Hotelier Moves Quickly To Tap Spending Power Of Chinese Travelers
This week, Hilton officially launched its long-awaited “Huanying” (“Welcome” in Mandarin) program at an event in San Francisco attended by Mayor Ed Lee and several hotel executives. Designed over the past year to cater to the “cultural needs and expectations of Chinese travelers,” Hilton hopes the program will instill confidence in more Chinese travel agents and outbound tourists to book at one of 51 participating hotels in 13 countries including the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Japan, South Korea and Australia.
Like similar moves taken by hoteliers to cater to the Japanese or South Korean tourists in the 1970s and ’80s, which saw hotel slippers and green tea bags show up at more Western hotel rooms, the program aims to cater to the particular demands of outbound Chinese, many of which are stomach-related. Hotels offering Huanying services have added a number of traditional Chinese breakfast items to their menus, such as rice porridge, dim sum and fried dough fritters (youtiao).
While this might, at first glance, seem trivial, as David Roche of Hotels.com said earlier this year, “Whether or not someone travels can boil down to something as simple and often overlooked as whether or not they can have congee for breakfast.” Other elements of Hilton’s Huanying program aimed at making mainland Chinese travelers a little more comfortable far from home include more staff fluent in Mandarin, as well as tea kettles and Chinese tea, slippers and more Chinese-language television channels in guestrooms.
The emphasis placed on the increasingly numerous (and increasingly lucrative) outbound Chinese tourists indicates that, much like the aforementioned Japanese and South Korean tourists who preceded them, the spending power of mainland Chinese travelers — and the fact that hotel brands are less ingrained in their minds than they are for Western or Japanese guests — is too much for hoteliers to ignore. While, say, British guests would be pleased to get a cup of their favorite tea in a faraway land, something as simple as a bowl of porridge could just be enough to make a Chinese tourist a loyal customer for life for hotel chains that play their cards right. Huanying is a step in the right direction for Hilton — already an established name within the China market — to do just that.