It’s no secret that China is big business these days. The growing middle class and increasingly Western outlook is opening up the country. Chinese people want to travel and are doing so in their many millions.
It’s important that your international customer experience doesn’t let your business down.
So how can you, as a UK business, ensure that you are offering the very best communication services and engagement experiences with Chinese visitors whenever you come in contact with them?
China – the outward tourism capital of the world
Recent statistics show that there was an 11 per cent increase in Chinese outbound tourism in 2019, over 2018. A staggering 166 million individual visits were made to other countries by Chinese nationals last year, with many of these coming to the UK. The increase is the result of the steady rise in income among the Chinese population, which is becoming ever-more urban and affluent. Chinese businesses are opening up to international trade and the result is that Chinese business travel is on the up, alongside tourism.
As a business based in the UK, either dealing with Chinese business travellers on a B2B basis, or providing tourism services to travellers, in the form of accommodation, for example, the language barrier can be an issue.
A new survey by Ipsos for Hotels.com focusing solely on the services provided by hotels and other accommodation providers, found that Chinese visitors often feel let down by the language services available to them. In addition to language service issues, they also report problems with a lack of services specifically aimed at them, such as tailored transport and appropriate payment facilities.
The results of the survey found that 9 per cent of the Chinese travellers questioned said that the most important service they expect from a hotel in another country is having travel guides available in their own language, whether it be Mandarin or Cantonese. Some 7 per cent said that their priority is for hotel websites to be available in local Chinese languages.
Despite these services coming so high up on many Chinese visitors’ demands, few hotels are providing these services yet. Ipsos found that only 18 per cent of hotels actually offer travel guides in Chinese languages, with only 21 per cent planning to introduce this in the coming 12 months. In addition, only 17 per cent of hotels said that they have Mandarin speaking staff in-house, with no increase planned over the coming year.
Although these statistics reflect the need for greater Chinese language services from the hotel industry, any business can apply these results to their operation. It’s clear that more needs to be done to meet the language needs of the growing Chinese business travel and tourism industry.
What happens when you get it wrong, or right?
The researchers found that more money was being spent on marketing to attract Chinese visitors, than on actually providing the services they require. Many business owners are guilty of taking a ‘run before you can walk’ approach to international expansion and lessons should be learnt in order to avoid making life more difficult than it needs to be for Chinese business travellers and delegates.
While it’s easy to offend and alienate Chinese business travellers by providing the wrong language services, or a lack of them altogether, there are major opportunities waiting for businesses that do manage to provide great localised and translated communication and engagement by investing in language translation services that help businesses to meet Chinese traveller needs.
A recent white paper by Sinorbis, a marketing software company for the Chinese market, entitled: The Rising Dragon: Touring with the Chinese Traveller explained: “The market is wide open to proactive businesses prepared to adapt their processes to suit the needs of the Chinese tourist … our researched-based insights show that a three-pronged approach – adapt, invest and attract – is most effective in targeting Chinese outbound travellers.”
The order of this three-pronged approach is vital, as you’ll notice it puts ‘attract’ at number three, suggesting that it’s a good idea for businesses to ensure that they have both adapted and invested in language services BEFORE looking to attract or engage with Chinese businesses or business travellers.
Doing it the other way around, which is such a common mistake, can expose your business to the risks of making a major faux-pas, disappointing or even offending Chinese delegates with your lack of tailored language services and interactions.
The right approach
If you’re in a business that requires you to interact with, or provide services to, visitors from China, start by considering when and where you will come in contact with them and how you can make your business more appealing and engaging at that touchpoint.
If you provide tourism services, research where your Chinese visitors are coming from and how people from that part of the country book their travel, as this differs hugely from region to region, according to the Siboris white paper.
Then consider the unique needs of your Chinese clients and the language services they value. Carrying out your own research with existing clients will work well here. Invest in great language translation services and talk to them about where you could be doing more to offer them a warmer welcome and to meet their needs during their visit.
Consider your business literature and your website. Localised websites can help to engage foreign markets extremely effectively, while offering practical touches, such as the option to pay in their preferred way can also help to build bridges between you and your Chinese clients.
Remember, the world isn’t such a big place anymore and investing in language services helps to make it feel even smaller and better connected.