Studies show time and again that users want content in their own language – yet brands from all kinds of industry are failing to deliver on this. It’s been proven that users engage far better when content is in their preferred language. In the tourism and hospitality industry, hotel guests rank this element of their experience particularly highly.
According to research by Amadeus, 71% of Indian travellers say it’s important that hospitality teams speak a language they understand and 65% want access to TV shows and newspapers in their native language.
The main complaint from Chinese visitors abroad was a lack of Mandarin communication or just general cultural misunderstanding. Some 26% of Chinese visitors said the main thing that could make a destination more attractive to them was Chinese-language materials and services. This includes things like guidebooks, welcome packs, information signs or even Mandarin-speaking staff within the hotel itself.
It may seem intimidating to be expected to provide services in a ‘difficult’ language such as Mandarin but sometimes what guests ask for is relatively humble – instructions for how to login to the WIFI in Mandarin as well as English for example.
But catering to tourists isn’t as simple as just offering them content in their language. Visitors from around the globe have different standards for hospitality and that gives them very different expectations for service.
In Chinese hotels, it’s pretty standard to get your own complimentary slippers when you book into even a pretty modest hotel. Toothpaste (and often a toothbrush) is also given free as standard and most rooms have a tea kettle and will provide instant cup noodles in the minibar. If you’re catering to Chinese tourists regularly it’s well worth bearing these expectations in mind.
Many hotels that rely on Chinese visitors also go the extra mile and offer food options that make Chinese guests feel more at home, such as rice porridge at breakfast.
The exclusive Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel offers a Mandarin-speaking personal shopper to guide high net worth tourists around the boutiques of Rodeo Drive, as well as monogrammed pillowcases in Chinese characters.
And it’s not just about the little comforts. Some hospitality businesses have now started taking Alipay, Unionpay and WeChatPay – all popular digital payment methods in China – to better cater to Chinese guests.
If you’re doing this it’s wise to make it clear to guests in advance of them travelling. Another practicality is to make sure your hotel is listed on Baidu Maps because Google Maps often isn’t accessible to Chinese users that are doing their research before they travel.
Catering to hotel guests can be as simple as helping avoid misunderstandings and providing clarification. In many areas of China tap water isn’t drinkable, which partly explains why they want that tea kettle – in order to boil water to make it safe to drink.
Putting a sign up stating the tap water is safe, or just providing bottled water, may help smooth things out. There’s also the controversial issue of smoking – around a third of Chinese people smoke and growing intolerance of the practice in the West means they often find they’re at odds with local culture when travelling.
Hotels can cater to smokers by offering information about where to go to smoke – and ideally putting this important information into Mandarin. It’s in hoteliers interests to clarify their smoking policies to avoid guests smoking where they don’t want them to.
Chinese tourists tend to be the ones hotels have in mind when they make adjustments to meet guests’ expectations. Chinese visitors are one of the fastest-growing segments in the tourism industry and they also tend to be pretty high spending. But it’s a mistake to focus on this national group at the expense of others.
For starters, Chinese tourist activity is already pretty volatile thanks to political machinations and economic change in the country. There’s also plenty of other nationalities keen to travel the world. Indian tourism is also growing apace, and the growth from this market looks particularly attractive when you factor in the volatility of Chinese tourism.
Chinese and Indian tourists certainly have different expectations. For example, Indian travellers seem to be more security-focused than Chinese travellers. Indians expect service providers to give them any safety or security updates – whether it’s their hotel or tour operator. But they’re also more willing to share their personal data than other Asian tourists.
Indian tourists tend to be particularly concerned with finding familiar foods at their destination. Some of these trends indicate that they are less experienced travellers, particularly compared to the Chinese who have been a more active group of travellers for longer.
Although the Indian tourist market may have different expectations they have the same basic desires as their Chinese counterparts – to get the most out of their travel experience. Being communicated with clearly is still a major part of that.
For travel brands looking to cater to these significant new audiences, language provision, as well as catering to the cultural needs of travel consumers, is a major part of remaining competitive and increasing loyalty.