Exclusive ITB Feature:
Prestige, education and curiosity are driving millions of people from China to get out and see the world – making China one of the biggest markets in the world for tourism and it's still growing.
With growth at around 18%, compared with 5% for the rest of the world, Wolfgang Georg Arlt, director of the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute, told hoteliers at the ITB Berlin conference that it is important for them to learn how to treat their Asian friends well and make the most of an increasing opportunity.
"Travel for the Chinese is an important part of their education and learning what they are doing, but they are still learning what it is like to be an international tourist," he said.
Last year the gateway was opened for Chinese tourists to make their way internationally as the government began actively supporting people to travel out of China and increase the countries prestige.
That coupled with easing visa restrictions has opened the way for young Chinese people – many with lots of money, but perhaps not so much time – to make their way to Europe, Africa and the Americas, but Arlt warned that the industry should not give in to stereotypes.
"'The' Chinese tourist doesn't exist," he said. "There are people, who travel as part of a package tour, but there are lots of self-organised travelers, who are more affluent and looking for intensive, short experiences, and then there are also business people and expats as well as students coming from other European countries."
He said to meet the expectations it is important for hoteliers to bear in mind that they give their Chinese visitors a "decent return" on their investment – quality from a Chinese point of view.
Suggestions he made to the audience included, allowing for more direct bookings rather than always through travel agencies, having services available in Chinese language and the traditional breakfast available and to concentrate on public areas, at least as much as bedrooms.
He added: "Turn your hotel into the destination and anticipate the needs of your visitors. A hotel has to be a place you can tell stories about."
Yufei Gu, manager of hotel procurement at Caissa Touristic (Group), agreed and said that many of the young Chinese people she works with want to know more about the local area of the places to which they travel.
"It's a trend in the younger generation," she said. "They will spend more money on accommodation in places they are really interested in. They are looking for feature hotels, for example an ice hotel in Sweden, or a manor hotel in the UK, this is important for self-organised travellers."
Instead of spending a very short amount of time at multiple destinations, hopping off a bus to take photos before moving on, Gu said the "second wave" of Chinese tourists was interested in really getting to know a place.
"They will go deeper – maybe going to just three or four destinations in 10 days and they will post pictures to show their friends," she added.
Still, Darren Gearing, regional vice president for Europe for Shangri-La & Resorts, said that there are minimum standards a hotel should offer, such as Chinese television channels and someone to meet visitors at the airport, with additional touches, such as organised tours, but with added experiences.
"There are seven large holiday periods in China and that is a huge movement of people compared with what we are used to in Europe," he said. "You need to know how to cater to people. You need to know who they are."This is strictly an exclusive feature, reprints of this article in any shape or form without prior written approval from 4Hoteliers.com is not permitted.
Louise Osborne is a correspondent and editor based in Berlin, Germany. She began her career working at regional newspapers in the UK and now works with journalists across the globe as part of international journalism organization, Associated Reporters Abroad (ARA). Living abroad for the second time, she continues to be fascinated by places both near and far, and boards a plane eagerly, as often as she can.
Louise writes a weekly exclusive column for 4Hoteliers.com