips booked by state-owned travel agencies are quickly disappearing. In their place are free and independent travelers: families, couples, solo travelers, groups of friends. And the desire to go beyond China among these travelers is becoming a reality.”
A number of global hotel chains have formal or informal programs aimed at serving Chinese travelers. Most programs focus on a few important areas of the travel experience for Chinese guests. Language services is one key.
At Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts properties, for example, a Mandarin-speaking member of the staff is available 24 hours a day to assist guests.
“Serving these customers can be as simple as having a local map or guestroom collateral translated into Mandarin,” said Scott Taber, VP of rooms in the Americas for Four Seasons. “Also, there are some cultural sensitivities we always try to respect, things such as avoiding assigning rooms ending with the number 4 or assigning rooms at the end of a corridor. The Chinese customer likes red flowers, but we must avoid white and blue ones.”
Taber said the chain has seen a 76% year-over-year increase in business from Chinese travelers. While some of that business goes to hotels in the Asia/Pacific region, such as in Bangkok, Thailand and Singapore, properties across the globe are also seeing dramatic increases.
Two years ago, Hilton Hotels & Resorts launched Hilton Huanying, a property-level program with specific services and products for Chinese travelers. More than 85 properties globally participate in the program, with the latest addition the Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City.
The program has since become available to all Hilton Worldwide hotels that can meet the Huanying service standards.
“There are a few key areas to the program, broken down to staffing, service and product,” said Rob Palleschi, global head of Hilton Hotels & Resorts. “We require the properties to have at least one Mandarin-speaking team member, ideally in a guest-facing position. From a service standpoint, it’s ensuring we have communications translated at various guest touch points, such as room service and restaurant menus.”
Other aspects of the Hilton program include: Chinese programming on in-room televisions; slippers and robes for guests; and special breakfast menu items such as congee, dim sum, and fried rice and noodles.
Executives at several chains said breakfast and other food-and-beverage offerings are the most important aspects of serving Chinese travelers.
At FRHI Hotels & Resorts, which includes the Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel brands, breakfast service includes congee. In addition, a variety of white, black, green, oolong and flowered teas are available in restaurants and through in-room dining.
“In cases where the Chinese menu is requested, meals will begin by presenting the guest with a cold towel, and end with a hot towel,” said Carmen Lam, VP of sales and marketing in Asia/Pacific for Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, in an email. “Cutleries such as chopsticks and soup spoons are also available. Lastly, groups will have the added option of serving meals family-style with a variety of different dishes offered.”
Lam said the company’s 65 Fairmont properties instituted a Chinese menu program last year that provides enhanced culinary choices for these customers.
Luxury Hotels of America, a Chinese language-only luxury travel magazine read by affluent Chinese travelers planning a leisure trip to the United States had a role in making Chinese international travelers more aware of their rights as valued guests. ” Five years ago, Chinese travelers did not dare to ask for Chinese breakfast, slippers, or in-room kettle with Chinese tea. Since we published numerous articles over the last years in our travel publications about the rights of Chinese guests in international hotels, Chinese travelers are now aware of their power as consumers and discuss about this on travel social media networks, such as the Shanghai Travelers’ Club Weibo page , or Niuyue Mag” said Pierre Gervois, CEO and Publisher of China Elite Focus Magazines, a New York based publishing company specialized in luxury travel magazines in Chinese Mandarin language. “We see everyday on our social media networks comments from Chinese travelers about the bad experiences they receive overseas. They call for a big change and want now to be respected as any other guests” Mr Gervois added.
Hilton, which instituted its Huanying initiative in 2011, earlier this year conducted focus groups in three Chinese cities to make sure the program is up to date. Palleschi said he expects Hilton will launch amendments to the program in the first half of 2014.
Taber said Four Seasons leans on the experiences of its eight hotels in China to ensure all properties in the chain are informed of changing trends.
“Our leaders in the region help us refine the requests and preferences of those guests, and then we recommend them globally,” he said. “With 93 hotels, we’re a relatively small company, so it’s easy to share the information.”
Not only are Chinese consumers traveling more, they’re turning to the Internet more frequently to research and book their travel. According to PhoCusWright, while today Chinese consumers complete 15% of travel bookings online, that percentage is forecast to rise to 24% by 2015. The projected increase is still lower than the other three largest global travel markets—the United States, Japan and Germany—which have online penetrations above 40%.
To take advantage of this trend, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company recently launched a new Chinese website and a page on Sina Weibo, a social media channel which, according to PhoCusWright, is used by 71% of Chinese travelers.
“A year and a half ago we had a site in Mandarin but nothing else: nothing in our rewards program, nothing in the social space or in the mobile space,” said Clayton F. Ruebensaal, VP of global marketing for Ritz-Carlton. “We needed to get serious about understanding the luxury Chinese consumer through the digital space.”
He said the company conducted quantitative research followed by one-on-one meetings with luxury business and leisure travelers in China to understand what they wanted from Ritz-Carlton and other aspects of luxury travel.
“We determined we needed an ecosystem with three legs to the stool: website, social media and mobile. To do well in the Chinese market you need all three,” he said. The new website and social media presence launched in September and a Chinese mobile site is nearly ready to go live. Design of the website focused on functionality as well as cultural considerations. For example, the colors and patterns on the site reflect those seen in Ritz properties, as well as cues from Chinese traditions. “The color blue is used heavily, both the Ritz-Carlton blue but also a blue that is reminiscent of Chinese porcelain blue because it has symbolism around wisdom and immortality,” Ruebensaal said. “It was an opportunity for us to differentiate but also an opportunity to show we’re not just a visitor from Europe or America, but (we’ve taken) the time to understand Chinese culture.”
To further promote the site and, in particular, the chain’s rewards program, it has partnered with Mercedes-Benz China to create what Ruebensaal called “rewards that create a Chinese-specific experience.”
Source: Hotel News Now
Mandarin television channels. Congee rice porridges. Smoking rooms. China has become the biggest travel spender in the world, and hotels are taking notice. Across Europe and America, back-office planners and front desk clerks are learning Chinese customs to attract the new travelers and keep them returning.
The market is large, and growing. China’s economy included $102 billion spent on travel abroad in 2012, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization. Rising incomes, combined with a relaxation of foreign travel restrictions and the sheer number of citizens, have fueled the Chinese growth.
Scott Taber, a vice president at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, said his company was updating its employee training and guest offerings to meet the 76 percent increase in travelers from mainland China over the previous year. Bellmen, reception clerks and telephone operators are being trained to pronounce Chinese names and offer Chinese newspapers, translated welcome materials and green tea in rooms at hotels in Paris, London, Los Angeles and other cities.
“We operate six hotels in mainland China and have learned cultural expectations and preferences from our experience with guests there,” Mr. Taber said. The Medallia company, which created the customer feedback system for Four Seasons, has translated it into Mandarin so Chinese guests could provide feedback worldwide.
At a minimum, hotels that hope to attract and retain Chinese business teach their front desk staff and reservations agents basic cultural information. Guests from China are not assigned to rooms that include the number four, which is considered unlucky because it sounds like the word for death. Chinese business practices and management hierarchy influence room assignments, so managers need to be assigned to a higher floor than their team, or given a higher room number.
Some hotel chains formalize these amenities and services under names like JW Marriott’s Li Yu, meaning “To Serve with Courtesy.” As part of this program, The JW Marriott London Grosvenor House staffs a Chinese welcome desk for group arrivals, offers Chinese-labeled bathroom products and supplies a Chinese do-not-disturb sign.
The Hilton Worldwide website lists hotels where its Huanying or “welcome” program is offered, including 19 in Europe and 29 in America. Guests of Conrad Hotels and Resorts can use the Conrad Concierge mobile app to choose Chinese television channels, mini-bar foods and other amenities, in Mandarin, on their mobile phone before they arrive.
Sales and reservation departments are also adapting. At the Waldorf-Astoria New York, Robert Armstrong, the sales manager, quotes all-inclusive pricing, with taxes and breakfast, to Chinese guests who ask about reservations, because they are accustomed to that type of pricing in China. He also asks which guests need to stay on a smoking floor. Chinese business groups often travel together, so the staff greets them at the entrance when they arrive.
The Preferred Hotel Group, which oversees 650 luxury hotels, says the number of Chinese guests and their average room rates has increased. “Chinese travelers have also started coming without tour groups, and so we are seeing a shift from traditional wholesale rates,” said Casey Ueberroth, senior vice president for marketing.
To market to these individual travelers, the company is starting a program called “China Ready” next month. Participating hotels will meet more than 25 criteria and become part of the company’s global marketing campaign to attract Chinese travelers via websites and online advertising in China.
“We thought just hotels in the bigger cities would sign up, but we have places like the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs joining because they see the importance to their client base, ” Mr. Ueberroth said.
Many hotels in the United States and Europe have not adapted. According to a survey by Hotels.com, three-fourths of Chinese travelers say hoteliers need to improve their offering of translated items, like welcome literature, websites, television programs and newspapers, while 42 percent say that they would like to see more Mandarin-speaking staff.
Chinese travelers also prepare their trip well in advance, and use the help of digital travel magazines in Chinese language, such as Luxury Hotels of America magazine, an iPad magazine in Chinese mandarin exclusively about luxury hotels in the United States. As Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus Magazines LLC and Publisher of Luxury Hotels of America said “Today, Chinese guests no longer want to to stay in a standardized hotel in the U.S. that has been randomly chosen for them by a Chinese travel agency in Beijing or Shanghai. They want to carefully choose the style of hotels they like, and have a real choice. That explains the success of magazines as Luxury Hotels of America, or Niuyue Mag, more focused on New York City.”
Ray Zhang has made about 10 business trips to the United States from China since 2006, staying at some of the largest hotel chains in the largest cities. “They expect you to know English,” he said. More than half of the hotels polled by Hotels.com said they had spent less than $10,000 in the last 12 months on programs or products for Chinese travelers.
Hotels can go beyond Asian menu items and translation services to cater to Chinese clients with entertainment, among other items. Richard Sprague, co-founder of a Beijing-based health devices company, travels in the United States regularly with Chinese business colleagues, and says he is often asked to find local karaoke rooms (or “KTV”, as the Chinese refer to them), which can sometimes be found in Chinese hotels.
Si Jingnan, an engineer from Beijing, said he traveled to the United States once or twice a year and brought a shopping list from relatives or friends. “This list not only contains L.V. or Gucci,” Mr. Si said, referring to Louis Vuitton, but it also has new brands he has never heard of in China. A shopping guide or helper from the hotel, even with an extra fee, he said, would be most appreciated.