“My Goal Is For My Clients To Become Fluent In Chinese Culture”
As anybody with China business experience will agree, developing a deeper understanding of the country’s fast-moving economic and cultural markets takes far more than simple data. It requires a nuanced perspective on how China’s transition into an emerging global power relates to its past, and how its culture impacts its future. The key to success in the China market, inside the country or among its outbound travelers and businesses, is an inside edge.
With that in mind, France Pepper founded the cultural consultancy China Insider to advise those with a particular interest in China on how to benefit from bridging business with arts and culture. With two decades of China experience and fluent in Mandarin, Pepper’s work with China Insider covers everything from developing strategic partnerships with cultural entities to curating experiential travel in China, leveraging her expertise and network of contacts to offer travel itineraries unlike any offered by a run-of-the-mill travel agency.
Recently, Jing Daily exchanged a Q&A with France Pepper about the founding of China Insider, her thoughts on the changing conceptions of China among Western travelers, and what sets her company apart from others focusing on the China travel industry.
Jing Daily (JD): Can you tell us a little about how China Insider came into being?
France Pepper (FP): Understanding Chinese culture is essential for anyone looking at the global big picture. I created China Insider as a resource for leaders in the business world and cultural spheres who want to go beyond a superficial approach to China and appreciate that culture is at the root of success with the Chinese. Experiencing China first-hand with an expert is a unique aspect of my business.
JD: How do you develop itineraries for clients?
FP: As the Director, I take a hands-on approach, from meeting clients to curating the itinerary to accompanying them on the trip. Every detail is thoughtfully planned and each trip is exclusive and tailored to the interests of my clients. We discuss what they hope to gain from the trip, who they want to meet, the access they would like to have, and the style in which they like to travel. A trip can be designed for an individual or a group.
Itineraries always include cutting-edge luxury in accommodations and an emphasis on innovative restaurants, top chefs and local delicacies. From start to finish, the process is exceptionally personal.
JD: Can you give us some examples of trips you’ve developed recently?
FP: I curated a contemporary art study tour for American museum leaders and collectors that focused on Shanghai and Beijing. We met with many artists in their studios, gallery directors, art fair organizers, local collectors, and had special guests join us for lunches and dinners to enrich the discussion. Although the focus was contemporary art, I arranged exclusive visits to museums of traditional art as well as to closed sections of the Forbidden City in order to provide a perspective on Chinese art history.
At the other end of the spectrum, I arranged for entrepreneurs exploring various inbound and outbound China markets to meet with CEOs, government officials, journalists and investors. Their focus was access to high-level individuals and decision-makers, complemented with in-depth cultural information about Chinese society.
JD: How do you feel the concept of traveling to China has changed over the years, particularly among Westerners?
FP: In the early 1980s, when China began to open up, Westerners mainly traveled on group tours. Travel was limited, in terms of places one could visit as well as accommodations. Now, many more areas are open to Westerners and every major city has luxury hotels, spas, fine restaurants and all the amenities that any international city would have. So much so that what is unique in China is being eclipsed by an almost monolithic tourism culture. My clients want a trip that is experiential and informative. They want to understand what makes China tick.
JD: What sets your company apart from other travel-focused companies dealing with China?
FP: China Insider goes far beyond travel. My goal is for my clients to become fluent in Chinese culture. By sharing a unique perspective rooted in over two decades of China experience and by bridging the past with the present and future, I provide a context to understand China today.