Building bridges with breakfast
Chicken congee will be offered as a part of the Hilton Huanying program.
When it comes to making international travellers feel good, there’s nothing better than a familiar breakfast.
For years, European hotels wooed American tourists by offering an American breakfast, consisting mainly of eggs, bacon, toast, oatmeal, cornflakes, pancakes, juice and coffee. American hotels eager to court Europeans rolled out the Continental breakfast of pastries, sliced meat, cheeses, yogurt and coffee. They beckoned the Brits with a full English breakfast of porridge, poached eggs, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, sausage and baked beans. The world even said good morning to a big wave of Japanese tourists by placing miso soup, rice, grilled fish and pickled vegetables on the breakfast menu.
Now it’s time to welcome the Chinese.
This week Hilton and Starwood launched major initiatives aimed at wooing outbound Chinese travellers, widely expected to be the next wave of global tourists.
The number of people travelling from China will reach 100 million by 2015, with 25 million going abroad for the first time each year, Starwood hotels estimates. Most people will stick close to home, choosing Asian destinations, but an increasing number are expected to head west. In 2010, 802,000 Chinese residents visited the US, a 53% increase over 2009. Latin America is also benefiting from the rise in China’s outbound travel — Starwood reports several of its largest Latin American hotels have seen visits from Chinese guests jump more than 100% in the last year.
The new Hilton Huanying and Starwood Personalized Travel programs aim to make Chinese tourists feel more welcome by providing in-room teakettles (versus coffee makers), Chinese tea, instant noodles and slippers. Participating hotels will be hiring more Chinese-speaking front desk staff and adding Chinese language TV channels.
But the biggest focus for welcoming guests from China seems to be around breakfast offerings. Participating Hilton hotels will offer two types of congee (a thin rice porridge that’s served sweet or savoury), fried rice, dim sum, fried dough fritters, hard boiled eggs, tea and soy milk. Participating Starwood hotels will add congee, rice, noodles and other common Chinese staples to restaurant menus.
Next time you encounter a cross-cultural breakfast offering, consider breaking through boundaries and trying something new. If you are a Westerner, would you consider trying congee or grilled fish for breakfast? If you are Asian, what do you think of oatmeal, eggs and toast? How important is a familiar breakfast when you are travelling? Please leave your comments on our Facebook page.
Chris McGinnis is the business travel columnist for BBC Travel