Urgent Memo: Are You China Ready?

In five years or less, China will overtake the U.K. as the number one source of overseas visitors to the USA at nearly 5 million annually, according to a forecast by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Are we ready? Travel industry consultant Bob Gilbert recently pointed out that we’ve ‘been there, done that’ during the high-spending Japanese invasion of the late 80s. “Everybody wanted a piece of the Yen action. Back in 1990, 3.2 million Japanese visited the USA. They spent on average $2,312 per person,” he recalls. (And those were 1990 dollars!)

Eager for more, airlines scrambled to increase lift from Seoul when Korea eased restrictions on overseas travel, since small but growing numbers shot up in 1989. In those pre-internet days, Tourism California rushed to the printer with Korean language promotional brochures while Florida diverted its attention from Europe toward growing arrival numbers from South America. Destination USA was still in its infancy in displaying the welcome mat to overseas tourists.

Here we are again…only different. And soaring. Fact: Effective Nov. 12, 2014, a reciprocal agreement with USA means that Chinese business and tourist visas are valid for 10 years, 5 for students. Prior to this, annual renewal was required and wait times were over 50 days. Wait time now is reduced to 5 days with approval rates of 90 percent.

*  The Chinese traveler average per person spend in the USA is $6,000 – $7,200

*  Chinese travelers purchase an average 3 luxury items per trip

*  USA is the only long-haul destination among China’s top 10 destinations

*  By next year, China will overtake the USA in business travel worldwide

*  Gateway cities include Honolulu, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC, New York, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Detroit and Anchorage.

Brand USA has published China Tourism Market Update, IHG has partnered with Oxford Economics on a comprehensive study, The Future of Chinese Travel, while U.S. Travel Association has crunched the numbers, predicting a 172 percent rise by 2019. Inbound Chinese tour operators are gearing up in record-breaking numbers for contracting at the annual IPW, America’s premier international travel industry marketplace in Orlando in May. A large American delegation appeared in Shanghai for China International Travel Mart in November.

The question is two-fold: 1) What have we learned collectively about international hospitality and 2) How can your establishment attract Chinese visitors? More than 20 years ago, American Hotel & Lodging Association put out a booklet called “The Hospitality Guide to Attracting and Serving International Travelers.” Gilbert says his team’s publication was such a hit with hotels and destinations that they developed a train-the-trainer vehicle to get this important hospitality advice to as many as possible.

That was then. So many resources are available now, but don’t jump on a plane to Beijing as a first option.

Draw up the requirements, do a self-assessment. Do you know about food preferences like hot soy milk in a morning coffee? Have you figured out the smoking situation?  Do you accept the right credit card? Have you lined up translators in the community? Is there a currency exchange accepting CNY nearby? Are you near a top university?

Contact Coyle Hospitality regarding independent mystery shopping, quality assurance and business advice to make sure your hotel and restaurants are China-ready. 

3 Comments
  • Arthur Chang

    Great points, Jeff! I would also like to add the all-important need for a hot water kettle in the room (the coffee maker is not hot enough and has funky flavors).

  • ka ling

    Dear Partner,
    Our company located in China is presently
    searching for a service of representatives agents in America who can
    help us establish a medium of getting to our customers in USA. contact
    my e-mail for better understanding now..
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  • Nice post!
    Thanks for this useful article
    i like your writing

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