Tourism is one of the leading industries in New York State, providing an economic impact of more than $100 Billion annually. In a very broad sense, there are two forms of tourists – domestic and international. A domestic tourist is anyone who lives and travels in the U.S. Of course, an international tourist is anyone who lives in another country and travels to America. Certainly, there are a lot of tourism dollars in our state brought from domestic travelers, however there is a large amount of money spent in New York by our international guests as well. New York State has a unique opportunity in housing two of the most desired international travel destinations in the world – New York City and Niagara Falls. These two bookends attract many visitors from around the world and those visitors continue to want to travel beyond those cities to see and experience the other treasures our great State offers.
If we want to benefit from our international friends economically, we must be ready to welcome them in a manner that makes them feel comfortable and shows we understand and respect their cultures. Although we host tourists from all over the world, some visit us more than others. Chinese tourists are one of the State’s largest international visitor segments. If you work in the tourism industry, regardless if your role is working with other travel businesses or directly to consumers, you are probably aware of the fact that Chinese are traveling – a lot. Hosting Chinese visitors is key to attracting Chinese tourists. If your first visits go well, you’ll see an increase in visitors from China.
10 tips to keep in mind when hosting and attracting Chinese tourists
1. Welcome them in their language.
In welcoming a group to a destination or specific attraction it’s nice to do so in their native language. Translated welcome signs – preferably in both Mandarin and Cantonese. In doing so, make certain it is translated correctly. Don’t just trust online translation tools. Ask someone who speaks the language fluently.
2. Respect their customs.
The exchanging of business cards to Chinese is a much bigger deal than it is to Americans. Chinese view this as a presentation of the person and it is disrespectful to just take it without reading it. When offering and receiving a business card ensure you are doing so with both hands – hold the top left and right corners with your thumbs and offer the card. Accept their card first – take a good look at it (offer a compliment – “it’s a very nice card” etc.).
3. Take the time to educate yourself.
There is a great book to read that will help with the basics – it’s geared to going to China but will help with welcoming Chinese tourists here as well “Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands: Asia”
4. Learn basic pleasantries.
It’s important to know how to say Hello with a small nod of the head. NǏ HǍO – 你好 – HELLO.
5. Speak in a manner they can understand.
Although most Chinese do speak English, it is not their first language. Talk slowly and don’t use slang. In America, we tend to use a lot of slang (especially now that we all talk so much in the digital space). Be mindful of this while having conversations.
6. Know what to serve.
If offering food or snacks, understand what types of food they like, such as: tea(s), cup of noodles, fresh fruit – and don’t forget the chopsticks! The Chinese don’t care for ice, so if you offer water, room temperature or hot is fine.
7. Chinese love nature.
So many people in China live in very crowded and congested cities. Buildings are built higher and higher to accommodate their large population. They often don’t have opportunities to experience the beautiful valleys and rolling hills which make up so much of New York State. Our wide-open spaces amaze Chinese visitors.
8. Learn about colors – what they mean in China.
Red is a very important color. It symbolizes luck and is believed to ward away evil. It’s good to use red in items such as table cloths and napkins, and/or wear a red tie or scarf when greeting these guests. A color to avoid wearing is green. Although not as important to younger Chinese travelers, the color green can carry a negative meaning. The Chinese think that someone who does not feel good has a green face. “Having a green face” also means to be angry.
9. Chinese New Year is the MOST important holiday of the entire year.
Ensure that you know what year the Chinese Calendar is in: e.g. this year is the year of the Rooster. Be aware of when the holiday is, offer salutations. Do not contact Chinese business associates during this time…it’s like getting a business call Christmas morning.
10. Assume nothing.
Chinese people are very polite and considerate. Don’t take this behavior as confirmation that they are pleased, however. They will not tell you otherwise, so you have to make sure you do your homework and treat them in a manner that they feel is appropriate and respectful. You’ll know you have earned their business if they return, or refer their friends. If they’re pleased, you will see an increase of Chinese visitors.
Chinese tourists used to primarily travel to the U.S. in groups. Although this is still the case in many instances, it is also becoming more popular for them to travel in small groups. Therefore, they become FITs (Foreign Independent Travelers). Whether the tourists are many and travelling by bus, or a family, renting a car and driving independently, be ready for them and you will no doubt increase your business’s profitability and as a result, probably create valuable new friendships.