Examples of China-ready businesses
Businesses across Canada are developing a wide range of strategies to attract and welcome tourists from China. Some businesses are offering unique Canadian experiences, while others are hiring staff members who speak Mandarin. Several businesses report that attending trade shows and building relationships with Chinese tour operators is one of the best ways to reach the Chinese market. Read about how businesses across Canada have become China-ready and learn from their experience so you can implement China-readiness strategies that work for your business.
Sun Peaks Resort – British Columbia
Sun Peaks is a four-season mountain resort in British Columbia that offers a European-style ski-in ski-out experience in the winter and a wide range of outdoor activities—including biking, hiking and golf—in the summer. According to Colin Brost, Sun Peaks' Director of Market Development, one of the resort's most successful strategies to attract tourists from China has been building relationships with tourism organizations and Chinese receptive tour operators. Sun Peaks has been an active member of the Canadian Inbound Tourism Association – Asia Pacific (CITAP) for over 10 years, has attended Showcase Canada several times and collaborates with Chinese tour operators on an ongoing basis. The resort has also developed packages specifically targeted to tourists from China and translated marketing materials into simplified Chinese.
Sun Peak's China-readiness efforts have paid off, especially for summer tourism. Brost reports that in the summer of 2017, the number of tourists from China who visited Sun Peaks was up 175% from the same period in 2016. For its winter programming, Sun Peaks is capitalizing on China's growing "snow culture" leading up to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. For example, Sun Peaks is working to train and certify (Canadian Ski Instructors' Alliance) Chinese-language ski instructors so they can better serve tourists from China.
Tips from Sun Peaks:
- Think long-term. China-readiness strategies can take time and effort to implement, so it is important to plan ahead. Consider whether you will need to adapt your resort's accommodations or activities to welcome an influx of tourists from China. If so, start planning these changes early.
- Build strong, trusting relationships with Chinese tour operators and tourism associations. This will allow you to access the Chinese market and will give you connections that can provide you with useful feedback when you develop new products targeted to the Chinese market.
- Complete an audit of your business to assess whether your experiences and offerings line up with the demands of the Chinese market.
Target Tours Atlantic – Prince Edward Island
Target Tours Atlantic is an Island-owned tour operator based in Prince Edward Island that offers guests tours of Canada, the United States and Europe. After attending the Tourism Industry Association of Canada's (TIAC) China-readiness workshops, Target Tours Atlantic adapted some of its business practices to better serve tourists from China. John Dunphy, co-founder of Target Tours Atlantic, explained that one of the company's successful China-readiness steps was developing unique itineraries tailored to tourists from China that included activities like clam digging, strawberry picking, art lessons and golf lessons. Dunphy explains that these appeal to tourists from China because they are activities that they cannot try at home. Target Tours Atlantic also translated the itineraries into Mandarin to make them more accessible.
Tips from Target Tours Atlantic:
- Offer unique experiences that tourists cannot get in China to make sure tourists won't want to miss your business.
- Put your region on the map by collaborating with local tourism organizations and attending trade shows. If your destination is not well known, make a concerted effort to work with local tourism associations and other attractions to attract tourists from China to your region. Attending trade shows and missions is also a good way to build connections with Chinese tour operators that will help you reach the Chinese market.
- Be patient. You will need to invest time and money to develop your business in the Chinese market. Take the time to learn about Chinese culture and how Chinese people do business so that you can best tailor your approach to tourists from China and build good relationships with Chinese tour operators.
Hopewell Rocks – New Brunswick
The Hopewell Rocks in the Bay of Fundy is one of New Brunswick's top attractions. It is a self-directed park with interpretive staff located in key areas to answer questions from visitors. Annick Robichaud-Butland, the former Admission and Tours manager at Hopewell Rocks, reports that in 2013 one or two 55-person tour buses with Chinese tourists visited the site each day. That same year, Robichaud-Butland joined Destination Canada on a trade mission to China where she made contacts with tour operators. As a result, daily visits to the park by tourists from China doubled before the end of the season. Robichaud-Butland joined Destination Canada on another China trade mission in 2016. By 2017, between eight and nine 55-person tour buses with Chinese tourists were visiting Hopewell Rocks every day.
Tips from Hopewell Rocks:
- Have a strong Wi-Fi connection instead of spending money on developing a full Mandarin-language audio tour. Why? Many tour buses do multiple rapid stops in one day and their China-based operators have site descriptions on their social media channels.
- Do a site assessment and ask yourself these types of questions: Do I have the capacity to handle a sudden and large increase in tourist traffic. Are there signs for people who read something other than the Western alphabet? Do my on-site food offerings include any fast and ready-to-go foods that appeal to this new category of tourist?
- Work with experts like Destination Canada and the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, and if you can't go to China to attract business, go to travel trade shows like Rendez-vous Canada to meet Chinese operators. These partners can offer you resources—from translation to Chinese to support in learning to meet the needs of Chinese tourists.
Chelsea Hotel — Ontario
The Chelsea Hotel in downtown Toronto offers guests a wide range of amenities—from pools and a fitness centre to a family fun zone—that help ensure all guests feel at home. To help attract tourists from China and ensure that they enjoy their experience, the Chelsea Hotel is collaborating with Chinese tour operators and has implemented China-readiness strategies.
The Chelsea Hotel has taken steps to mitigate the challenges posed by the language barrier. When guests from China arrive at the hotel, they each receive a tailored welcome letter in simplified Chinese that includes information about local attractions, directions to Toronto's Chinatown, and information about Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking staff members who can assist them with translation and directions.
In addition, the Chelsea Hotel has tailored its meal options to better serve guests from China. Breakfast now includes traditional Chinese foods, including congee, Chinese doughnuts and steamed buns. Hotel staff members report that the congee in particular is very well-received by Chinese tour operators and guests. At breakfast, lunch and dinner, Chinese groups receive a large pot of Chinese tea with Chinese style cups. Adding Chinese food and drink to the menu is an important way that the Chelsea Hotel makes its guests from China feel more at home.
Tips from the Chelsea Hotel:
- Research the needs of the Chinese market and tailor your offerings to fit their needs.
- Adapt business practices to ensure that tourists from China feel comfortable and welcome. Many of the Chelsea Hotel's successful China-readiness tactics, like providing information in simplified Chinese and offering traditional Chinese breakfast food, were centred on ensuring that tourists from China feel comfortable and at home at the hotel. These adaptations were well-received by Chinese guests and tour operators. Adapting your business practices based on market research will help ensure that tourists from China have a positive experience at your establishment.
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