Did you realize 2016 was declared the year of China-USA tourism? If you're not sure how to benefit from this growing demographic, don't be intimidated. There are some specific tactics you can implement, such as providing free Wi-Fi and food options that Chinese guests enjoy, yet the most important element for success is relationship building.
Just ask me and my "Chinese son," Jason Song from L&L Travel Enterprises in New York City. Jason and I first became friends over five years ago, when he was a tour guide. We have built our friendship over the years by working together to bring success to both of our organizations. We wanted to share some of our thoughts on becoming successful in welcoming Chinese visitors.
If a business has never welcomed Chinese visitors before, what are some of the first things they should do?
JS: Work to understand and become familiar with the Chinese market and its needs. I think the best way is to attend trade shows.
SB: Contact your DMO and see what efforts they are undertaking in order to capture this demographic and get involved with their efforts.
If you are just getting started in the Chinese market, how long will it be before you start to see a return on your investment?
JS: It is very difficult to estimate the time, but with the huge Chinese population and the 10-year visa, I believe the return will be very fast and big. Also, less than 10 percent of Chinese citizens have passports, so there will still be very big potential in the future!
SB: I think it takes at least a year of consistent effort before an attraction or hotel will start to see some regular business. The tour companies have to develop a tour and market it before they can start selling it.
How can we best build relationships with the tour companies?
JS: I think it is not only about building the relationship with tour companies, but rather a triple-win situation between tour companies, attractions and hotels. We are serving the same group of customers, and trying to provide the best service to them and to satisfy their needs. I think we need more communication and understanding of the market to make all parties better and benefit from our partnership.
SB: I think the best way to build relationships is by putting the time in getting to know the tour operators. Never skip a chance to enjoy a meal together—that is where some great bonding takes place!
What are some of the trends you are seeing in 2017 and beyond?
JS: I think the market will still have very big potential for growth in 2017.
SB: I think we will see a rise in FIT guests, as well as small VIP tours. It's a great time to begin your efforts—or expand on them—in order to capture the growth in this market.
Jason Song is the Director of Product Planning and Promotion Division at L&L Travel Enterprises, Inc.
Sally Berry is the Tourism Sales and Marketing manager at the Corning Museum of Glass. She also has a blog at TheAttractionsCoach.com.