The US gears up for an explosion of Chinese tourism
Chinese tourists take photos on Wall Street near the New York Stock Exchange. (Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images)
Next time you check in to a US hotel, you may be greeted by a Mandarin-speaking concierge. It’s just one of the ways the US tourism industry is preparing for an influx of Chinese tourists.
According to an April 2013 report by the UN World Tourism Organization, 100 million Chinese will be travelling abroad by 2015 – up from 10 million in 2000 and 83 million in 2012 – thanks to rapid urbanisation, a booming economy, rising disposable incomes and a relaxation of government controls on foreign travel.
The Chinese have also become the world’s top tourism spenders, dropping more cash overseas than even Germans and Americans, formerly the most deep-pocketed.
Chinese tourists spent $102 billion on international tourism in 2012 (compared to close to $84 billion for both Germans and American tourists), 40% more than in 2011, according to the report – a remarkable rise. And many of them are setting their sights on US shores, where an admired iconic culture and cheap luxury goods beckon.
As such, the US tourism industry, sensing a burgeoning market, has responded to cater to the lucrative new tourist.
Taking their cue from European hotels, which offer such culturally conscious amenities as Chinese breakfasts, Mandarin-language signs and Chinese concierges, US hotels are working to make Chinese guests more comfortable.
The Marriott hotel group, for example, sends its sales representatives to China for a crash course in local culture, USA Today reports. Its US employees are taught basic Mandarin phrases such as “hello” and “thank you”.
Many Hilton hotels feature Chinese meals and their lobbies often display oranges and tangerines, a sign of good luck.
The Starwood group, which owns the Sheraton, Westin and W brands, has responded to Chinese guests with in-room tea kettles, slippers, translated restaurant menus, on-site translation services and comfort food such as congee (rice porridge) and noodles.
And in New York City, a favoured destination due to its iconic image and excellent shopping, the Marriott Marquis has even replaced room numbers on the 44th floor with names, because the number four is considered bad luck in Chinese culture. Room 4444, for example, is now called the Imperial Suite.
The retail sector is also responding. High-end stores such as Tiffany, a world-renowned jeweller, and luxury watch retailer Tourneau are catering to Chinese tourists with Mandarin-speaking sales staff, Chinese size charts and visits by sales reps to China to update tour operators on their US retail offerings.