Red’s hot, white’s not: how hotels plan to lure the Chinese traveler


With the United States welcoming more Chinese travelers than ever before, hotel chains in the US are making every effort to cater for the burgeoning market.

From providing hot tea in rooms to employing Mandarin-speaking staff, offering congee for breakfast to supplying slippers in suites, it seems no expense is being spared to meet the needs of the Chinese traveler, who is now spending an average $6,000 per US trip.

Major chains like Marriott and Hilton have even initiated Chinese ‘welcome programs’, which address delicate cultural differences such as not placing any Chinese tour group on a floor containing the number four, which sounds like the word for death in Mandarin, Associated Press reported.

And then there are the colors: red is considered to be lucky, while white is frowned upon. (Though how a hotel plans to avoid whites altogether is anyone’s guess)

"They’re very relieved, like finally somebody’s doing these things that make sense," said Robert Armstrong, a sales manager responsible for all Chinese bookings at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York.

"Finally somebody’s catering to them," he told AP.

Respecting the pecking order within a group is another way in which ‘learned’ US hotels are considering the Chinese guest.

“We try to make sure nobody’s on a higher floor than their boss,” Mr Armstrong said.

“Even if the boss is on a beautiful suite on the eighth floor, if the assistant is in a standard room on the 38th floor, it doesn’t translate.”

Generating more than $5.7 billion for the US economy, over a million Chinese visited the States in 2011, a year-on-year increase of 36 per cent.

And according to the US Department of Commerce, that number is forecast to exceed 2.5 million by 2016, a figure not lost on the nation’s major hospitality groups, who are already in a race to build loyalty within China itself.

Boasting a Chinese ‘specialist’ at each of its American properties, Starwood Hotels and Resorts last year relocated its entire senior management team to China for a month, while the Ritz-Carlton has a policy of rotating its executive staff into its Chinese hotels for three-year stints, AP reported.

“It’s important for our leaders to understand what’s going on there at a more personal level than just the statistics," Ritz-Carlton marketing vice president Clayton Ruebensaal said.

“Everybody’s going after this market because of the sheer volume of luxury customers. At the same time, it’s a very crowded landscape."

Source = e-Travel Blackboard: M.H
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