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March 14, 2014 / BSP Marketing

Understanding The Wants And Needs Of The Chinese Traveler

Some Facts you should know before starting a marketing plan to target Asian travelers

Happy Chinese family with suitcase at the airport - Photo taken in San Diego all rights reserved 2014

Rapidly increasing middle class boosts US visitation numbers

Back in 2004, 29 million Chinese travelers visited foreign countries. In 2013, the number of Chinese travelers who took vacations and trips outside of China had grown to 100 million. According to estimates from the CLSA, a highly respected brokerage and investment group in Asia, that number will double to 200 million by the year 2020.

The rapid expansion of international travel is directly related to the rapidly growing middle class of China. According to CLSA, the key number that will drive this desire to travel abroad is when the per-capita GDP reaches US $8,000, a figure that should be achieved by 2020.

Chinese travelers are looking for unique experiences. As they become wealthier they will travel greater distances to gain those experiences. Currently, their travel preferences lean toward Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore. In 2012, 1.5 million people from China visited the United States and 1.3 million visited France. These “dream” destinations are predicted to become more popular and accessible in the very near future. By the year 2020, it is expected that 5.7 million people will visit the US and 3.9 million will visit France.

Big Boost to US Travel and Tourism

Catering to the tastes of Chinese visitors can pay big dividends for businesses in the travel and tourism industry. Hotels, airlines, restaurants, shops, and attractions are already directing a part of their marketing efforts toward the Chinese travel. In December of 2013, a new non-profit organization called the Visit USA Committee was formed to help promote Chinese tourism to the United States.

The Chinese spend more than US $6,000 per person, about double the amount spent by other international visitors. When the number of visitors doubles in the next few years, the impact on the US economy will be magnified exponentially. Opportunity is just knocking at the door for many businesses to reap the benefits of this major travel trend. Any business that wants to benefit from this once-in-a-generation trend needs to know what the Chinese traveler wants and needs.

Travel preferences depend on age

Traditionally, the Chinese tourist has preferred to travel with family or a group of close friends. Having friends and family along allows them to share their experiences while they are exploring a different culture. They like the security of having a planned itinerary and often choose to be part of a tour group.

Millennials and members of the younger generation are expressing their desire to travel individually or with a few friends/family members. Young, wealthy, and better educated Chinese travelers have more of a sense of adventure. Technologically savvy and active on social media sites, they want to blend in to the foreign city they are visiting and create individual experiences.

Why do Chinese want to travel abroad?

Although there are exceptions to every rule, the majority of Chinese travelers do not look at vacations as a means to relieve the stress in their lives. Unlike Americans who have a sense of entitlement that they deserve a relaxing vacation as a reward for working hard, the Chinese see a foreign vacation as an opportunity to experience different cultures on a first-hand basis and gain an understanding of how other people live.

Planning a vacation

While the Chinese traveler may do some research on the Internet about their upcoming trip, by and large, they do not feel the need to find out everything there is to see and do when they get to their destination. The Chinese spend more of their time in the present and enjoy the moment. They have fun getting a cup of coffee and a donut in the airport and they enjoy the taxi ride to their hotel.

A full cultural experience

Whether traveling in large groups or just with a few family members and close friends, Chinese travelers are anxious to absorb the culture that is all around them. They want to eat pizza and hamburgers (not Chinese food!) when they are in New York or California. They want to go to the beach in San Diego. Little things, like buying a candy bar at a convenience store or watching American TV, mean almost as much as going to Disneyland or visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Chinese tourists bring a lot of money to shop. They may buy a few souvenirs from the places they visit, but most of their shopping dollars are directed at upscale goods that they normally do not buy at home. Designer clothing, shoes and accessories are very popular. They want high-end merchandise such as Gucci bags and Prada shoes. They are less interested in hand-crafted items made in the USA than they are in items that are considered status symbols.

The wants and needs of the Chinese traveler are evolving as the middle and upper-class grows larger in China. While traditional values are still most important to the majority of this growing group of world travelers, younger Chinese people, who grew up in the digital age, are venturing out and creating their own personal travel experiences.

What should you consider in your hotel to please Chinese travelers?

How to Please Chinese TravelerAs any good host should know, you should always try to make your guest feel welcome and at home. You want to serve them food that they will like and not discuss subjects that will make them feel ill at ease. When you run a hotel, the best way to assure that your guests will be pleased with their stay, is to find out what they like and what they don’t like.

Chinese people, particularly the younger generation, spend a great deal of time on social media. They share their opinions and experiences with their friends and post online reviews. A hotel manager can get great feedback by having an employee, who is fluent in Mandarin, monitor the popular Chinese travel and social

When tourists or business people from China book a room in your hotel, you should be prepared to give them a proper welcome. While more Chinese travelers are visiting the United States than ever before and becoming familiar with western culture, they still retain strong traditional Chinese values.

A two-stage approach to making your Chinese guests happy

You are never going to please all of the people all of the time, but, you can do things that will get you more favorable comments from your Chinese guests. First, you need to take steps to add the amenities and features that appeal to your Asian visitors. Next, and just as important, you need to avoid doing things that have a negative connotation and may upset your guests.


The Chinese have lucky and unlucky numbers. They believe certain colors are lucky and others will bring bad luck. They attribute certain characteristics to animals and flowers. A hotel that wants to cater to the Chinese traveler should know:

• If you place flowers in a guest room, the color of the container should coordinate with the color of the flowers. Plants are a life force and flowers in bloom should be accompanied by budding flowers that represent the continuous journey through life.

• The most popular Chinese number is 8. In the Mandarin language, “8” sounds like the Chinese word for prosperity. If you can put your Chinese guests in a room on the 8th floor, or give them room 388, hey will consider it good luck. Number “4” is a number that is considered very bad luck. It sounds like the Mandarin word “death” and should be avoided at all costs. In Las Vegas, the Encore Hotel does not have any floors in the 40’s, an obvious accommodation to its Chinese guests.

• Red is considered the luckiest and most popular color. Among the adjectives associated with this color are good luck, celebration, joy, vitality and life. White is often used during times of mourning and is associated with death. Reds, yellows, orange and several other colors are good choices if you decide to decorate a room that will be visually appealing to your Chinese guest.

Which floor is best?

It may seem a little silly, but the Chinese traveler is keenly aware of the particular floor on which his or her room is located. No one wants to be on the 4th floor or on a floor that starts with the number “4” as previously discussed. As a general rule, more status is attributed to a person who is assigned a room on a higher floor rather than a lower one. It can be insulting to the president of a company if he is given a room on the 7th floor and his assistant is given a room on the 18th floor.

Great service is a must

Chinese travelers are sometimes considered to be a bit rude because they harbor the belief that money equals good service. As affluent travelers, they expect to reach into their wallet and someone to almost immediately respond to their want or need. If your hotel has a restaurant and the service is slow, a Chinese diner will think that he or she is being slighted because they are Chinese. Always be extra attentive to your Chinese guests. Even if there is a delay, don’t ignore them. Give them the respect they want by explaining the situation and even apologizing for the delay.

Tea Time

While most Americans can’t go without a cup of coffee to start their day, most Asian people incorporate hot tea into their daily routine. Your hotel should always have hot water in the lobby for tea and it would also be appreciated if the guest rooms had tea kettles and an assortment of different teas.

Complimentary slippers in every room

Another tradition that is followed in the Chinese culture is to remove your shoes before entering a room. Hotels should provide disposable slippers by he bed in each room.

Breakfast menu

Help your Chinese guests get off to a good start each day by offering them some familiar breakfast staples. While Westerners might eat cold cereal and scrambled eggs, Asian tastes may prefer congee (rice porridge) with some hot bean juice. Noodles and dumplings are also favorites from the homeland.

A staff that speaks Mandarin

Being in a foreign land can be intimidating if you do not understand the native language. While some Chinese travelers have a good command of English, others do not. Even if they can speak English, they feel more welcome and comfortable if they can talk and be understood in their native tongue. Your hotel should have at least one, if not several, staff members who can communicate fluently in Mandarin.

Entertain & inform in the Chinese language

Putting up a Chinese version of your hotel’s website is a great way to provide information to your Asian guests. Subscribe to some Chinese language TV stations or have movies with Chinese subtitles. Your hotel can order a daily Chinese-language newspaper and you can have city maps and travel cards printed in Mandarin.

Don’t forget the free toothbrush and toothpaste

Chinese travelers almost never carry their own toothbrushes or toothpaste when they go on vacation. They expect that the hotel will provide those personal items for free. Don’t disappoint them.

Address safety concerns

Every person that travels to a foreign country always has some concerns about their safety and the safety of their money. In surveys, the Chinese express an unusually high concern about safety issues when traveling to the United States. Reassure guests by pointing out the many safety features of your hotel. You may encourage guests to use an in-room safe or leave their valuables in the hotel’s secured storage area.

What else do Chinese travelers want?

• Free WiFi
• At least one Chinese meal a day. It could be breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
• Food that is not too sweet. They prefer fruit and vegetables instead of cake and candy bars.
• Clean guest rooms

Golden Week

The first week of October is known as Golden Week. It is a national holiday period that covers the first seven days of the month. During this time, millions and millions of people take their annual vacations. Most of the popular vacation spots in China become inundated with Chinese travelers. Realizing that the local areas are so crowded, the more affluent Chinese travelers take the opportunity to travel abroad.

Europe, the United States and other international destinations benefit by the surge of international visitors. Every hotel that wants or hopes to develop a relationship with the growing number of Chinese tourists must focus on being ready for Golden

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