How to attract more Chinese tourists to the U.S.? Chinese Digital Media or Traditional Travel Agencies?

Inbound travel to the U.S. from China is skyrocketing. Arrivals from China are forecast to increase a whopping 274% between 2012 and 2016. It’s the fastest growth –– by far –– of any country, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“If Chinese people have not visited the U.S., they feel they haven’t really seen the world,” said Haybina Hao, director of international development for NTA.

Most first-time visitors to the U.S. opt for group tours sold by Chinese travel retailers. But independent travel is gaining in popularity, Hao told Travel Market Report, in a recent interview at the NTA Visit USA Center in Shanghai.

According to Pierre Gervois, from China Elite Focus, a Shanghai based agency providing marketing services to international travel agencies willing to attract more Chinese tourists, “The fastest growing segment of Chinese travelers is the category of affluent travelers, from the upper-middle class. They tend to rely more on on-line travel agencies, and don’t really trust traditional Chinese travel agencies to advise them on their trip.” “The best way of catching the interest of these new Chinese travelers is a presence on key Chinese social media, and to have the destination endorsed by influent Chinese Travel Bloggers”, Gervois added.

Hao, who works out of the NTA’s Lexington, Ky., office, was in China to participate in a series of road shows for travel agents and consumers.

Return visitors are adventuresome
The typical first-time traveler spends an average of two weeks in the U.S., according to Hao. Their standard itinerary includes some combination of New York City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Repeat visitors are decidedly more adventurous, often focusing on activities such as golfing, skiing and driving, Hao said.

Some repeat visitors are giving new meaning to the concept of fly-drive packages.

Earlier this year, groups of Chinese visitors traveled to York, Penn., for a tour of Harley-Davidson’s motorcycle factory, then saddled up a fleet of hogs and rode to Philadelphia as part of a group itinerary, Hao said.

Affluent visitors take to the skies
Another trend among repeat visitors includes tours that are organized around flying private planes.

According to Pierre Gervois, from China Elite Focus,

Hao explained that while consumers can earn a pilot’s license in China, airspace restrictions and a lack of facilities make it all but impossible to actually spend time in the air behind the controls.

Hao has seen an increase in affluent Chinese visitors who travel to the U.S. to put their pilot licenses to use.

Agent education in second-tier cities
While these metropolitan areas have populations that approach 10 million, most travelers prefer to work with travel agencies in Shanghai and Beijing because the second-tier cities often lack sufficient travel agency services, she said.

It is the goal of the Visit USA Center to change that.

The Visit USA Center staff recently completed a round of presentations for consumers and agents in second-tier cities such as Chongqing, Chengdu, Shenyang and Dalian, Hao said.

The events were held in conjunction with U.S. suppliers, including Disneyland Park, tourism representatives from the state of Georgia, Hilton Hotels, and five West Coast-based tour operators that specialize in in-bound Chinese travel.

Building leisure travel
The mission of the Visit USA Center, which opened in Shanghai in January, is to foster leisure travel from China to the U.S.

Key strategies included facilitating relationships between travel professionals in both countries and marketing the U.S. as a tourism destination to Chinese consumers. The Visit USA Center also maintains a website in traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese and English.

Warnings on cut-rate trips
A recent focus of the Visit USA Center is helping travelers understand that cut-rate itineraries often do not provide the best travel value and experience.

“Chinese people are very careful with their money, and they negotiate hard with travel agencies for lower-price options,” she said. In the past, retailers have promoted tours that offer low-cost per diem rates, but hit travelers with expensive add-ons once they are in the U.S.

“Don’t forget that the old image of the Chinese customer always bargaining for a low price is vastly a stereotype” said Gervois. “The new generation of affluent Chinese travelers want high quality travel services and are perfectly ready to pay for them”, he added.

U.S. hotels welcome Chinese business travelers

Earlier this year, some 14,000 members of Amway China arrived in waves of 2,800 each for a series of meetings in Anaheim, Calif. — just one example, travel industry professionals say, of a growing number of Chinese business travelers flocking to the United States to meet with potential customers, study American business practices and attend conferences and trade shows.
In response, major hotel brands are starting programs to compete for the Chinese business. They are updating menus, hiring bilingual people for their staffs and even offering access to Chinese television stations, anticipating that the number of Chinese visitors will continue to grow in coming years.
“We see that in the past five years it’s grown rapidly,” said Yong Guo, president of the North America Chinese Entrepreneur Association. “You can see it from the travel volume, especially in the summertime. You can see it in the ticket prices.”

Mr. Guo said Chinese business travelers from diverse industries including pharmaceuticals, software development and green technology had contacted him and asked for introductions to potential partners. His member base of Chinese-American entrepreneurs has tripled in five years, he said.
In fiscal year 2010, the State Department issued nearly half a million visas to mainland-born Chinese nationals coming to the United States either for business or for a combination of business and pleasure, despite what can be an expensive, months-long process to obtain a visa. The Office of Travel and Tourism Industries said it expected a 232 percent increase in Chinese visitors over the next five years.
Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide and Starwood Hotels and Resorts are among the hotel management companies that are starting or have recently introduced initiatives to welcome Chinese travelers.
“We think we’re looking at about a 50 percent growth on an annual basis, and that will compound,” said Christie Hicks, head of global sales for Starwood. In addition to conference groups and trade show delegates, Ms. Hicks said, Chinese companies increasingly view the United States as an attractive destination for incentive travel. “When they look for that aspirational destination, North America is one that continues to grow.” Hawaii is one popular destination, she added.
In July, Starwood added touches intended to appeal to Chinese travelers at hotels in 19 cities around the world frequented by Chinese travelers. Bilingual staff members will be available to assist travelers with a limited grasp of English. Slippers and tea kettles are put in the guest rooms of Chinese visitors and are available upon request. Hotel and local sightseeing information is translated into Chinese. And restaurant menus were expanded to include Chinese fare like rice dishes and congee, a kind of rice porridge often eaten for breakfast.
Hotel companies are also betting that China’s growing domestic travel industry will increase bookings in the United States. “We’re expanding within China, so the recognition of the Hilton name was becoming increasingly strong,” said Andrew Flack, vice president of global brand marketing for Hilton Hotels & Resorts.
In August, Hilton introduced a welcome program in 51 hotels in 33 global destinations for Chinese travelers, including 22 hotels in the United States. Like Starwood’s program, Hilton’s has bilingual employees available to assist Chinese visitors, and places slippers and tea kettles in guest rooms.
Travelers also get a welcome letter in Chinese, access to Chinese-language television stations and a Chinese-style breakfast with items like congee and fried rice.

“Chinese government group travel has been taking place for many years, but what’s adding to that is individual business travelers that we’re more familiar with in the West,” Mr. Flack said. “We’re seeing more Chinese delegates attending more international association conferences.”
David Townshend, senior vice president for global sales at Marriott International, said that so far this year, “We’ve seen a 50 percent increase in the business, which is obviously a strong indicator not only of the potential but clearly of the future.” Within some Marriott brands, the growth is even more pronounced.
At the extended-stay TownePlace Suites brand, the bookings are up 112 percent over the same time, reflecting the longer duration of stays for Chinese travelers.
Mr. Townshend said Marriott tested a Chinese-style breakfast including fried rice, pickled vegetables and congee in a few markets and plans to introduce it across its brands at the end of the month.
American travelers may be accustomed to a cup of coffee, perhaps accompanied by a room-temperature pastry, for breakfast. But the morning meal is a much more important one in Chinese culture, said Greta Kotler, chief global development officer at the Center for Association Leadership, or ASAE, an organization for managers of trade and professional associations.
“Breakfast in China is a very nutritious, green meal,” she said. “It’s very much more of a vegetable-rich breakfast than ours might be.”
Joseph Chi, president of Shine Tours, who helped coordinate the Amway China trip, said the company had detailed requirements for what it considered a “suitable breakfast” for delegates.
Hotel companies expect their efforts to connect with Chinese visitors will improve their standing among domestic travelers, as well. “I think we definitely have research that shows that customers look positively on hotel companies that are sensitive to the needs of travelers from multiple countries,” said Mr. Flack, of Hilton.
“There’s a sophistication that goes with that and a worldliness that talks to a high level of hospitality.”
After all, at the end of a long day, an American guest also might like to ease into a pair of slippers or make a cup of tea.

Hawaii Governor working to attract more Chinese tourists

Reaching out to China’s booming tourism market will be a priority for Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie during the three-day China-US Governors Forum in Beijing.

Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) President Mike McCartney and other tourism officials will join Abercrombie – on his inaugural trip to Asia – at the forum on Oct. 19, 2011.

A good relationship between China and the United States will not only stimulate Hawaii’s economy but also promote cultural understanding, Abercrombie said.

Hawaii already has sister-state relationships with Guangdong and Hainan provinces.

“Chinese culture and traditions have long since become intertwined into our own local culture, building on Hawaii’s longstanding and very special relationship with China,” Abercrombie said.

Guam Governor Eddie Baza Calvo, who will also attend the forum, is also interested in promoting the US territory as a travel destination for Chinese people.

At the US-China Governors Forum in Salt Lake City in February, he discussed with Zhejiang Party Secretary Zhao Hongzhu the potential for increased tourism from China if a visa waiver program is approved.

“US governors and the (Barack) Obama administration understand how critical it is for the nation to build economic alliances with China,” Calvo said.

Zhao told Calvo he intends to encourage residents of his populous province to visit Guam, according to Calvo. Zhao mentioned that many Zhejiang residents currently vacation in Singapore, which is a six-hour flight, whereas the flight to Guam is only four hours.

The number of Chinese tourists in Hawaii has jumped significantly since the signing of the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding between the US and China to allow Chinese vacationers to visit the country.

HTA, Hawaii’s state tourism agency, projects a total of 91,000 Chinese visitors to Hawaii this year, a 37 percent increase over last year.

The average Chinese tourist spends $349 per person each day, according to data compiled by HTA, whereas Japanese visitors spend an average of $261 each day.

Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism forecasts the number of Chinese visitors to Hawaii will increase annually by 20 percent from 2012 to 2014. By 2014, Hawaii will have 140,000 Chinese visitors a year.

At the upcoming three-day forum, McCartney will join Abercrombie for a meeting with Shao Qiwei, director of China’s National Tourism Administration.

The two will also meet officials from China Eastern Airlines and the US embassy, as well as representatives from the airline and travel industries.

HTA works closely with its overseas contractor Hawaii Tourism China, which has offices in Shanghai and Beijing, to promote Hawaii to Chinese travelers as a vacation and business destination, according to McCartney.

In August, China Eastern Airlines launched its first direct, nonstop flight between Shanghai and Honolulu, the first twice-a-week flight connecting China and Hawaii.

HTA estimates that this regularly scheduled flight, on Tuesdays and Fridays, will provide the state with $60 million in annual visitor expenditures.

Before traveling to the US, Chinese travelers are required to obtain a tourist visa. When the Visa Waiver Program was introduced for tourists from South Korea in 2008, the number of travelers from South Korea to Hawaii increased significantly, according to McCartney.

McCartney said the state has been working hard to support efforts that could help expedite the process for obtaining travel visas.

“We understand the visa process for Chinese visitors is long, and we hope to ease it,” McCartney said.

Only 5% of US hotels websites have a Chinese version

Chinese travelers are visiting the United States in increasingly large numbers -and will continue to do so- according to two recent NTA reports.
The majority of Chinese tour operators confirmed that bookings to the United States increased, by an average of 16 to 20 percent, in the second quarter of 2011, as reported in the China Travel Trade Barometer. None of the surveyed operators reported a decline. The Barometer, produced quarterly by NTA, in partnership with Travel Market Insights and Ivy Alliance, captures input from top Chinese travel firms that promote and sell travel to the United States.

This increase is in line with an NTA report of its China Inbound Program. Based on a survey of U.S. tour operators registered with the program, which serves Chinese leisure group travelers visiting the United States, the number of tourists during the first quarter of 2011 was 99,752. Prior to the 2010 opening of the NTA Visit USA Center in Shanghai, a baseline of 46,709 leisure group travelers visited the United States during the second quarter of 2010. The baseline was established to monitor the progress of the NTA Visit USA Center and inbound travel from China to the United States.

“The increase of travelers served by tour operators in the NTA China Inbound Program essentially doubled,” said Lisa Simon, NTA president. “And those visitors represent nearly $600 million in travel and spending on U.S. lodging, food, entertainment and shopping.”

The Department of Commerce estimates that every Chinese visitor spends an average of more than $6,000, including airfare with U.S. carriers. In 2010, 802,000 Chinese travelers visited the United States, which includes all travelers from China, not just those calculated by the NTA China Inbound Program.

According to China Elite Focus, a marketing and research agency based in Shanghai, “only 5% of U.S. hotels and 3% of US retailers have a Chinese version of their website. There is a huge, untapped potential, to convince more affluent Chinese tourists to discover the US for leisure trips”

And continued growth is on the horizon, according to the China Travel Trade Barometer. Nearly all Chinese tour operators surveyed (92 percent) project an increase in 2011 third-quarter bookings from China to the United States. And for the fourth quarter of 2011, 77 percent of operators project bookings to be higher, with only 8 percent anticipating a drop from the same period in 2010.

Thanks to affluent Chinese tourists, American luxury retailers get robust profits

Jewellery-hungry Chinese tourists fuelled a surge in US sales at Tiffany this summer, helping the luxury retailer produce robust second quarter profits in spite of a weak economic backdrop.
Tiffany raised its annual earnings outlook on Friday as customers shrugged off economic concerns and continued to purchase its luxury items. The company’s second-quarter performance exceeded the expectations of Wall Street analysts and its shares jumped 7.51 per cent to $67.85 in early trading in New York.
“We are extremely pleased by these results which confirm the growing global appeal of Tiffany’s product offerings,” Michael Kowalski, Tiffany chief executive, said. “We have been able to absorb precious metal and gemstone cost increases while improving our gross and operating margins.”
Outside the US, fears about weak demand were unjustified. Sales in Japan, which was battered by an earthquake and tsunami in March, rose 21 per cent from a year ago. Europe, where many consumers have been hit by government spending cuts, also showed strong growth with sales climbing 32 per cent.
Sales in the Americas rose 25 per cent from a year ago, while sales in Asia were up 55 per cent .
In the US, Tiffany said that more than half of the sales increase was due to increased spending by foreign travellers, led by Chinese tourists. Sales of items priced above $20,000 and $50,000 showed “notable strength”, the company said.
“We were bracing for pockets of weakness, little indications of the macro story coming home to roost in a retailer than has been on fire for longer than a year,” said Brian Sozzi, retail analyst at Wall Street Strategies. “At the moment, we are hard pressed to find negative aspects to the quarter, only a bunch of interesting positives.”
“We  have monitored the needs of wealthy Chinese tourists in the U.S. for the last two years and the first items they buy during their leisure trip in the U.S. are high end jewels and watches. This is a very good news for the American luxury retail industry”, said Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus.
Paul Lejuez, retail analyst at Nomura, said that the 41 per cent year-on-year sales increase at Tiffany’s flagship store in New York was the largest since 1990, when he began tracking the company. Calling their sales “off the charts”, he said that Tiffany, which operates 236 stores around the world, could probably increase its prices further without suffering a significant sales slowdown.
“There certainly are a lot of people out there with a lot of money who are looking to spend it,” Mr Lejuez said. “People look at their merchandise as having some innate value, and that goes a long way.”
“Despite continuing economic uncertainty, our strong first-half performance gives us ample reason to remain confident about our prospects for the balance of the year,” Mr Kowalski said.

Source: Financial Times

Travel industry wants U.S. to ease visa rules for Chinese tourists

The Statue of Liberty might “lift my lamp beside the golden door,” but American tourism officials say too many foreign visitors are finding that door locked when they try to come to the United States.
The U.S. Travel Association, the lobbying arm of the tourism trade, has launched a drive to persuade the American public and its elected leaders that it’s time to ease back on restrictions on foreign tourists. But it may be a quixotic campaign in the run-up to an election year when illegal immigration and terrorism are front-burner issues
The wealthy family from China who wants to come to Los Angeles on a shopping spree because of the weak dollar has little in common with the illegal immigrant crossing the border from Mexico. But safeguards to stop illegal entry sometimes end up snaring just the tourist.
Those bent on illegal activity will try to find ways around the roadblocks. The legal visitor likely will go somewhere more welcoming. That’s a policy the country can ill afford during a major recession, according to the U.S Travel Association.
“As a nation, we’re putting up a ‘keep out’ sign,” said Roger Dow, president of the association, in a press statement this month.
The group said barriers to easy travel to the U.S. have kept out an estimated 78 million foreign tourists (and their wallets) from 2000 to 2010. Lifting many of the restrictions could pump $859 billion into the U.S. economy and add 1.3 million jobs, by the association’s estimates.
Dow’s group points out that most of the barriers are self-imposed and archaic. While Europe has mostly unified its immigration and customs, and countries around the world have dropped or streamlined visa requirements, the U.S. still requires millions of travelers to go through a sometimes long and laborious process to visit here.
As of May, there are 36 countries that are on the Visa Waiver Program – countries whose citizens are not required to get a visa to travel to the U.S. for vacations of 90 days or less. Most of the countries are in western and central Europe, with a smattering of highly developed Asian nations such as Japan, Singapore and South Korea. Australia and New Zealand are also on the list. Citizens of most of the other 150 or so countries around the globe have to get in line and fill out the paperwork.
But what the travel association sees as “unnecessary barriers on international visitors” are seen by advocates of tighter borders as a way to control who gets to visit the country and, equally important, to make sure they go home when their trip is over.
But with a sputtering economy and affluent Chinese travelers attracted by a historically weak dollar, the travel association thinks the time is right for reform. It will push its “Ready for Takeoff” plan, touting travel as the nation’s top export sector and one that is easy to expand. The group also knows how to hit the hot button. Job growth and tax cuts are mantras Americans can get behind. Foreign visitors are a way to fill tax coffers without raising taxes on Americans. It will create jobs for Americans to check them into hotels, rent them cars and serve them meals. “Chinese tourists coming to the US have a strong desire to buy made in USA products, this is a historical opportunity for the whole nation’s economy to attract more of these affluent tourists”, commented Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus.
As part of the push, the association is re-energizing the Discover America Partnership, an umbrella coalition with associations representing hotels, restaurants, retailers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Connecticut needs more Chinese tourists

Connecticut is courting Chinese tour directors in hopes of attracting some of the growing number of visitors from their country to help revitalize the state’s tourism industry.
During a visit in the past week by a group of Chinese tour operators, representatives of the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney and others promoted southeastern Connecticut. That region is home to the Mystic seaport, Mystic Aquarium, two Indian-run gambling casinos and several vineyards.

The group of nine Chinese officials stayed at the Mohegan Sun hotel and visited Mystic and the shoreline town of Clinton. They also went to area vineyards and Westbrook’s malls.
Peter Glankoff, senior vice president at the Mystic Aquarium, said the region needs a boost. Tourism has been flat over the last 10 years due to the recession, the weak recovery and what Glankoff said has been a lack of investment in tourism in Connecticut.

He said the town of Mystic is one of the state’s strongest attractions and is among the leading brand names in New England tourism.

The town was founded in 1654 and became a shipbuilding center in the 19th century, during the clipper ship era. More recently, Mystic has become known for the Mystic Seaport, a prominent maritime museum, and the Mystic Aquarium, home to Robert Ballard, known for his discovery of the Titanic in 1985. The aquarium draws about 10 percent of its 700,000 visitors a year from overseas, Glankoff said.
“It’s OK, but the potential is much greater,” he said. Aileen Moriarty, sales manager at United Airlines, helped organize the visit as a way to promote visits to Connecticut from the airline’s route to Newark Liberty International Airport. Tourists can take the train or bus from northern New Jersey to Connecticut.

Most tourists bypass Connecticut in favor of New York and Boston, she said. The Connecticut itinerary got the attention of tour operators as an alternative to other U.S. destinations, she said. “Most international travelers have already seen New York, Los Angeles and Boston,” Moriarty said. “They’ve gone to the main attraction.”

Tourism from China to the United States is relatively small. Chinese tourists ranked No. 9 in visitor spending with $3.5 billion in 2009, but the numbers are rising quickly, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. According to Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus, a PR agency specialized in helping destinations to attract more Chinese tourists “The US are #1 dream destination for most of Chinese tourists. As the tourist  visas are gradually easier to obtain, the U.S. CVB’s should get ready to welcome a growing number of affluent Chinese visitors”.

Connecticut’s economic development officials don’t expect quick results from the tour by Chinese officials. “It’s not instant, instant gratification,” Evans said. “Maybe we’re taking a few (tourists) that are going to Florida or the Cape or San Francisco or Canada. Maybe we’re taking a little from there and some new people.”

Beverly Hills CVB welcomes Chinese travel agents

The Beverly Hills Conference & Visitors Bureau (BHCVB) hosted an educational tour through the City to promote tourism to business representatives with interests based in Shanghai last Friday.
The tour was conducted with the intention of bringing the travel trade to Beverly Hills now that American Airlines has launched a new daily service
from Shanghai’s Pudong Airport to LAX, said BHCVB Business Development Director Stephanie Nakasone.
“There are major companies based in Shanghai with a large clientele we would like to welcome here,” she said. “When they (the tour group members) go home, they can pitch Beverly Hills to their clients.”

After a welcoming introduction to Beverly Hills, the group of travel trade management staff from Shanghai’s top tour operators set off on foot towards The Beverly Wilshire and then continued on to Montage Beverly Hills.
These destinations were chosen to highlight accommodations, dining, event space and VIP services available to Beverly Hills’ visitors, Nakasone stated.

Hawaii tourism industry needs to target affluent Chinese tourists, by Prof. Jerome Agrusa

Tourism is the most economically important industry to the United States’ only island state, Hawaii. With Hawaii’s highest spending and largest international tourist segment, Japanese, decreasing significantly (a loss from over 2,000,000 in 1997 to just over 1,000,000 Japanese visitors in 2009), Hawaii needs to prepare to replace the significant decrease of Japanese visitors with a new visitor market.

The logical new international visitor target market would be tourists from the fastest-growing economy in the world, that being China. The results of a study done by Dr. Jerome Agrusa, Professor for the Travel Industry Management College of Business at Hawaii Pacific University, concluded that socio-demographic variables show significant differences in attitudinal and behavioral characteristics.

For example, when comparing the number of times a respondent had visited Hawaii, first-time visitors showed the highest level of preference for a deluxe hotel, while second-time visitors showed the highest level of preference for a budget hotel. Those who had visited Hawaii three or more times indicated the highest preference for a first-class hotel and also to be more interested high-end shopping. First-time visitors showed the highest percentage in the lowest category of estimated cost of gifts (US$0-300). This indicates that Hawaii tour operators should focus on introducing more discounted shopping to first time visitors.
The results of this study are likely to be beneficial for understanding Chinese tourists and establishing marketing policies to enhance their satisfaction and raise their intention to revisit Hawaii. The findings of this study could be helpful for all stakeholders, including local tour operators, the hotels, and Hawaii’s tourism officials.

Mainland Chinese Tourists to Hawaii: Their Characteristics and Preferences

INTRODUCTION
As the only island state, Hawaii is the USA’s very own paradise and is among the world’s extremely popular tourist destinations with tourism being the most economically important industry for the state. The tourism industry in Hawaii has been experiencing a downward trend recently which has affected the economy of the state as a whole. Two main reasons for the recession to the Hawaiian tourism industry include the decline in Japanese tourists and the worldwide economic downturn. Although Japanese visitors are still the top Asia outbound travel population to Hawaii, statistics show that Japanese tourists held 30.3% of Hawaii’s market share in 1997 (2,200,000 visitors), compared to only a 17.1% market share in 2009 (1,100,000 visitors). There was a 4.9% decrease in Japanese visitors in 2009 compared to 2008 reflecting that Japanese tourists’ interest in travel to Hawaii is declining (DBEDT, 2010). With Hawaii’s highest spending and largest international tourist segment, Japanese, decreasing significantly, Hawaii needs to prepare to replace this notable reduction of Japanese visitors with a new visitor market. The logical new international visitor target market would be tourists from the fastest growing economy in the world, that being China.
At the same time, according to the statistics from the World Tourism Organization in 2009, the market share of Chinese travelers was 5.2% or 47 million outbound tourists in 2009 compared to 0.3% in 1995 (Yu, 2010). Even though the growth rate was not as high as the 11.94% in 2008, it is estimated that there will be 54 million Chinese outbound tourists in 2010 and the Chinese outbound market is ranked as the highest annual growth of any country in the world (SinoCast Daily Business Beat, 2009). Based on the World Tourism Organization’s “Tourism Vision 2020” Report, the industry is expecting 100 million Chinese visitors to be traveling around the world in 2020, which is equal to 6.4% of the total market share. Compared to the 0.7% total market share in 2003, there is and will be a very significant growth of Chinese outbound travel (STIM, 2003).
According to a recent article in The Honolulu Advertiser, “Chinese travelers are much sought after among visitor destinations around the world because they spend more than counterparts from any other country – about $7,200 per person per trip, according to the U.S. Commerce Department” (Yonan, 2010). As a result, Chinese travelers will be the key potential target market for Hawaii. Besides the significant growth of Chinese travelers to Hawaii, the local travel industry should be clearly aware of several concerns. The United States only represented .0084% of the Chinese outbound travel market (Travel Daily News, 2009). In a recent article by Dingeman in The Honolulu Advertiser, Hawaii tourism officials stated that Chinese tourism is expected to increase significantly because travel restrictions from China to the United States were eased in June of last year (2009). Likewise, with the enhancement of Mainland China’s national position and swift economic development, Mainland Chinese outbound tourism’s demand is expected to increase significantly.
Visa restriction is the key factor that affects Chinese travelers’ decisions to visit the United States. The U.S. government controls the number of visa’s that are issued and thus controls the number of Chinese visitors who can travel to the U.S. It is not worth the time for Chinese travelers to deal with this obstacle of restricted visas for their vacations. Another reason why Chinese travelers choose other countries over the United States as their travel destination is that transportation connections are inconvenient. With a need to reevaluate the visa and transportation system to alleviate the strict obstacles, there is also a need for conducting research to identify Chinese tourists’ socio-demographic and travel-related characteristics as well as explore their travel preferences. But according to Patrick Cooke, Vice-President of US Sales and Marketing of China Elite Focus, “The visa issue is less and less a problem for affluent Chinese travelers who choose, first, their US leisure destination on the web, and then, are ready to have multiple flight connections to reach their dream destination”. Traveler behavior and preference is one of the most important factors that the local travel industry should be examining for future tourism business to Hawaii. The key to determine whether Hawaii is in a strong market position for the Chinese outbound travel market is to examine what the Chinese visitors’ travel considerations will be.
Using other popular travel destinations such as Australia, which is one of the more popular countries that many Chinese travelers stated they would like to visit, the travel industry can better understand Chinese visitors’ behavioral patterns (Kim, Guo & Agrusa, 2005). By looking at the culture, sightseeing locations and features in Australia, Hawaii travel authorities should be able to compare and evaluate themselves to better fit and attract Chinese visitors. At the same time, the use of primary research such as conducting a survey is a channel by which to collect accurate data from the Chinese visitors who are already traveling to Hawaii.
This study is also a primary source to determine how and what Chinese people think of traveling to Hawaii. For example, factors that influence them to travel to Hawaii, what they want to do while visiting, how long they are going to stay, etc (Travel Behavior, 2005). More specifically, this study’s objectives are three fold. First is to identify attitudinal or behavioral characteristics of Chinese tourists. Second is to explore differences in attitudinal and behavioral characteristics of Chinese tourists between groups of socio-demographic and travel-related variables. Third is to analyze differences of preference in tourism to Hawaii between groups of socio-demographic and travel-related variables.
This research paper is expected to show specific information such as travel attitudinal or behavioral characteristics of Chinese travelers to Hawaii and their preferences. In addition, assessing these differences in the travel attitudinal or behavioral characteristics of Chinese travelers to Hawaii according to socio-demographic or travel-related variables is expected to help the local travel industry, specifically travel companies and hotels to better master their strategies to fit the Chinese outbound travel market preferences to Hawaii.
Characteristics of Mainland Chinese Tourists
From the estimation of the perspective market size, Li, Harrill, Uysal, Burnett, and Zhan (2010) recently argued that overall, Chinese outbound travelers and the Chinese outbound travel market remain unknown to most Western marketers. Aside from understanding Chinese tourists’ behavior and preferences, simply estimating the size of the Chinese outbound tourism market (i.e., how many people in China have been traveling abroad or have the potential to travel abroad) has remained a challenge.
A different perspective noted by Johanson (2007) is that key motivators found in the Chinese tourists’ related literature are fairly similar, for example, motivators for Chinese tourists to Western destinations such as USA, New Zealand, and Australia are to have an exciting vacation for the family as well as that which is perceived as having great value.
In Arlt’s (2006) comprehensive book about China’s outbound tourism, he provides an outline of the recent socioeconomic development which facilitated the rapid growth of outbound tourism. Arlt also tries to analyze the motives of the Chinese tourist. He uses Hofstede’s well-known cultural dimension models whereby the Chinese scored very high in “power distance,” low in “individualism,” and high in “long-term orientation.” One of the important assumptions about Chinese tourists is that they have a much stronger collective historical memory than Europeans.
There has been a growing body of evidence demonstrating that tourist behavior and travel patterns are cultural-specific (Kim & Agrusa, 2005; You, O’Leary, Morrison, & Hong, 2000; Yoo, McKercher, & Mena, 2004). Still, how much do the Western marketers really know about Chinese outbound travelers? How large is the gap between the Eastern/Chinese and Western cultural differences regarding the tourist behavior? Indeed, when addressing important issues like these, one needs time to accumulate an understanding for it. Fortunately, a review of the tourism literature indicates that recent studies have provided some useful information for understanding Chinese outbound tourists, either from the tourists’ or employees’ perspectives.
In an empirical study by Humborstad, Cheng, and Ng (2008), the authors used SERVQUAL to investigate service quality perceptions by both group and individual Mainland Chinese tourists visiting Macao. Significant differences were found in the results in terms of the five-dimension model and most of the surveyed subjects agreed that empathy was very powerful in their overall satisfaction. Another study by Liu, Choi, and Lee (2007) indicated that Chinese tourists shopping in Hong Kong claimed that the sales personnel could not describe the product in detail or communicate in Mandarin, and worst, they did not show enough respect or care for the visitors. Similar findings were also revealed in a UK study by Wang, Vela, and Tyler (2008) which addressed cultural and hotel service quality that resulted in Chinese tourists feeling that the employees in a UK hotel had low empathy towards them.
Mohsin’s (2007) analysis of Chinese travelers’ motivation toward holidaying in New Zealand indicated that general relaxation needs and intellectual/curiosity motives were the important factors for Chinese tourists to travel abroad. Moreover, Chinese tourists are more interested in increasing their knowledge by discovering new places and ideas. This suggestion is also supported by Pan and Laws (2001) that Chinese travelers seem to become very eager to acquire new knowledge through visiting other countries with different cultural backgrounds.
By using the importance-performance analysis (IPA) model, Zhang and Chow (2004) invited a total of 426 Mainland Chinese tourists to assess the performance of Hong Kong’s tour guides. Twenty pertinent tour guide service quality attributes were identified. The results of the IPA model illustrated that Hong Kong’s tour guides performed well in 11 out of the 20 service quality attributes, specifically in areas mainly related to their ‘professional skills’, ‘reliability and language ability’ (keep up the good work quadrant), while the ‘problem-solving ability’ of Hong Kong’s tour guides fell into the (need to concentrate here quadrant).
On the contrary, from the employees’ points of view, Yeung and Leung (2007) investigated the perception and attitude of Hong Kong hotel guest-contact employees toward Mainland Chinese tourists. Their results revealed that most of the hotel guest-contact employees perceived Mainland Chinese tourists negatively with regard to their appearance, personalities, and behavior. Also, the study suggested that Hong Kong hotel employees should be more culturally sensitive and aware of their subjective judgments when catering to Mainland Chinese tourists.
By conducting a qualitative research study and interviewing 11 Australian inbound tour operators, Pan and Laws (2003) clearly identified the characteristics of Chinese package tours to Australia. For example, most of the Chinese tourists to Australia were first time visitors, inclined to take longer trips than when visiting other Asian countries (e.g., Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia), and the prices of the tours are quoted on a per day rate, instead of a price for each individual tourist product ala carte style that tourists intend to consume.
While several studies focused on Chinese tourists’ and hospitality employees’ perspectives regarding the quality of service and the destination, other studies focused on information and influences. For example, by using the analysis of the in-flight survey data, Cai, Lehto, and O’Leary (2001) once profiled the characteristics of U.S.-bound Chinese travelers in terms of their age, gender, income, lead time of pre-trip preparation, etc. Comparisons were also made among three groups: business only, business and leisure, and leisure only travelers. All three groups identified travel agencies as a main information source, while leisure travelers tended to use informal sources such as friends and relatives as well as word-of-mouth. The business and hybrid groups showed a stronger reliance on official or formal information channels such as the national government tourist office and corporate travel department.
Furthermore, in a study which invited individuals in shopping malls of three major cities in China (Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou) where travel agencies were located, Hsu, Kang, and Lam (2006) surveyed 464 Chinese residents and found different reference groups’ opinions were perceived differently when it comes to the decision of choosing Hong Kong as a travel destination. Respondents were more likely to be in agreement with their primary reference group’s (i.e., family and friends/relatives in this study) opinions than their secondary reference group’s (i.e., travel agents). In a Sparks and Pan’s (2008) study, similar findings were also revealed that reference groups are influential in travel intentions for Chinese travelers. Both findings are fairly consistent with the cross-cultural attitude work by Bagozzi, Lee, and Van Loo (2001) which found in Chinese behavioral intention to be more influenced by social norms and less influenced by attitudes than that of Americans. Similarly, Chan and Lau (2001) found that social norms were weighted heavier than attitudes in predicting behavioral disposition for Chinese consumers. The collectivist nature of the Chinese culture might also explain the strength of social influences in stated behavioral intentions (Sparks & Pan, 2008).
Most of the above-mentioned studies focus on the positive side of the outbound Chinese tourist market, specifically that the outbound travel is continuing to climb and is reflecting the new found wealth, changed lifestyles, and increasing personal freedom of outbound traveling. However, these positive traits, to a certain extent, are overshadowed by a serious pitfall which is that many destination service providers of Chinese tourists complain about their “uncivilized behavior,” such as littering, spitting, snatching bus seats, jumping or cutting while waiting in lines, taking off shoes and socks in public, speaking loudly, bad temper and cursing, smoking in non-smoking areas, etc. (Zhang, 2006; Li, 2006). There are also other challenges facing the development of the Chinese outbound travel market such as: shortage of outbound professional leaders, forced shopping, poor knowledge of destination countries, etc. (Pan & Laws, 2003; Guo, Kim, & Timothy, 2007).
For marketers, and for the best and worst of the Chinese outbound market, much of the literature that explored the characteristics of Mainland Chinese tourists has developed in light of various destination countries/areas, such as Hong Kong (Zhang & Chow, 2004; Hsu, Kang, & Lam, 2006; Liu, Choi, & Lee, 2007; Yeung & Leung, 2007), Kinmen (Chen, Chen, & Lee, 2009), Macao (Humborstad, Cheng, & Ng, 2008), Australia (Pan & Laws, 2001; Pan & Laws, 2003; Li & Carr, 2004), New Zealand (Mohsin, 2007), UK (Wang, Vela, & Tyler, 2008), and the USA (Johanson, 2007).
However, there is limited research that profiles Mainland Chinese tourists to Hawaii. For Hawaii, tourists from China are going to be an emerging market; for Mainland Chinese tourists, Hawaii is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations and is the only island state of the USA. As Oppermann (1997) once suggested, catering to tourists from different markets requires different approaches. This research study will provide an initial assessment of the characteristics and preferences of Mainland Chinese tourists to Hawaii. It is believed that this study is a helpful resource for the entire travel industry in Hawaii and will develop a list of possible strategies to handle the potential Mainland Chinese visitors.
METHODOLOGY
The population for this study consisted of tourists from Mainland China visiting Hawaii. The methodology that was applied in this research was the use of the survey method. A research instrument was designed where Chinese tourists were asked to rate their attitude and preference on their visit to Hawaii. In this study, 19 items measuring attitudinal or behavioral characteristics of Mainland Chinese tourists visiting Hawaii were examined. The items chosen focused on tourists’ motivation, attitude, and behavior, which are widely used in international travel literature (Agrusa & Kim, 2008; Jang & Cai, 2002; Kim, Lee & Klenosky, 2003; Kim & Prideaux, 2005; Kozak, 2002; Tyrrell, Countryman, Hong & Cai, 2001; Uysal & Hagan, 1993; Yuan & McDonnald, 1990). Subsequently, the items were modified to indicate Chinese tourists to Hawaii. A 7-point rating scale where 1=‘strongly disagree,’ 4=‘neutral,’ and 7=‘strongly agree,’ were applied to quantify the responses to the items.
Questions requiring answers of categorical and quantitative value included specific purposes of trip, primary information source, type of accommodation, length of planning stage for this tour, preferred gift, preferred tourism site, preferred tourism activity, preferred national food, preferred type of accommodation, as well as demographics such as gender, marital status, and educational level. Concurrently, items relating to Hawaii’s tourism, which originated from consultation with travel agencies specializing in Hawaii as well as from previous studies, were also considered for the final questionnaire (Agrusa, 2000; Keown, 1989; Lee & Zhao, 2003; Reisinger & Turner, 2002; Rosenbaum & Spears, 2005). Furthermore, qualitative open-ended questions indicating age, number of tourists in a tour group, total number of overseas tours taken including this tour, average length of stay, gift purchasing, and tour cost were added.
The research questionnaire included 19 items of attitudinal or behavioral characteristics of Chinese tourists visiting Hawaii. The survey was initially written in English and then translated into Chinese. An independent bilingual individual then translated the Chinese version back into English in order to check for inconsistencies or mistranslations. Finally, the English version was translated back into Chinese addressing any inconsistencies.
In designing the questionnaires, the double translation method (back translation) was utilized prior to distribution (McGorry, 2000). Even though occasions exist where the literal translation process may have missing information, the double translation method is one of the most adequate translation processes (Lau & McKercher, 2004).
To avoid ambiguity in the questions, and to ensure that all of the questions written on the survey instrument were clearly understood, a pilot test of 20 Chinese tourists in Waikiki was completed prior to data collection. The author and four native Chinese speakers administered the surveys. A sample of 350 Chinese tourists who completed the survey instrument and were vacationing in Honolulu set the basis for the data in this study. The final sample size of 323 surveys was reached by extracting incomplete questionnaires. Popular tourist locations such as Waikiki Beach, Ala Moana Shopping Mall and other popular tourist locations in Honolulu were used to survey the Chinese tourists.
Participation in this study was completely voluntary and insurance of absolute confidentiality of answers to all questionnaire items was given to respondents. It is believed that all respondents answered the survey instrument honestly as the survey was anonymous and self-administered.
In order to identify differences of attitudinal or behavioral characteristics of Chinese tourists between the numbers of times they have visited Hawaii and marital status groups, a series of t-tests were conducted. For Chinese tourists visiting Hawaii, one-way Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) tests were undertaken on attitudinal or behavioral characteristics according to different age groups. Duncan’s multiple range test was subsequently used, in cases where significant differences were discovered, to examine the source of the differences across the respondent subgroups. To investigate if there were statistically significant levels of association between selected socio-demographic characteristics and travel-related or preference variables, chi-square tests were applied.
RESULTS
Demographic Profile
According to frequency analyses on socio-demographic and travel-related profile of respondents, most of the respondents were female (52.6%), in the 20s (35.7%) and 30s (24.5%) age groups, married (65.7%), and with either some college or a college graduate (63.9%). The respondents came from Beijing (20%), Shanghai (15.2%), and Guangdong (9.0%). Regarding the number of overseas travel times to Hawaii, the respondents reported once (23.3%), two times (13.3%), three times (18.3%), four times (10.8%), and five times (12.5%). In reference to length of stay in Hawaii, they indicated three nights (18.1%), two nights (16.0%), and four nights (13.6%). Most preferred accommodation type was first class hotel (41.5%) and budget hotel (25.9%).
Respondents indicated that it took between one and two weeks (45.3%) and between two weeks and one month (25.5%) to set up a concrete plan for this trip. The total number of trips to Hawaii, including this occasion, was the first time (69.0%) and two times (19.0%). The main purpose of this trip was a business trip (42.9%) and an education trip including attending conferences (52.1%). Ninety-two percent of the respondents stated they used a package tour, and were accompanied by friends/relatives (48.6%). The number of people traveling in the package tour was 5-10 (45.0%). They also reported the two main information sources for this trip were a travel agency (40.4%) and word-of-mouth from friends/relatives (29.6%).
Overview of Attitudinal or Behavioral Characteristics
Table 1 demonstrates the mean and standard deviation values of 19 attitudinal and behavioral items. High mean scores were found on “I try to understand and follow the Hawaiian culture” (mean=5.38) and “I respect the lifestyle and customs of the Hawaiian residents” (mean=5.37). This implies that Chinese tourists tend to try to understand foreign culture and the different lifestyles.
A high agreement was found on the following three items, “I’d like to experience Native Hawaiian culture” (mean=5.27), “I will choose or chose an optional tour” (mean=5.13), and “I’d like to visit places familiar to residents rather than places designed for tourists” (mean=5.03). Thus, respondents showed a high level of interest in exploring Hawaiian culture and the local community. However, they showed the preference of their ethnic Chinese food over local food during their tour to Hawaii indicating “I prefer Chinese food to Hawaiian food” (mean=5.28).
Respondents revealed a high level of interest in marine sports tourism, “I’d like to experience sports such as water or ocean sports” (mean=5.26).
Regarding shopping, their buying preference was indicated as discounted products (mean=5.17). The results are consistent with a relatively low level of agreement on the following shopping-related items, “I place importance on brand name products rather than the price in purchasing products” (mean=4.52), “I prefer purchasing new fashion products while shopping on vacation” (mean=4.67), and “I prefer to shop for brand-name products while shopping on vacation” (mean=4.53). Overall, the respondents are likely to be those who are not accustomed to habitual shopping and are unlikely to be highly engaged with shopping in Hawaii.
The Chinese respondents in this study showed a relatively lower agreement on getting acquainted with local residents and other foreign tourists. Regarding the respondents’ tendency to complain to government agencies or business if there is a problem or inconvenience while on vacation, they showed a relatively low level of willingness to complain (mean=4.72). This result is likely to arise from the collective culture, which tend to attribute erroneous results to common responsibility and embrace the errors (Hui & Au, 2001; Ngai, Heung, Wong & Chan, 2007). Lastly, they showed a high tendency of not sending a letter or postcard to their family or friends from Hawaii and for not using a rental car during this trip.
Factor Analysis of Attitudinal or Behavioral Items
A principal component factor analysis with varimax rotation using the 19 items was undertaken to determine the dimensions underlying the attitudinal or behavioral items. However, the result of the factor analysis revealed very low commonality values (less than 0.30) on two items, “I tend to complain to government agencies or business if I have a problem or inconvenience while on vacation” and “I will send or have sent a letter or post card to my family or friends from Hawaii.” Thus, these two items were deleted from further factor analysis. A final factor solution is provided in Table 2.
The 17 remaining items consisted of five factors with eigenvalues higher than 1.0. The factors accounted for 61.81% of the variance and were labeled: “active participation in a Hawaii tour,” “interest in Hawaii culture,” “shopping habits,” “passive participation toward a Hawaii tour,” and “respect for the Hawaiian community.” A total of 17 items revealed factor loadings of over 0.50 which were in excess of 0.45 and these results were assessed as fair or above by Comrey and Lee (1992). Commonality value for each variable, which accounts for the variances explained by the factors, ranged from 0.49 to 0.77, indicated that each variable contributes to forming the factor structure. Grand means on the five domains were 5.14, 4.81, 4.58, 4.95, and 4.86, respectively.
Differences in Attitudinal or Behavioral Characteristics of Chinese Tourists According to Socio-demographic Variables
The differences in attitudinal or behavioral characteristics of the Chinese tourists according to socio-demographic variables were first tested using a MANOVA procedure. In these procedures, the five domains were dependent variables (i.e., multivariate), while the socio-demographic variables (gender, education level, frequency of visit, marital status, and age) were respectively used as independent variables. Gender was found not to have a significant effect out of all five domains (p=0.350). Thus, there was no need to subsequently conduct t-tests to identify differences in attitudinal or behavioral characteristics of the Chinese tourists according to gender.
The results of a MANOVA analysis conducted to examine differences in attitudinal or behavioral characteristics of the Chinese tourists between two education levels showed not to have a significant effect on all the five domains (p=0.220). The results of a MANOVA found that frequency of visits had a significant effect on the five domains (p<0.01). The univariate analyses undertaken to explore these differences showed significance on the “interest in Hawaii culture” (p<0.05) and “shopping habits” (p<0.05) domain. That is, the third or more-time visitor to Hawaii showed a higher mean score than that of the first or second-time visitor. This indicates that the three or more-time visitors are likely to be interested in Hawaii culture such as “curiosity about residents”, “willing to rent a car to take a trip” and have shopping habits such as “preferring brand-name products” or “purchasing new fashion products”.
A MANOVA procedure reported a significant effect by marital status on the five domains (p<0.01). The results of the univariate analyses conducted to explore this effect are provided in Table 3. Two domains, “active participation in a Hawaii tour” and “respect for the Hawaiian community” were significant at the 0.05 level, while “passive participation toward a Hawaii tour” domain was significant at the 0.01 level. Married respondents showed a higher mean score than that of single people on the three domains.
The results of the difference in attitudinal or behavioral characteristics of Chinese tourists between age groups. At first, a MANOVA analysis generated a significant effect of age on the five domains (p<0.01). Significance was found on the three domains: “active participation in a Hawaii tour (p<0.01),” “passive participation toward a Hawaii tour (p<0.01), and “interest in Hawaii culture (p<0.05)”. Those in their 50s or older reported the highest mean value on passive participation toward a Hawaii tour.
Differences of Gift Preferences According to Age, Gender, Marital Status and Experience in Visiting Hawaii
In analyzing the differences of preferred gift items according to age, both the 20s and 30s age groups showed a high tendency of preferring a traditional Hawaiian gift. However, those in the 40s age group showed a preference for purchasing alcohol as a gift compared to the other age groups, while they least preferred Hawaiian coffee as a gift item. The 50s or above age group tended to least prefer alcohol as a gift, whereas their most preferred gift item was Hawaiian chocolate. The results are reported in Table 5. However, significance was not found on the preferred tourism site, preferred tourism activity, and preferred accommodation between the age groups (Table 5). Also, when analyzing by gender, significance was not by preferred gift item, preferred tourism site, preferred tourism activity, preferred food, or preferred accommodations.
According to the results of the chi-square tests for identifying the association between gift preferences of Chinese tourists and marital status, significance at the .05 level was found on preferred gift item ( =9.805, p=0.020). Single respondents preferred Hawaiian traditional gifts the most, whereas their preference for alcohol and Hawaiian chocolate was least. Married respondents showed the highest preference for a Hawaiian traditional gift and Hawaiian chocolate.
When analyzing the gift preferences of Chinese tourists and number of visits to Hawaii, significance at the 0.01 level was found on preferred gift item ( =31.487, p=0.002). Respondents who reported 10 times or more in the number of visits to Hawaii indicated the highest tendency of preferring alcohol as a gift item. Those who traveled to Hawaii for the first time preferred to buy a Hawaiian traditional gift and Hawaiian chocolate as a gift. The pattern was similar to those who had visited Hawaii three or four times.
In analyzing the association between preferred accommodation and number of visits, significance was found at the 0.001 level. First-time visitors showed the highest level of preference for a deluxe hotel. Second-time visitors showed the highest level of preference for a budget hotel, while they never preferred a vacation home. Those who had visited Hawaii three or four times indicated the highest preference for a first class hotel, whereas they showed the least preference for a vacationer home. Those who had visited Hawaii five to nine times had the highest response preference for a first class hotel. However, those who had traveled 10 times or more indicated the highest preference for a deluxe hotel.
Differences of Socio-demographic or Travel-related Variables According to Estimated Costs of Gifts
Results of chi-square tests used for identifying the association between socio-demographic or travel related variables and estimation of costs of gifts purchased, indicated significance at the 0.05 level on age ( =19.932, p=0.018) and marital status ( =10.582, p=0.014), while at the .01 level on the number of times to visit Hawaii ( =30.111, p=0.003). Respondents in their 20s indicated the lowest category of estimated cost of gifts purchased (US$0-300). The younger age groups (20s-30s) showed the highest percentage in the second category of estimated cost of gifts (US$301-600). Interestingly, those in their 20s and 40s reported the highest percentage in the highest estimated cost category (US$1,001 or more).
First-time visitors showed the highest percentage in the lowest category of estimated cost of gifts (US$0-300). Meanwhile those who had visited three or four times showed the highest percentage on purchasing gifts in the US$301-600 category. Those who had visited three or four times as well as the first-time visitors group demonstrated the two highest percentage groups in the category of purchasing gifts at the US$601-1,000 level. Lastly, Chinese tourists who had visited Hawaii ten or more times showed the highest percentage in the category of US$1,001 or more for purchasing gifts.
CONCLUSION
The aim of this study was to understand Chinese tourists to Hawaii in terms of their travel attitudinal or behavioral characteristics and their preferences. Further, these characteristics and preferences are different according to socio-demographic or travel-related variables. Additionally, this study examined the association between socio-demographic or travel-related variables and the estimated cost of gifts.
Based on empirical analyses, important findings and practical implications are as follows. First, Chinese tourists showed a high level of interest in marine sports. Thus, Hawaii should promote marine sports such as boating and visiting underwater reefs through the use of submarines. Although Hawaii has a number of marine sports companies such as submarine adventure, the tours and brochures are in English and Japanese, therefore both audio and signage in the Chinese language needs to be more heavily developed.
Second, when asked about shopping, Chinese tourists did not show interest in brand-name products or new fashion products. They may prefer to buy discounted and low priced products. On the other hand, since this may be a result of the high level of Hawaii’s consumer prices, Chinese tourists may avoid purchasing high valued and high priced gifts or products. Thus, Hawaii should focus the Chinese tours on visiting the “outlet malls such as the Waikele Premium Shopping Outlet, discount shopping such as Ross Dress for Less stores, and the Swap Meet at Aloha Stadium.”
Third, this study found a low level of complaint behavior from the Chinese tourists. The results arise from a collective culture that the Chinese embrace. These results are consistent with those of other studies (Hui & Au, 2001; Ngai, Heung, Wong & Chan, 2007). One of the reasons why Chinese tourists do not complain may be a lack of ability to communicate in English. However, Hawaiian businesses should realize that Chinese tourists are becoming market-intelligent as they experience more overseas tourism. To address this issue, customer satisfaction and comment cards need to be developed and written in Chinese. Also, a request that the tour guides specifically ask the Chinese visitors if everything was acceptable as well as asking what the tourists believe can be changed to make the experience more pleasurable for the next visit to Hawaii. As this study and other studies have indicated, Chinese tourists rely heavily on family and friends for information as well as have a influence on their decision on where they travel (Hsu, Kang, & Lam, 2006; Sparks & Pan, 2008) . These new Chinese visitors to Hawaii can be the trend setters for future Chinese travellers. If these first waves of Chinese visitors have a negative experience on their visit to Hawaii, they will go home and tell their family and friends, thus causing a negative domino effect for future Chinese visitors to Hawaii.
Fourth, more frequent visitors tend to be more interested in the local Hawaiian culture as well as high-end shopping. These results are very understandable. According to the specialization theory, the more specialized a person is in a leisure or tourism activity the more intensive their commitment or involvement in the activity (Bryan, 1977; Lee, Scott & Kim, 2008; McIntyre & Pigram, 1992). Chinese tourists who visit frequently will be heavy consumers and are a good target market for the Hawaiian cultural and hospitality industry. In addition, they will become an opinion leader in China, thus promoting tourism to Hawaii.
Fifth, younger visitors are more interested in active tourism participation, whereas older visitors are more interested in passive tourism participation. These findings are very reasonable. Thus, for younger Chinese tourists, active tourism activities such as participatory marine tourism activities such as sailing and surfing as well as hiking should be promoted. Reversely, older tourists may prefer to enjoy static or passive tourism activities such as viewing wildlife, shopping or learning Hawaiian history as well as participating in traditional lei making activities.
Sixth, overall, traditional Hawaiian gifts were preferred by all age groups. Interestingly, when it comes to purchasing gifts, Hawaiian chocolate was preferred by more than half of all respondents in their 50s or older, while not as highly ranked among other age groups. Surprisingly, Hawaiian coffee and alcohol was least preferred by most respondents. This is surprising due to the fact that Hawaiian coffee is rated as a premium coffee and that Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. that grows coffee. A 10 ounce bag of 100% Kona coffee will cost approximately $20-$25 in Hawaii, while it will cost $60-$100USD in China, therefore it would make an excellent gift.
Seventh, preferences for tourism products were not differentiated by gender diversity. This means Hawaiian marketers do not need to consider preferences in marketing toward the different genders because their preferences are homogenous. On the other hand preferences for tourism products were differentiated by both age groups as well as by the number of times respondents have visited Hawaii. Therefore, Hawaii marketers should try to develop target markets by these variables.
Eighth, Chinese tourists that showed more frequency in visiting Hawaii reported they do not prefer Hawaiian chocolate as a gift item. Interestingly, they prefer to buy alcohol as a gift as well. The more frequent visitor to Hawaii showed a higher level of preference for a deluxe hotel as a preferred type of accommodation. This may be due to the fact that they are likely to be more affluent as a result of the high number of times they have visited Hawaii as well as in their selection of alcohol as their gift of choice from Hawaii.
Ninth, married tourists are likely to buy more gifts for consumption. First-time visitors and younger tourists are likely to spend less on buying gifts in Hawaii. This indicates that Hawaii should focus on introducing more discounted shopping to these two groups.
Conclusively, as Hawaii begins to receive direct flights from China, Hawaii needs to prepare for the imminent rush of visitors from Mainland China. Those working in Hawaii’s tourism industry should make sure that they use clear market segmentation for groups by both age and the number of times they have visited Hawaii to include the types of shopping as well as the kinds of activities that these groups desire and are willing to purchase. One activity that Chinese visitors to Hawaii have requested is to visit and experience locations that are more frequently visited by the local population of Hawaii. To experience buying items where Hawaiian residents shop, tours of the local farmers markets that include locally made products would accomplish this request.
With the recent changes in Visa restrictions, China, the most populated nation in the world is now allowed to visit Hawaii as tourists. One industry in Hawaii that has the vision and fortitude to address the new wave of Chinese visitors to Hawaii is that of the banking industry. One such bank is the Bank of Hawaii(BOH), which is one of the largest banks in Hawaii along with over 1,000 of its local participating merchants have formed an agreement to accept bank cards from China UnionPay (CUP). CUP is China’s largest issuer of bank cards and with the ability of Chinese visitors to use their credit/debit cards in all of BOH’s ATMs, as well as at their participating merchants has now made shopping much easier for Chinese visitors. In addition, BOH ATM transaction screens now display the Chinese language for CUP card holders as well as have waived all bank transaction fees which will provide a greater incentive for Chinese visitors to visit Hawaii and allows for the comfort of not having to carry large sums of cash during their trip. Hawaii’s tourism community needs to follow its banking industry and prepare for the preferences of the new Chinese traveler. With China’s growing economy and new wealth, it is estimated that within the next 10 years (by 2020), visitors from China will be the number one tourists traveling around the world. With the collectivist nature of the Chinese culture and the strong influence that family and friends’ opinions have on behavioral intentions including travel, it is crucial that Hawaii be prepared to provide and exceed the preferences and services that this first wave of Chinese visitors to Hawaii are requiring, or there may not be any future waves.
If Hawaii becomes known as a tourist destination that does not cater to Chinese tourists in the same way they have for the Japanese tourists, then negative word of mouth throughout the Chinese society will be extremely difficult to overcome. To avoid this negative stigma, Hawaii needs to provide hospitality employees (hotels, restaurants, and tourism activities as well as retail shop employees) that can speak the Chinese language, provide restaurant menus and signs in stores with Chinese characters, and learn some of the Chinese cultures which can be integrated into the Aloha Spirit. It is vital that Hawaii’s tourism industry embrace this first wave of Mainland Chinese tourists who may become the trend setters for future waves of tourists from Mainland China.
The question is whether or not Hawaii will be prepared to provide the services and activities that this new tourist market is expecting. Hopefully, Hawaii’s Tourism Authority and the tourism operators will take into consideration the results of this study and prepare to not only meet, but exceed the expectations and preferences of the Mainland Chinese visitors to Hawaii.
Finally, the limitation of this study is that the convenience sampling approach was used. Since this study represents an initial attempt to apply tour purpose-based segmentation, a future research study needs to be assessed to determine if this study’s results can be valid to other samples.

For more information on the study, contact Dr. Jerome Agrusa at jagrusa@hpu.edu .

Professor Jerry Agrusa would like to acknowledge and thank Hawaii Pacific University’s Trustee Scholarly Endeavors Program (TSEP) committee for providing a grant in support of this research. Without the assistance of the TESP committee, this important research project may not have been able to be accomplished.

Nomination of Gary Locke as the new US Ambassador to China may ease the visa issue for Chinese leisure tourists

In response to President Obama’s announcement regarding Commerce Secretary Gary Locke‘s nomination as U.S. Ambassador to China, Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, issued the following statement:
“The nomination of Gary Locke as the U.S. ambassador to China presents a tremendous opportunity to advance travel-related issues involving a lucrative export market to improve the American economy and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. As Secretary of Commerce, he has been a strong advocate for improved travel facilitation and his support of the Travel Promotion Act demonstrates his keen understanding of the value of promoting the U.S. to travelers around the world. Among his top priorities must be to improve the visa process for potential Chinese visitors in order to make the U.S. more competitive in the $889 billion international travel market.

In 2009, the average Chinese traveler spent nearly $7,000 on American products and services while visiting our country – 72 percent more than the average spending in the United States by all other overseas travelers. Unfortunately, only less than three percent of the 30 million Chinese nationals who traveled outside of mainland China that year visited the United States.

According to our research, if the United States welcomed the same number of Chinese travelers as Western Europe did in 2009, the U.S. would generate $10 billion in additional traveler spending and support more than 76,000 new American jobs. According to Pierre Gervois, marketing expert on the Chinese outbound tourism issues, “The United States could easily get three to five million Chinese visitors every year with a smoother visa policy”.

A leading obstacle to maximizing Chinese visitors to the United States is that our consular resources in China are not keeping pace with the growth in demand. Wait times for nonimmigrant visa interview appointments in China skyrocketed from less than 30 days to nearly four months in Beijing and Shanghai in 2010.

Further complicating our visa issuance system is the fact that a Chinese national must apply for a new United States visa every year. Other foreign travelers to the United States can receive a 10-year multiple entry visa. “We look forward to working with the new ambassador and the Administration on these issues to maximize travel exports, create more American jobs and increase America’s competitiveness with China.”, Mr Dow added.

Connecticut’s casinos target Chinese gamblers

While the economy drains Connecticut’s casinos of valuable revenue, their investments in Asian gamers hedge those losses.
“There’s no question it has held up better,” said Anthony Patrone, senior vice president of marketing at Mohegan Sunin Uncasville. “We are happy about that, but we are not taking it for granted.”
Since their openings in the 1990s, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket offered games such as baccarat, sic bo and pai gow that attract Asian gamers. As the heavy Asian populations in New York and Boston responded in strong numbers, the casinos rolled out more tables and eventually separate gaming areas for the Asian market.
Those investments, along with Asian-specific entertainment and marketing, paid dividends from the beginning, but they are especially vital now as Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun report overall drops in gaming revenue.
The latest figures for slot machine revenue — released for May — show Mohegan down 7 percent and Foxwoods down 9 percent for the year. Both casinos have lost more than 15 percent of their slot revenue over the past five years. The month was the slowest May for slot machine revenue since 1997 for Foxwoods and since 2002 for Mohegan Sun.
Although not reporting specific figures on patrons, Foxwoods and Mohegan both say that Asian gamers constitute 20-25 percent of the casino visitors. The vast majority are Chinese with Korean and Vietnamese players also coming in significant numbers. Japanese and Cambodian patrons also frequent locations.
After Mohegan Sun opened in 1996, the casino saw an 8-10 percent increase in Asian gamblers every year, Patrone said. That culminated in 2007 with the opening of Sunrise Square, a specific gaming area including popular Asian table games like baccarat. The popularity increased until 2009 when the recession slowed business throughout the casino.
Sunrise Square boasts 50 table games with room for 368 players. Throughout Mohegan Sun, there are 75 tables for baccarat, pai gow and sic bo totaling 536 seats, the most of any location in the United States, Patrone said.
Foxwoods boasts 51 Asian table games with the 34 baccarat tables being the most popular on the property, said Steve Ma, Foxwoods vice president of Asian marketing. The games all are located in one area, so the patrons that frequent them don’t have to travel far.
Baccarat was small part of Foxwoods offering when the casino opened in 1992, but more Asian tables and games are added each year.
“After we increased the tables, we just have to make sure we fill them; and we’ve never had to take tables away,” Ma said. “The Asian customers like to gamble.”
Gambling has strong traditions in the Chinese culture, and that has permeated to the surrounding counties, although to a lesser degree, said Vera Schwarcz, director of the Freeman Center for East Asian Studies at Wesleyan University.
“It hasn’t been frowned upon like in Christian cultures,” Schwarcz said. “Finding shortcuts in the dream of realizing wealth is something that’s more acceptable.”
Chinese men go out to drink and gamble, and Chinese women stay home to gamble with friends, sometimes in large groups, she explained. The Chinese people believe strongly in luck, which coincides with their feelings toward fate and fortune.
“It’s not like if you go out and gamble that you are a bad family man,” Schwarcz said. “If you gamble and win, it goes toward your social status of having more money.”
Asia, especially China, has become the new hotspot for American casinos to drum up new business. For a long time Las Vegas casinos have sought out high rollers in Asia to fly into Nevada, Patrone said. Now casino companies build properties in the Far East, particularly Macau.
The Connecticut casinos count on the regional market and don’t devote much time to enticing millionaire high rollers from Asian countries, the way Las Vegas casinos do, Patrone said. The competition for those whales is too much to overcome unless they are in the Northeast for business in New York or visiting a student in Boston.
While Connecticut’s Asian population is below the national average of 4.4 percent, New York and Massachusetts are above average, particularly in the New York City and Boston areas where 1 in 12 people — or 1 in 5 in some areas — are Asian, according to the U.S. Census.
To make sure they have a steady supply of gamers, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods run buses from these heavy Asian population centers where patrons receive complimentary food or casino credit to offset the bus ticket cost. Foxwoods runs 48 buses per day while Mohegan Sun claims to have more. Most Asian gamblers arrive in the morning and afternoon, Ma said.
As said Patrick Cooke, Vice-President of Sales and Marketing of China Elite Focus, the Seattle-based marketing agency specialized on affluent Chinese tourists “For wealthy Chinese inbound tourists in the US, gambling is an important part of the global travel experience. It’s as important as a luxury shopping session at a Louis Vuitton store”
To compete with Atlantic City casinos for the New York City customers and with each other for the Boston customers, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun aggressively market to those populations.
Foxwoods has a variety of Asian promotions, such as Chinese concerts, shows, baccarat tournaments, and different summer offerings for the buses, Ma said.
Mohegan Sun sends out Chinese-language and Vietnamese-language mailings; features four Chinese TV stations in its hotel; hosts the Miss NY Chinese beauty pageant; and showcases 10 or more concerts every year featuring Chinese stars, each garnering 7,000-8,000 attendees, Patrone said.
In August, Mohegan Sun will roll out a series of e-mmercials on its Chinese language Web site featuring Chinese celebrities chatting up customers.
As competition stiffens for Asian gamblers — the Empire City Casino in Yonkers offers a closer alternative for New York’s slots players — Connecticut’s casinos work to ensure this increasingly important portion of their business feels like a priority, Patrone said.
“We are one of the most visited sites on the East Coast for Asians, maybe in the whole country,” Patrone said. “This really is a discerning, discriminating market that will go away if you’re not careful.”

Guam Visitors Bureau launches a campaign to entice Chinese visitors

In order to further engage and attract the Chinese tourists, Guam Visitors Bureaulaunches its second campaign, “Suggest a Slogan to Win Your Trip to Guam”.

Guam, an island with sandy beaches and a rich cultural heritage. Not only is the island a top destination with newly–weds and couples on a romantic retreat but for people wanting to relax and experience a rich and diverse culture as well.

At the end of last year Guam launched its first and successful digital marketing campaign. In order to further engage and attract the Chinese tourists, GVB is launching a second campaign named “Suggest a Slogan to Win Your Trip to Guam”. Participants will be asked to select a background and write an eloquent and attractive slogan for Guam. After submitting the entry, participants will immediately be able to gain 8 votes from friends by sending them a link which will ask them to register and vote.

The campaign will have a duration of three months, from March till May, in which participants are able to submit their slogan. At the end of the campaignthe first place winner will receive an one-week trip to Guam and the runner up will receive a prize sponsored by DFS and hotels.

“Guam is a small but thriving island which allows visitors to wind down, relax and take in all the cultural sights. Guam is still shrouded in mystery to outsiders with a rich and relatively unknown culture. Visitors are able to explore and discover the many facets of Guam and the hospitality of the people here which will create everlasting memories of splendor and warmth”. Said GVB General Manager Gerald S.A. Perez.

Las Vegas rolling out the red carpet for Chinese gamblers

It’s the time of year when red and gold lanterns adorn Strip casino ceilings and citrus trees line hotel lobbies. It isn’t your typical New Year’s décor but a sign that Las Vegas is ready to usher in another round of celebrations — and one of its most profitable periods of the year.

The Chinese New Year officially begins today, bringing thousands of domestic and international tourists to Las Vegas and injecting million of dollars into the city’s economy.

The holiday ranks among the busiest times on the Strip, along with New Year’s Eve and Super Bowl weekend, which coincides with the beginning on Chinese New Year.

“Chinese New Year very important to us financially, maybe not in terms of overall visitor count, but clearly for gaming volumes, especially baccarat. The financial impact can rival what the town experiences for New Year’s Eve,” said Greg Shulman, vice president of international marketing for the Bellagio.

Shulman said the majority of MGM Resorts International’s customers travel from Southern California for the holiday, but their higher-end customers come from areas such as Hong Kong, Mainland China and Taiwan.

As said Pierre Gervois, Founder of China Elite Focus, a marketing agency helping resorts and casinos to attract wealthy Chinese visitors “The second wave of wealthy Chinese gamblers is coming to Las Vegas. The first wave arrived about five years ago, it was mostly Chinese businessmen spending two days in Vegas after business and official meetings in NYC of Los Angeles, now, this second wave is made of pure leisure tourists who stay one full week in Vegas and may easily have a budget of $100,000. This is a huge opportunity for Vegas resorts and Casinos”

Chinese New Year typically attracts a high-end clientele who spend more than the average vacationer, especially on the casino floor with high stakes gaming like baccarat. The holiday will last through mid-February, resulting in longer stays for international guests with extended vacations.

Shulman said it’s not uncommon for a guest coming from overseas to stay for up to two weeks and at multiple resorts. It’s more about the experience for those guests, he said. Strip casinos have been preparing their grounds for weeks with traditional and ornate decorations to welcome guests for the holiday.

The Bellagio Conservatory features thousands of live flowers surrounding an 18-foot statue of Cai Shen, the Chinese god of prosperity.

About 8,500 plants have been fashioned into a mother and eight baby rabbits in honor of the Year of the Rabbit.

MGM Resorts will kick off the new year with ceremonial lion dances at Bellagio, MGM GrandAria and the Mirage. The dance is meant to ward off evil spirits of the past year and bring good luck for the new year.

The celebrations at MGM Resorts will culminate with a gala for invited guests at Aria on Saturday for invited guests.

Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts and Caesars Entertainment each have traditional lion dances scheduled at their properties, as well as special menus catering to their Asian guests.

This weekend, Caesars Palace will host performances — they are nearly sold out — by Hong Kong-based singer and actor Jacky Cheung, Caesars Palace President Gary Selesner said. The shows are expected to bring an additional 4,000 people to property each night of Cheung’s three-night stay, he said.

“The holiday is always a busy time for Caesars Palace, but this year in particular because it lands on top of Super Bowl. Each of those are busy times, so the two of them together is going to be spectacular,” Selesner said. “It’s clearly one of the most important the periods of the whole year.”

The majority of the wealthy guests staying at Caesars Entertainment properties for the holiday will be at Caesars Palace, but just like domestic customers, some prefer the budget-friendly hotel-casinos for their attractive prices, Selesner said.

“Each of the other properties in Las Vegas, they are all celebrating Chinese New Year with their customers with decorations, promotions and special events,” Selesner said.

While properties like Caesars Palace have been celebrating Chinese New Year for more than 35 years, M Resort is ringing in its first. General Manager Jody Lake isn’t ready to let the Strip casinos be the only ones to cash in on the holiday.

Lake, who came to M Resort from Station Casinos in July, said Palace Station in particular targeted Asian clients and is where he learned the importance of marketing the holiday.

“The business Chinese New Year has generated on the Strip is pretty substantial. With all the events the Strip casinos have, they pull all the play their way,” Lake said. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve seen a greater influx in Asian business to our property, somewhat due to our location and the ability to get here from California.”

Lake said M Resort has a “significant” Asian host program, which the resort has been actively marketing in the Los Angeles area. The resort held an event in Chinatown in Los Angeles a few weeks ago and expects to see more customers as a result.

The resort will be hosting its first lion dance this weekend, as well poker tournaments and special menus at its restaurants for the occasion. M Resort will be selling specialty $8 chips, a lucky number in Asian culture, commemorating the Year of the Rabbit.

“The holiday is a lot of fun,” Lake said. “It brings a good crowd and good energy, and it just brings a lot to the month of February.”

Source: www.lasvegassun.com

U.S. pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010: How to attract (or not) Chinese tourists to America

By John Parker
Reproduced with permission from the blog  www.americanthinker.com

Note: Our blog's editorial team of does not necessarily endorse all ideas expressed  in the following article, but whish to publish it because of its quality and its contribution to the debate about appropriate marketing strategies to attract Chinese tourists to the U.S.

One of the most disappointing exhibits at Shanghai’s Expo 2010, which ended October 31, was the U.S. pavilion — a dismal combination of ineptitude and self-loathing political correctness. As an effort to attract Chinese tourists to the U.S. or improve America’s image in China, the pavilion was an epic failure.

It’s not very surprising that Shanghai Expo 2010, which just ended (coincidentally) on Halloween night, never attracted much interest in the U.S. American tourists, already in a penny-pinching mood due to the recession, were reluctant to spring for a transpacific flight ticket and also put off by a certain nervousness about growing Chinese power, which the Expo site itself, purposely dominated by the immense red ziggurat of the China pavilion, only heightened.

Having said that, the Expo as a whole was actually much more interesting and worthwhile than one might have expected. The event’s best national pavilions managed to show off the best aspects of each country with dazzling architecture, lighting, and priceless treasures like the Little Mermaid statue from Copenhagen harbor, the centerpiece of Denmark’s pavilion; or “The Dance Hall in Arles,” a Van Gogh which featured prominently in the French pavilion. The favorite pavilion of this writer was Spain’s, a brilliantly conceived audiovisual experience which managed to tell visitors everything important about Spain, past and present, without boring them for even a second. Spain was also represented by three extremely well done and effective city pavilions, for Bilbao, Barcelona, and Madrid. Actually, Spain’s pavilions were so well done, in comparison to the environmentalist hair-shirt-wearing that characterized many other European pavilions, that a visitor might reasonably conclude that the torch of leadership in Western civilization had passed to Spain for the first time in several centuries.

And then there was the U.S. pavilion, voting “present” at history’s biggest-ever opportunity to win over Chinese tourists. According to the organizers, the pavilion, organized around a “rising to the challenge” theme, was intended to “tell the story of the American spirit of perseverance, innovation, and community-building in a multi-dimensional, hi-tech presentation” and “presented the US as a place of opportunity and diversity where people come together to change their communities for the better.” The reality was quite different: a muddled, disappointing fiasco which was hobbled by a combination of self-flagellating political correctness and cluelessness about what would actually interest Chinese visitors, all exacerbated by procrastination and an embarrassing lack of funds.

The disappointments began with the pavilion’s architecture. The aluminum-clad structure was supposedly intended to resemble “eagles’ wings.” After examining it from every conceivable angle, I still fail to see the resemblance. While not exactly ugly, the structure (which one internet wag compared to a “combination air cleaner and Bose sound system”) was stylistically unimaginative and overly cost-conscious — which might be defensible when building an industrial park in Wichita, Kansas, but made no sense at all when constructing an Expo pavilion intended to show off the country to foreigners.

The attractions within, however, were a far more serious letdown. These basically consisted of three films, which the average visitor could reach only after waiting in the hot sun for several hours. It is illuminating to summarize each of these in turn, then compare what the pavilion organizers were trying to convey with what a typical mainland Chinese visitor would actually think.

The first film, “Welcome to America,” showed various Americans trying to say “welcome to the U.S. pavilion” in bad Chinese. Mildly amusing, it did succeed in its goal of eliciting chuckles from Chinese visitors. However, most people in China think of the U.S. as an extremely powerful and advanced country that China will have to struggle for decades to catch up with; although the state media’s reporting on the U.S. is almost exclusively negative, as is the depiction offered by China’s education system, many Chinese, not trusting their own government, suspect that the U.S. is actually a paradise of wealth and freedom relative to their own country. Any local entering the pavilion with this attitude must have been confused, if not stunned, by “Welcome to America,” which depicted Americans as amiable, slightly dimwitted goofballs.

The second film, “The Spirit of America”, was a series of personal testimonials that were intended to “create a living portrait of the US, [and] personify America’s drive and spirit, while speaking to the power of imagination and partnership.” In actuality, it was a disorganized series of touchy-feely, vaguely environmentalist musings by young children and uncomfortable-looking corporate representatives, whose main purpose seemed to be to fill time between the short welcoming speeches by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama which respectively began and ended the film. (…)

The third and final film, “The Garden,” was the biggest letdown of all. Granted, it was at least technically proficient, with oblong screens and a few cute effects like misting the audience when it rained on screen. However, content-wise, it was an unmitigated disaster. The film was intended to convey a message that people can work together to make their cities better, featuring a story of a young girl who succeeds in turning a small vacant lot into a garden park after overcoming many obstacles. The implementation of this concept might have gone over well with an audience of undergraduates at a second-tier journalism school in the U.S., but as the main attraction at the U.S. Expo pavilion, it was so spectacularly inappropriate and downright clueless that this writer literally cringed watching it.

This was for a number of reasons. At an event where literally every other country present tried to put its best foot forward, this film presented U.S. cities as decaying and backward, which, besides representing an obsession with the negative, is factually incorrect — American cities certainly have bad neighborhoods, but they are not crime-ridden ghettos as a whole. (…)

The self-deprecating nature of the film was totally unsuited for the audience. Self-criticism, in general, is a Western phenomenon; outside the West, self-congratulation is the norm.(…) Westerners win points with their compatriots by “standing up and taking responsibility” when things go wrong. In Asia, historically, people who “stand up and take responsibility” for disasters have usually been decapitated shortly thereafter. Chinese people already believe that their culture is the greatest on earth and China is the greatest country on earth; hence, a self-critical presentation not only will not impress them, but it also will tend only to confirm their already ample prejudices against you. (…)

History will judge the U.S. Expo pavilion as a huge missed opportunity for two reasons. First, a well done pavilion could have helped to ameliorate our chronic trade deficits with China by attracting a generation of mainland Chinese to America’s world-class tourist attractions. Second, the Expo represented a rare opportunity to present a positive image of the U.S. to millions of Chinese visitors. Regrettably, the actual pavilion completely failed on both counts: the organizers were trying so hard to be friendly and welcoming that they forgot to say anything positive about America, the likely result being that an entire generation of Chinese tourists will book tickets to Spain instead. As a U.S. expatriate in China, it appalls me that 7 million Chinese people visited this slab of epic fail with high hopes and are now equating it with America itself. Trust me: we’re going to regret this one later.

Read the entire article on  www.americanthinker.com

US tourism industry should improve quality of service for Chinese tourists

The U.S. tourism industry needs to improve its service quality to gain a slice from China’s fast-growing group of tourists, industry and government officials said.

Service-quality and safety issues are key concerns and should be better addressed by tour agencies when more Chinese tourists start to arrive, Xinhong Zhang, office director of the National Tourism Administration in New York, said.

Sam Gong, chairman of the newly formed American Chinese Tourist Association, said that last year, 520,000 travelers from China visited the US and that could increase to 800,000 this year.

The association, which was launched in New York on Thursday, represents 70 companies of large travel agencies, transport firms, ticket companies and scenic spot operators in the US, employing more than 3,500 people. Association members hosts 80 percent of the total number of Chinese tourists to the US.

“Our member companies will double by next year,” Gong said that will empower the association to improve the service quality of the US tourism industry by forging industrial consensus and streamlining practices.

The US has become an increasingly popular destination for Chinese travelers since the arrival of the first Chinese tourist group in mid-2008 under a bilateral agreement of Approved Destination Status signed between the two countries in December 2007.

Chinese tourists usually visit the larger US cities, including New York, Washington DC, Los Angles, Chicago and San Francisco, bringing in billions of dollars to the US.

However, the soaring number of travel agencies has triggered fierce price wars. In mid-2008, the cost for a typical 14-day visit was $4,000 per tourist; today, it’s less than $3,000, leaving agencies with very slim profit margins or even losses.

This is a different story for VIP Chinese visitors who travel with business visas and can spend $100,000 in shopping on 5th avenue luxury retail stores. According to the prestigious Shanghai Travelers’ Club “Wealthy Chinese travelers would never travel through regular travel agencies, but like to prepare themselves their luxury travel experiences in the US”, said Sally Huang, a Club’s executive.

This has resulted in sharp downgrading of service quality, with guides repeatedly lobbying tourists to go shopping as a way to gain commission, which in turn lead to complaints from the visitors. This may jeopardize long-term growth of the industry, Gong said.

The association will ask its members to avoid such practices, he said. Gong said efforts will be taken to improve the exchange of information between members and training of tour guides.

“What is being established now will define the way the industry shall operate in the future,” said Gong, who is general manager of the Galaxy Tour Inc, the largest inbound travel agency for Chinese tourists, which brought in more than 50,000 tourists a year.

Wang Yansheng, cultural counselor with China’s consulate-general in New York, said this is a timely launch and “we hope they could bridge the industry, the government and the consumers well”.

Between 2008 and last year, 600,000 travelers from China to the US spent a record $2.56 billion, with an average expenditure of $4,300 a person – more than residents from other nations, the US Commerce Department calculations show.

Delta Airlines successful strategy with Chinese tourists

As a growing number of Chinese travel abroad for business and leisure, competition to lure mainland travelers is also heating up. One of the people responsible for steering mainland travelers to the United States, and one of the most experienced aviation professionals working in China today, is Delta Airlines‘ director and chief representative of China and Hong Kong, Sandeep Bahl. Bahl has worked in aviation for more than two decades and has been stationed in either Japan or China since 1997.
From his office in Bejing, Bahl oversees Delta’s marketing flights out of Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong to Tokyo, Seattle, and Detroit.
“China has become a very competitive market, and travelers here have become very savvy,” Bahl said. “When I first came here, to travel outside China was a luxury. In 2003, less than five million outbound trips were made. Today, they take almost 50 million trips per year. Chinese travelers have the will to travel, they like it, and they now also have the means.”
A growing number of trips taken means that Chinese travelers’ tastes are slowly evolving to incorporate more than the most popular destinations, like New York, Los Angeles, and Washington DC, said Bahl.

“A first timer will visit the biggest cities,” he said. “But we’re seeing interest expand beyond those places.” When Delta launched its Beijing-Seattle flight in June, for example, the airline’s representatives started fielding questions about side trips to Mt. Rainier and Reno, Nevada. Other destinations that have seen surprising increasing interest from Chinese travelers, said Bahl, include Yellowstone National Park and Cincinnati (he attributes that one to the Kentucky Derby).
Chinese travelers are quickly becoming better informed and selecting destinations that fit their individual priorities. “It’s not a herd instinct anymore,” Bahl said. “It used to be, if everybody’s going to New York, then tour operators were only going to New York. Now, I’ve noticed that it’s not about what tour operators are selling; it’s the traveler who is more knowledgeable about where they want to go and what they want to do.”
Bahl adds that word of mouth, spread through face-to-face and online interaction, plays a key role in China as in other markets. “That spreads the word without spending trillions on marketing,” he said. “An individual traveler will come back, and his excitement about the trip motivates someone else to go. The resources to spread the word have grown dramatically. You have magazines that weren’t here several years ago, and we use online outlets like Qunar and Travelzoo to advertise and get information [on] who is clicking on what.”
The growth of Chinese outbound travel and movement toward approved destination status for the United States, have led more US travel providers to reach out to the market here, according to Bahl.

“When we met with US hotels recently, they are all geared up to receive more visitors from China. They are getting ready,” he said. “And when Chinese travelers fly to Atlanta or any of our gateways they have a Chinese speaker there when they land. With the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding], one condition was, there will be a group of US operators that will be approved by CNTA [Chinese National Tourism Administration]. Those will be an asset in taking care of Chinese tourists.”
But there is still room for improvement in serving the Chinese traveler. “Ground transport, facilities for certain food habits, etc. – those are lacking, especially in secondary cities,” Bahl added. “When our Chinese friends go to travel, after two days of eating steaks, they want Chinese food. Some areas are well covered, but not others.”
US destinations looking to attract more travelers from the mainland could benefit from more cooperation with each other, Bahl said. “We notice that when we take them to Atlanta and Detroit, they want to go beyond the cities. They want to know all about Georgia, and in Michigan, they want to see the Ford factory and museum and foreclosed houses they can buy. For that you need Michigan state help.”

Destination marketing in the United States, however, is generally set up city by city, with neighbors often viewing each other as the competition. But their resources can be brought together by a third party, said Bahl: “When we launched the Beijing-Seattle flight, we got people in Portland to come and talk to us about an itinerary that covers both Seattle and Portland.”
The World Expo, currently underway in Shanghai, has been an opportunity for Chinese consumers to view various US destinations under one roof. Bahl has visited four times and believes it has been a great marketing opportunity for travel to the participating countries.
“The expo will definitely help outbound tourism. People are learning things that will motivate them to travel to these countries. They get to know a destination, and it generates buzz. It is like a big travel show where Chinese consumers are finding out what those countries have for them.”

Preparing America for Chinese tourists, by Prof. Xiang (Robert) Li, Ph.D.

Research coordinated by Prof. Xiang (Robert) Li, Ph.D. School of Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management
University of South Carolina Columbia, South Carolina
Tel (803) 777-2764  robertli@sc.edu

Note: This article is a short version of the research report, specially edited for the blog www.chinesetourists.wordpress.com, and reproduced with permission.

1. Introduction.

Although the development of Chinese outbound tourism is a relatively recent phenomenon, China has quickly become a major tourist-generating market drawing worldwide awareness (Pan, Li, Zhang, & Smith, 2007; Ryan & Gu, 2008). As a major player in the international tourism market, the United States is among the last Western countries obtaining Approved Destination Status (ADS) and joining in the competition for Chinese outbound tourists. In December 2007, the American and Chinese governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that granted the United States the benefits of the ADS (e.g., allowing Chinese travel agents to sell U.S. travel products to group leisure travelers and permitting American destinations to promote themselves in China) (Burnett, Cook, & Li, 2008; Sheatsley, Li, & Harrill, 2009). Six months after the signing of the MOU, the first organized leisure travel groups from China arrived in the United States, immediately sparking great industry and media attention. Much of this attention seemed to come from a lack of understanding of but increasing interest in Chinese outbound travelers and the Chinese market. As their counterparts in many other Western countries, American tourism and hospitality practitioners frequently ask: What kind of services should we deliver to Chinese tourists? This paper attempts to provide some preliminary insight into this question. Understanding customers’ expectations and preferences, and the benefits they seek is critical to marketers. Some have considered it “the starting point for all marketing efforts” (Kaczynski, 2008, p. 254). In the consumer behavior literature, the disconfirmation paradigm holds that customer satisfaction is a function of performance-specific expectation and expectancy disconfirmation (Oliver, 1980). Service marketing researchers also believe that customers’ perception of service quality involves a comparison of service performance against their expectations (Shoemaker et al., 2007). Further, the classic service quality model (Parasuraman et al., 1985) proposes five gaps critical to customers’ perceived service quality, of which Gap 1 (difference between consumer expectations for service/quality and management perceptions of consumer expectations) and Gap 5 (difference between consumer expectations about service/quality and perceptions of actual service/quality) both relate to consumer expectations. Thus, it seems that understanding Chinese tourists’ expectations is crucial for delivering quality services to this market. The purpose of this paper, then, is to qualitatively examine Chinese tourists’ service expectations when traveling overseas.

Finally, across different countries and cultures, peoples’ behavioral characteristics, values, and expectations can differ substantially. The work of Turner and colleagues (2001) suggested that cultural differences would influence the importance customers assigned to different aspects of services, and then their pre-travel expectations, which would in turn significantly affect their post-trip satisfaction level. For most Western marketers who have limited experiences with Chinese customers, it is important to acknowledge that conventional marketing wisdom, mainly acquired from research and experiences with Western consumers, may not apply to Chinese tourists. This study will focus on Chinese outbound travelers’ expectations on non-Asian travel products, where cultural differences are likely to play a role. Ultimately, the authors expect that findings from the present study may help lay some groundwork for new tourism marketing conceptualizations and a more universal research paradigm (Li & Petrick, 2008).

2. Literature review

Service Expectation: The Conceptual Background
Customer expectations are “pretrial beliefs about a product …that serve as standards or reference points against which product performance is judged” (Zeithaml, Berry, & Parasuraman, 1993, p. 1). Most research on service expectations has entailed examination of either service quality or satisfaction. This comes as no surprise considering the central role expectation plays in conceptualizing satisfaction and service quality (Moutinho, 1987; Oliver, 1980; Parasuraman, Berry, & Zeithaml, 1991; Pizam, Neumann, & Reichel, 1978; Turner, Reisinger, & McQuilken, 2001; Zeithaml et al., 1993).
Customer expectations have been studied in cross-cultural contexts. For instance, in their study on hotel service quality and customer satisfaction in China, Y. Wang and Pearson (2002) assessed service expectation by evaluating the importance of various service items. More recently, Kanousi’s (2005) study showed that culture may impact service recovery expectations, and specifically individualism, masculinity, and long-term orientation (i.e., three of the five Hofstede cultural dimensions) were related to service recovery expectations. Similarly, Kueh and Voon (2007) examined how culture influences the service expectations of Generation Y consumers, and their findings showed that uncertainty avoidance and long-term orientation positively affected service quality expectations, but power distance affected service quality expectations in a negative way.
Taking a qualitative approach, Lidén and Edvardsson (2003) examined customer expectations on service guarantees in public transport. In seven focus group sessions, participants were told how to develop a chart of their expectations on service guarantees. Lidén and Edvardsson (2003) also explored in detail customers’ needs and thoughts as sources of expectation. Their findings emphasized the importance of fairness as part of the guideline of service guarantee design. Next, the authors will turn to a review of Chinese outbound tourism. 2.3. The Development of Chinese Outbound Tourism
The Chinese government, through the establishment of the Approved Destination Status (ADS) system, started allowing the Chinese public to travel overseas for leisure purposes in early 1990s. Nevertheless, some may argue the starting point of Chinese outbound tourism could be tracked back to 1983, when Mainland Chinese citizens were allowed to visit Hong Kong and Macao under special arrangements (Qu & Lam, 1997; Zhang & Heung, 2001). In 1997, through the enactment of the “Provisional Regulation on Self-supported Outbound Travel,” the Chinese government officially revised its tourism policy so that people could travel abroad at their own expense (Arlt, 2006; Guo, Kim, & Timothy, 2007). To date, there were a total of 139 countries and territories with ADS, and 104 of these agreements were already implemented (Qian, 2010). In 2009, Mainland Chinese citizens made approximately 47.66 million trips outside Mainland China (Qian, 2010).

The rapid growth of Chinese outbound tourism has been frequently associated with such descriptors as “stunning” or “astonishing” (Guo et al., 2007; Y. Wang & Sheldon, 1995). Thanks to the country’s fast economic development, rising individual wealth, and the relaxation of much travel restrictions imposed by authorities, the Chinese outbound tourism market grew at an average rate of 21 percent per year from 1997 to 2007 (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 1998; 2004; 2008). Indeed, the unleashed demand for travel abroad is so large that the growth rate of China’s outbound travel surpassed that of the country’s national economy, inbound and domestic tourism, and primarily all other Asian and developed countries (Guo et al., 2007). Also, Chinese outbound tourism has been developing steadily; in 2003, when SARS was sweeping the globe, the total number of Chinese outbound visitors still increased by 21.8% (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 2004). In the year of 2009, despite the global economic slowdown, China outbound tourism maintains a 4-percent growth rate (Qian, 2010).
From destinations’ point of view, China has become an important source market. In Asian countries such as Japan, Singapore, and the Philippines, the Greater China Region (Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan) has emerged as their leading source market (Japanese Tourism Marketing Co., 2009; Philippine Department of Tourism, 2009; Singapore Department of Statistics, 2009). In other countries, such as the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, China is among their fastest-growing source markets and has quickly become one of their top Asian markets (Canadian Tourism Commission, 2008; Office for National Statistics, 2008; Sheatsley et al., 2009).

A recent study estimated that the current Chinese outbound travel market comprises approximately 22 million people who have traveled or plan to travel to destinations outside Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macao. Among them, 11.5 million have traveled or plan to travel to destinations outside Asia (Li, Harrill, Uysal, Burnett, & Zhan, 2010). Although the current size of Chinese outbound travel is already quite impressive, from a percentage-of-total population standpoint, Chinese outbound tourism development remains in an early stage but with huge growth potential (Lim & Y. Wang, 2008). Further, despite the current global economic slowdown, China’s economy is by and large in good shape. Chinese outbound travel is hence expected to continue growing steadily (although at a lower rate) and “contribute to the stability of the world’s tourism economy” (Dai, 2008). This will probably make China an even more important target market for destination marketing organizations (DMOs) worldwide.

Studies Related to Chinese Outbound Tourists‟ Expectations
Corresponding to the growth of Chinese outbound tourism, more studies on Chinese tourists’ travel behavior have recently been published. Of particular relevance to the present study is a line of research on key factors affecting Chinese tourists’ travel experiences and service evaluation, which indirectly tackled the issue of service expectations. For instance, Yu and Weiler (2001) analyzed the behavior of Mainland Chinese pleasure travelers to Australia and found that Chinese pleasure travelers preferred package travel because of convenience and reasonable prices. Their findings suggested that the major benefits sought by Chinese visitors in a pleasure trip include scenic beauty, safety, famous attractions, different cultures, and services in hotels and restaurants among others. Yu and Weiler (2001) also reported that Chinese tourists’ satisfaction level varied among gender, educational backgrounds, and their travel party. In a comprehensive review on the development and implications of Mainland Chinese outbound tourism, Guo and colleagues (2007) indicated that Mainland Chinese tourists generally prefer package tours involving multiple destination countries, which seems to deliver better value for money than single-destination package. The authors expressed concern over the lack of well-trained professional tour guides escorting Chinese tourists, which could substantially affect their outbound travel experiences. As for shopping, the authors suggested that Chinese tourists prefer purchasing electronics and famous brand-name items for their extended network of friends, family, even acquaintances. Finally, based on findings from a survey on Chinese outbound tourists’ consumption behaviors (Project Team, 2003), the authors reported that most Chinese tourists were highly satisfied with destination accommodation, locals’ attitudes toward Chinese visitors, and their overall travel experiences abroad. However, they were least impressed by the food served in their destinations.
According to Y. Wang, Vela, and Tyler (2008), the service expectations of Chinese travelers differed based on their travel purposes. The result from a survey using an adapted SERVQUAL questionnaire showed that Chinese tourists expected reliable and enthusiastic services and adequate facilities, similar to what typical hotels in China would offer. Y. Wang et al. (2008) also argued that Chinese tourists’ expectations of service at restaurants were greatly influenced by their past experience in domestic restaurants. Based on a survey of Mainland Chinese tourists to Canada conducted by the CTC, Huang (2008) summarized 55 expectations into 12 factors. His study proposed that there exist three expectation patterns among Mainland Chinese tourists to Canada, related to entertainment, variety seeking, and health/low price.
Some researchers have explored the cultural and socio-economic reasons behind Chinese tourists’ behavior and preferences (Mok & DeFranco, 1999; Yau, 1988). For instance, Mok and DeFranco (1999) proposed a conceptual model of Chinese cultural values and suggested to understand Chinese tourists’ behavior from several key Confucianism values such as respect for authority, interdependence, face, group orientation, harmony, and external attribution. They also noted that the country’s recent socio-economic and political reforms have had profound impacts on Chinese people’s value system and consumption patterns.
In sum, the foregoing review suggests that due to culture and socioeconomic differences, Chinese travelers may have particular travel expectations, preferences, and requirements that are not yet well understood by Western marketers. To the authors’ best knowledge, few studies have systematically investigated the travel expectations of Mainland Chinese outbound tourists. Hence, the present study attempts to shed some light on this.

3.Methodology

This study is the second phase of a carefully designed project on Chinese
outbound travel market from a United States perspective. The multi-phase project employed a variety of quantitative and qualitative techniques, and each phase was designed with the aim of “building on, adding to, and refining insights from preceding phases” (Parasuraman et al., 1991, p. 39). As indicated, the current study focused on Chinese outbound tourists’ expectations of long-haul (i.e., outside Asia) travel products. Due to the exploratory nature of the study, the authors took a qualitative approach and conducted multiple focus groups (FG), which is quite common in customer expectation studies (Lidén & Edvardsson, 2003; Parasuraman et al., 1991; K.-C. Wang, Hsieh, & Huan, 2000). Group dynamics is the most distinctive methodological feature of FG, which encourages members to build off each other’s thoughts and ideas (Catterall & Maclaran, 2006). Moreover, FGs may help examine how people regard an experience and why they feel that way (Bernard, 2000), which fits the purpose of this study.
Following Li et al. (2010), the FG sessions were held in 11 cities in China by a professional marketing research company. In addition to the country’s three gateway cities (Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou), the research team selected eight secondary cities (Chongqing, Xi’an, Shenyang, Tianjin, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Wuhan, and Shenzhen) to keep a geographical balance, and also for market targeting and strategic planning purposes. Although there is no universal rule for the number of FGs required for a project, it is believed that 11 sessions are adequate for this study (Calder, 1977).
Before the FGs were launched, a moderator’s guide was developed, containing a series of questions about participants’ previous trips outside Asia, such as their most memorable experiences when traveling outside Asia, decision-making procedures, and what they hope service providers understand about Chinese tourists. After multiple rounds of discussion with project sponsors and the research vendor, the research team decided to examine service expectations by asking about participants’ criteria when selecting accommodations, food, transportation, tour guides and itineraries, and entertainment and activities for their outside-of-Asia trips (e.g., When traveling outside of Asia, what criteria do you use to select your accommodations?). This is partly because the notion of “service expectation” might be too abstract for participants to talk about, and Chinese respondents are generally not so forthcoming in their views (Roy, Walters, & Luk, 2001). Further, asking about criteria instead of expectations might avoid the potential different interpretations of service expectations as “will,” “ideal,” or “should” standards in participants’ mind, as previously indicated. A pilot test showed that the term “criteria” (Biaozhun) was easily understood and well-responded to by participants. Each FG session was videotaped, transcribed in Chinese, and later professionally translated into English. Two of the authors, both proficient in Chinese and English, also proofread the translated transcripts.

3.1 Hotel/Accommodations
Participants generally related to their past outbound travel experiences when answering this question. Some of their comments were essentially critiques and complaints about their previous travel experience, which reflected their expectations indirectly. Many FG participants commented on inadequate facilities and equipment. A very common complaint concerned lack of hot drinking water and Chinese tea. For example, a respondent from Nanjing said, “They do not provide hot water for drinking. Chinese like drinking hot tea.” Because Chinese hotels traditionally provide a large set of “standard amenities” (e.g., toothpaste and toothbrushes, combs, shampoo and lotion, slippers, shoe mitts, even disposable razors and shaving cream), Chinese tourists (particularly those first-time outbound travelers) generally expect foreign hotels to do the same thing. This expectation, if unfulfilled, could create a bit frustration as some Chinese tourists do not pack such items when traveling, and they might not be able to communicate with the hotel requesting these items due to language barrier. For instance, one respondent in Hangzhou said, “They do not offer one-use toiletries such as slippers and toothpaste. If you do not bring your toothbrush, you will not be able to brush your teeth.” “Stuff [toiletries] for taking showers is a basic requirement,” a respondent in Shenyang commented.
Similar to previous studies (Wong and Kwong, 2004; Wong and Lau, 2001), cleanliness/hygiene and safety/security were two important selection criteria. Also, participants like to choose hotels in good locations, such as “close to tourist spots”, “urban surroundings,” although some respondents preferred quiet places. Eight of the 11 FGs like to stay in conveniently located hotels. Further, respondents seriously cared about service quality. For instance, a respondent in Shanghai indicated, “Some hotels close on weekends or close early, which is not „humanistic‟ to tourists.” Another respondent in Beijing said, “The service must be good. For example, when you inquire about something, they should reply…They should clean the guest room more often.”
Finally, the price level and quality grade requirements were the other two problems that many of the respondents brought up. According to Yao (2006), due to the impact of Confucianism in China, Chinese tourists consider frugality a social virtue. Most Chinese tourists are price/value-conscious. Some respondents indicated that 50 to100 U.S. Dollars (USD) a night was acceptable, and said they like to stay at three-star or better hotels. Participants also mentioned that the hotel grading system in foreign countries differed from that in China. A Nanjing participant stated that, “We stayed in a four-star hotel in XXX, but in my mind, its facilities were merely better than a two-star hotel in China.” For some participants, “good value” is a critical requirement. Table 1 reports some of the most common expectations of hotels. The frequencies listed (in terms of the number of individuals and FG sessions that mentioned each issue), although not for statistical purpose, could reflect the relative importance and level of consensus in respondents’ minds.

3.2 Food and Restaurants
Seven FGs expressed willingness to try local or new cuisines, but participants also admitted that they could not do that for too long and too often. Some indicated that the food “must be acceptable to Chinese,” which seems rather ambiguous. Meanwhile, eight FGs believed “Chinese food should be provided” throughout the trip. A respondent in Nanjing even said, “Chinese food should be available every day. For example, if lunch is Western style, dinner should be Chinese. This way, if we don‟t get enough to eat at lunch, we can eat at dinner.” Many participants complained about Western food as being too sweet, unhealthy (few vegetables and fruits, high calories), with too many uncooked or cold dishes (including ice water), and too much fried food. Examples include:
“The food is too sweet with high calorie counts. I once had a chocolate bar, but I ate part of it and threw the rest away because it was so sweet that I could not finish it” (Beijing).
“I don‟t like sweet food, and I think their food is coarse.” (Shanghai)
“I am not accustomed to the food — too much meat and most dishes are raw.”
(Shenzhen) “Too much oily food; more vegetable should be provided.” (Nanjing) One-third of the FGs suggested more food options be offered. The price issue was brought up again. Shenyang and Wuhan participants expected the food to be reasonably priced and with authentic local flavor. Their budget for food was approximately 10 to 30 USD per day.

3.3 Tour Guides/Itineraries
According to Wong and Kwong (2004), “time” was one of the most important criteria when Hong Kong residents choose package tours. Many participants in the present study preferred less-hectic schedules. This also supports the study by Zhu (2005), which found that relaxation was one of the primary motivations of Chinese outbound tourists. Most of the FG comments mirrored the following: “The schedule was so tight that I could not experience the local life.” In addition, participants thought the schedules were not always properly arranged. A respondent in Chongqing said, “I prefer longer stays at fewer locations.” Another respondent in Nanjing said, “The problem is that they spent too little time at attractions, but a lot of time at shopping venues.” Many respondents preferred less (forced) shopping.
Focus group participants also suggested they would like to travel with people sharing similar backgrounds and interests. For example, a respondent in Xi’an suggested that “I think there is a need to further segment the market. Those interested in sightseeing may go to places with beautiful scenery, while art fans may go to places like Spain and enjoy a long stay there. Those who are into shopping may travel together as a group.” The Beijing FG even suggested that tourists be grouped based on their age and/or personalities. Finally, the price issue came up the third time. Respondents in Shanghai and Beijing expected discounts.
One of the reasons people participate in group tours when traveling abroad is they would experience fewer cultural and language barriers. Not surprisingly, many FG respondents had high expectations of their tour guides’ cultural knowledge and language ability. Here are some examples:
“[We] look for Chinese-speaking tour guides; if the locals want to be a tour guide for Chinese tourists, they must learn Chinese.” (Xi’an)
“Being bilingual is very important; Chinese-speaking is a must.” (Hangzhou) “Understand local customs and history.” (Guangzhou) “I hope he/she could be familiar with the city.” (Beijing) Furthermore, the respondents emphasized the importance of professionalism.
Some examples include: “I expect the guide to be more passionate. I followed a tourist group to the
XXX. The guide only gave a brief introduction on the motor coach…He seemed to have finished his job after the brief introduction. And then he sat back with a bad attitude, and charged us by hours.” (Shenzhen)
“I expect the guide to be humorous and smile all the time.”(Shenzhen) “They should not cheat the tourists out of money.” (Hangzhou) Finally, four FGs suggested that the tour guides should have tourists’ interests
at heart. For example, “Go to fun places instead of places where tour guides can make profit.” (Nanjing); “Take tourists to somewhere meaningful, not just for the tips.” (Tianjin).

3.4 Entertainment/Activities
Most respondents showed interest in local culture and customs such as participating in local events, festivals, and shows. A respondent in Beijing commented, “[I would like to experience] local surroundings. For example, younger tourists who visit England can go to a concert to experience the atmosphere; older tourists may want go to an opera.” Participants in Beijing and Shenzhen said that they prefer to see things not available in China. For instance, some were curious about red-light districts, sex museums, and other adult-entertainment venues, simply because those are prohibited in China. Although half of the FGs would like to experience some local nightlife, respondents in Guangzhou and Nanjing thought that evening should be reserved for resting because daytime activities are exhausting.
As for activities, some FG participants reported interests in shopping. For example, a respondent in Xi’an expected tour operators to have a better understanding of “…Chinese shopping habits: What kind of things should they buy when traveling abroad? What gifts would they buy for seniors and what would they buy for children? So that they could provide suitable products to satisfy Chinese needs for shopping.” Another respondent in Shenzhen preferred to visit “shopping areas with local flavor instead of regular shops. No matter if purchases are made, the experience will be better.” A respondent in Tianjin commented, “The only thing which attracts me is shopping; there are international brands at very good prices.” All participants indicated that they did not want “forced” shopping. In addition, their activities of interest include extreme sports, horse-riding, fruit-picking, gambling, shows, and parties.

3.5 Transportation
In general, participants were impressed by the transportation system in Western countries (particularly Europe). A respondent in Xi’an stated that, “The transportation in foreign countries is very convenient, which impressed me the most. You can buy a one-day pass. With that pass, you may take ship, train, subway or bus within that day.” When taking a motor coach, respondents expected the bus to be safe, clean, spacious, fast, and not too cold (i.e., air-conditioning temperature was not set too low). A respondent in Shenyang thought there were not enough transportation options and the cost was too high. Several participants mentioned car rental, but were not sure about the policy and feasibility (e.g., there was some concern over driving in a foreign country using a license issued in China and confusion about the need for an “international driving license”; plus, under the current ADS scheme with most Western countries, Chinese leisure travelers have to travel in groups, which means a “self-drive tour” is still not an option for Chinese tourists in those countries). A respondent in Wuhan preferred to take taxis, while another respondent in Hangzhou complained that it was hard to take a taxi and the price was too expensive.

3.6 What service providers should know about Chinese tourists
Close to the end of each FG session, the moderator(s) asked the participants what service providers should understand about Chinese tourists. Most respondents suggested that Western service providers know more about the Chinese lifestyle and particularly the country’s food culture. This is presumably because they were not quite impressed by the accommodations and food (most of the comments focused on these two areas). For example, a respondent in Tianjin went back to the hot-water issue and commented, “Make sure hot drinking water is available. Some hotels offer coffee machines where we can boil water; but others do not. Not having hot drinking water will make us uncomfortable, especially when we are not used to the local food or climate.”
Chinese tourists’ consumption habits and their travel motivations are two other things Western marketers must understand. For instance, a respondent in Nanjing said, “Chinese always haggle, which does not seem to be common in Western countries.” A respondent in Shanghai thought that “They lack a real understanding of the younger generation of Chinese tourists…For example, they think Chinese are either poor or poorly mannered.” Finally, some participants also mentioned that they expect more respect from their Western hosts and service providers, and there should be no racial discrimination against Chinese.

4. Discussion

In this article, the authors examined the travel expectations of long-haul Chinese outbound tourists with emphasis on the following five areas: accommodations, food and restaurants, tour guides and itineraries, entertainment and activities, and transportation. Findings from 11 FGs showed that food and accommodations are two major concerns of Chinese tourists when traveling abroad. Moreover, researchers learned that Chinese outbound travelers highly value cleanliness and safety. Participants of this study were very sensitive to the “price-value relationship” (i.e., the price they pay vs. the value they receive). Quite often they relied on tour guides when traveling abroad, and they expect tour guides to be bilingual, friendly, professional, and knowledgeable about local culture and history. According to these FGs, Chinese tourists want to experience foreign environments but prefer a balance between activities and rest. They are wary of being taken advantage of and desire genuine respect and hospitality from staff.
Theoretically, findings of this study not only support previous research on performance-specific expectation and expectancy disconfirmation, but also contribute to current conceptualization of customer expectations in different cultural contexts. Prior expectations models (Oliver, 1980; Robledo, 2001; Zeithaml et al., 1993) were generally structured in Western societies. Although those models have identified various sources of expectations (e.g., word-of-mouth, customers’ past experience), comparatively less attention has been devoted to the role of culture in building expectations. Findings of this study imply that culture is a critical factor in shaping tourists’ travel expectations. When people consume services and goods in a foreign environment, their behavior is even more obviously affected by their own culture and value system. Cultural norms and values may influence two of the three components of Oliver’s (1980) expectation model—context and the individual customer’s characteristics. Further, nearly all components of Zeithami et al.’s (1993) and
Robledo’s (2001) models of customer’s expectations are subject to cultural influences. Indeed, this study shows that beyond specific expectations of individual service components, Chinese tourists expect Western service providers to first have a better understanding of Chinese culture, lifestyle, and diets. This research offered evidence for expanding theoretical approaches to tourist satisfaction and expectations of service quality to include culturally embedded norms and values. For example, Confucian values related to workplace dedication may result in Chinese visitors’ relatively high expectations for service performance as related to food and beverages and accommodations. Notably, this seems to contradict some researchers’ suggestion that Chinese consumers, because of their belief in Karma and harmony, tend to “have low expectations toward the purchased products” and avoid showing their dissatisfaction (Reisinger, 2009, p. 340). Chinese preferences for convenience in hotel location and transportation access may be related to cultural preferences for utility and function, particularly when faced with new environments and situations common among first-time travelers. Moreover, history and tradition are important to Chinese travelers, making context and interpretation important to tour itinerary selection and scheduling. Further, most Chinese tourists still highly appreciate traditional collectivism values such as family duty and caring for the children. Thus, when they travel overseas, purchasing gifts for seniors, children, and friends is almost an obligation.
Certainly, the major contribution of this study is its practical findings. As indicated, complaints related to food and drinking water, as well as the discrepancy between Chinese tourists’ expectations and actual hotel facilities/services were voiced in primarily every FG session. Thus, it seems understanding and implementing specific dietary and accommodation preferences of this emerging market should be considered crucial as competition among destinations for the Chinese tourist increases. Western travel and hospitality practitioners need to adjust their services and amenities to satisfy and attract this market. There are several subtle changes that may have a substantial impact. For instance, Chinese tourists greatly appreciate employees who express a high level of professionalism, enthusiasm, and a positive attitude. Hotels that want to attract Chinese tourists need to train employees to provide this style of service. In addition, having readily available bilingual staff and employees who are sensitive to East/West cultural differences will greatly enhance these travelers’ experience. Further, Western hotels interested in hosting Chinese tourists should be prepared to provide toiletries as well as a method of making hot water for tea in the guest room.
Perhaps the most challenging amenity that Chinese tourists crave is food that suits the Chinese palate and diet. This study found that Chinese tourists want to taste local cuisine but also want to find familiar foods. A Chinese diet includes a wide variety of vegetables, little or no milk, and more salty rather than sweet foods. Western restaurants offering local dishes that fit this description may have a better chance of winning Chinese tourists.
Finally, for multinational corporations, a new challenge in today’s environment would be how to facilitate the internal knowledge transfer among different properties. For instance, an international hotel chain may own a property in Shanghai which has years of experiences serving domestic Chinese tourists, and a hotel in New York which just recently started hosting Chinese outbound tourists. Presumably, the chain would enjoy substantial competitive advantage if it can ensure such cultural understanding be shared effectively between the two properties.

4.1 Limitations and Future Research
The FG approach used in this study could be vulnerable to criticism. Although marketing researchers have repeatedly defended the scientific value of FG and FG results (Calder, 1977; Catterall & Maclaran, 2006; Cowley, 2000), problems associated with group interviews, such as “group-thinking” should be acknowledged as they could affect and skew the research results (Catterall & Maclaran, 2006). Further, although it has been suggested that sample generazability is a non-issue for FGs taking an exploratory approach (Calder, 1977), the authors noted that participants of this study were relatively young—lack of familiarity with FGs and marketing research in general might have contributed to the low participation rate of seniors. Thus, ideas generated from this study were somewhat dominated by those of the younger generation of Chinese tourists. Further, it has been noted that Chinese participants tend to use non-verbal communication in interviews and surveys (Roy et al., 2001). Obviously, information delivered that way could not be effectively reported in the current paper. Finally, all FG sessions were conducted in Chinese, so cultural connotations lost in translation were almost unavoidable. Overall, the qualitative nature of this study makes the results “more in the form of preliminary conclusions than empirically verified inferences” (Parasuraman et al., 1991, p. 39). Fortunately, some of these problems will be addressed in the final phase of the project, a large-scale quantitative survey based on one-on-one interviews.
This study focuses primarily on “what” Chinese tourists’ expectations are. Admittedly, the “why” and “how” questions remain unanswered. That is, the study did not provide a theoretical explanation on how Chinese tourists’ expectations are formed. Although providing such an explanation is beyond the scope of this study, the authors believe more research is necessary to explore the underlying cultural reasons and socioeconomic factors affecting Chinese tourists’ preferences.
This research contributes to the small number of culturally specific studies on service expectation, including Turner (2001), Y. Wang and Peterson (2002), Kanousi (2005), and Kueh and Voon (2007). Given the continued growth of international tourism and global integration, this topic area should provide fertile ground for tourism researchers interested in intercultural and intracultural studies as applied to satisfaction and service quality. For instance, the present study focuses on Mainland Chinese outbound tourists’ expectations. A natural next step of the present study is to systematically compare the service expectations of Chinese outbound tourists and those of their Western counterparts and identify the underlying cultural reasons accounting for such differences. One related factor that may affect such comparison is Chinese outbound tourists currently represent the elite group of the Chinese society. Although their salary level may be lower than average Western tourists, their social class and domestic travel experiences may lead to unusually high service
expectations. To make the comparison meaningful, researchers might need to decide if Chinese outbound tourists should be compared to “average” Western tourists, or elite/luxury tourists only. Moreover, readers may have noted some studies on travel behavior of outbound tourists from the Greater China Region (e.g., Hong Kong and Taiwan). Thus, an interesting research topic would be to explore whether there exist systematic differences between consumers from those developed areas and their Mainland counterparts in terms of the five aspects examined in this paper. More broadly, it would be interesting to compare the expectations of Chinese outbound travel tourists with those of tourists from other Asian markets sharing similar cultural background.
Future research may help refine and define domains of Chinese tourist expectations that may account for a significant amount of variation in satisfaction and service quality evaluations. As such, this qualitative study may form the basis for subsequent quantitative research. Future research may also investigate what hotels and restaurants might receive in return for accommodating visitors with such high service quality expectations. For example, Chinese travelers’ brand loyalty may be an interesting extension of the research presented here. It should also be of interest to researchers how managers can resolve dissatisfaction with or even disputes over service quality related to Chinese outbound tourists.
As one of the reviewers of this paper points out, when studying Chinese outbound tourists’ behavior, it is important to keep China’s current tourism policy and development condition in mind. For example, current ADS agreements generally mandate Chinese travelers to visit foreign destinations in the package tour mode (with the exception of a small number of destinations where “Individual Visit Scheme” (IVS) are allowed). The choices of destinations, itineraries, accommodations, and so on are hence by and large dictated by product availability, which is ultimately determined by Chinese and destination governments’ policy and tour operators’ business interest. This seems to imply that at current stage, Western service providers need to understand the Chinese travel market in both B2C (Business-to-Culture) and B2B (Business-to-Business) contexts. In the next phase of this project, the research team planned to interview multiple Chinese outbound tour operators and government officials to provide new insights to the focal question.

Conclusions:

Chinese outbound tourists’ travel behavior is subject to unique external factors such as ADS arrangements and internal factors such as their relative inexperience with overseas travel but high social status. Findings from this study suggest that while as a phenomenon Chinese outbound tourism is still in its infancy, Chinese outbound tourists are quickly growing into a larger and more sophisticated group of consumers. When traveling overseas, they expect quality services, respect, and better cultural understanding of their wants and needs. Satisfying and meeting these expectations will require a combination of insight into culturally specific behaviors and understanding of broader cultural beliefs. Thus, successful Western marketers should be well-prepared to accommodate the basic needs of the Chinese tourists visiting a destination for the first time, as well as adding social and psychological familiarity and comfort to products and services offered. A better understanding of culturally embedded norms and values as applied to satisfaction and service quality should result in a rewarding experience for visitors and effective branding and marketing for destinations and businesses.

“Real America” opens its doors to big spending Chinese tourists

They’ve walked the Golden Gate bridge, snapped pictures of the Statue of Liberty and fed the slots in Sin City. Now what?
As the number of Chinese visiting the United States skyrockets — it’s expected to jump 15 percent to 556,000 this year and exceed 800,000 by 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce — it’s not just the tried and true destinations of California, Las Vegas, Hawaii and New York that are welcoming the tour busses. Despite budget cuts, state tourism boards across the country are making an eager push to woo Chinese tourists, rolling out lists of initiatives to show these savvy travelers why their corners of the map deserve a visit.
Kevin Langston, deputy commissioner of the tourism division at the Georgia Department of Economic Development, says that while Chinese travelers often choose to see iconic U.S. landmarks on their first visit to the States, they also want a close-up view of Americana, the county fairs and the corner drug stores. “Our greatest opportunity in Georgia is that second or third trip when they want to see how real Americans live and gain a deeper understanding of a unique region of the country, like the American South,” Langston says.

To introduce Chinese travelers to the Peach State, department staff members have attended travel trade shows in China, led the Chinese Travel Channel on a two-week media tour and created a Georgia tourism website in Mandarin. They’re now hoping to promote Georgia through social media platforms, for instance, by having Chinese students blog about the state.
Other states are also luring Chinese travelers westward. The Vermont Chamber of Commerce brought over a television production crew from Shanghai to film a travel documentary on the northeastern state. The tourism bureaus of Illinoisand Chicago have partnered with United Airlines and select tour operators to promote Chicago Month, which features special travel packages from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The Greater Miami tourism bureau has led delegations of Chinese tourism directors on bus trips from Orlando to Miami.

For many states, it seems as though the efforts are paying off. In Salt Lake City’s Temple Square, mainland China tops its list for group tours.
“We may not be as well known as New York City or San Francisco, but the unexpected beauty and the solitary experience that you can get in our national parks is new and very interesting to Chinese visitors,” says Leigh von der Esch, managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism.
Jennifer Hobson, ecotourism director of the New Mexico Tourism Department, agrees that Chinese travelers are looking for activities and attractions they can’t find in their home country. When she attended Shanghai’s China International Travel Mart, a travel trade show, people were drawn to the unexpected sights in her small booth — a Native American man with long hair and some turquoise jewelry.
“The Chinese are just fascinated by the cowboy and Indian culture,” Hobson said. “When they see the pictures of the Wild West, they want to go.”
The hope is that these initiatives will translate into dollars for state tourism, convention and visitor bureaus, which have been slapped with budget cuts in recent years.

According to the UN World Tourism Organization, there will be 100 million Chinese international travelers by 2020. Chinese travelers spend more than their counterparts in any other country — about $7,200 per person per trip, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. This month, President Obama signed the Travel Promotion Act, which will establish a national tourism board to encourage foreigners to visit the United States.
In April, the National Tour Association will open a Visit USA Center in Shanghai. The center will provide information on travel tour packages, destinations and tour operators, and will offer a facility for U.S. companies to use when in Shanghai to expand travel and tourism business opportunities.

More Chinese tourists in California

The statistics released by the California Travel and Tourism Commission(CTTC) shows the number of tourists to California from Chinese mainland has witnessed a rapid increase in recent years and they preferred to shopping during the travel.

Caroline Beteta, chief executive of the CTTC, said there are some 250,000 to 300,000 Chinese mainland tourists to California every year and the number saw a double-digit growth rate. It is expected such growth will keep in the coming five years.

The CTTC opened tourism promoting offices in Shanghai and Beijing one year ago, said Caroline, and China is the world’s fastest-growing country in the number of outbound tourists.

In addition, Carol Martinez, spokesperson from Los Angeles Convention and Visitor Authority said Chinese mainland is the Los Angeles’ important tourism market and many tourism attractions in the city have set up Chinese boarding service.

Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus, a Destination Marketing agency based in Shanghai, said that “The new generation of Chinese tourists coming to California is interested in shopping, Golf, and more and more by wine tourism. California wine is a big asset for the state”.

Kathryn Smits, director of Beverly Hill Conference and Visitors Authority said she contacted many Chinese tourists and their consumption is characterized by shopping.

“They prefer to buy expensive luxury goods, but they also like to buy some useful items, such as vitamin tablets, and others,” said Kathryn.

Chinese travelers to the US: tourists or investors?

Yin Guohua heaved a sigh of relief last week as his plane touched down in Beijing after an 11-day tour of the US.
As a member of China’s first-ever delegation to shop for American real estate, Yin was prepared for hectic travel, endless showings, and pushy salesmen.
He was not prepared for the reporters. “Everywhere we went, there were cameras chasing us,” Yin said ruefully.
The novelty of Chinese shopping for American property guaranteed publicity for the 21-man delegation, which visited Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, and Boston. Another 19 delegates, most of them 35-50 years old, missed the trip because of visa problems.
Soufun.com, the real estate portal, organized the trip but did not announce the results.
Yin, a lawyer who had said he intended to buy a $1 million apartment in either Los Angeles or New York, also declined to say whether he had made a deal, but said the trip met his expectations. “In fact, we had a wider range of choices than we expected,” he said.

Howard Rosen, a senior manager at Grubb & Ellis, a New York-based property agency, said he does not think most Chinese individuals are qualified to purchase real property in the US “unless the money is here.”
Investors with deposits in Hong Kong may qualify, he said, but assets on the Chinese mainland will not satisfy US sellers, Rosen said.
In addition, foreign investment in US property requires a lengthy process, according to Rosen. Without “certainty of disclosure,” Chinese investors will not be taken seriously, he said.

Chen Yunfeng, secretary general of the China Real Estate Managers Association, said he also doubts that the time is right for Chinese to buy US investment property.
“Given the current US economy, there is no sign that the price of property will appreciate strongly in the short term,” said Chen. The price may even continue to slide if the crisis worsens, he said.
More buying trips are likely, however, as China’s new millionaires look for places to invest their wealth.
According to a report by the Boston Consulting Group, China had the world’s fifth-largest population of millionaires in 2008 with 391,000, up 20 percent from the previous year. “Wealthy Chinese are now considering to buy luxury properties when they come to the US, not only Rolex and Louis Vuitton bags”, said Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus, a Shanghai based marketing and PR company specialized on rich Chinese.
The growing interest among Chinese in buying overseas properties is not focused solely on the US.
“There are more people coming to us, asking about the process of buying an overseas property,” said Rainer Schleif, a manager of Aimeilan Consulting (Beijing) Co Ltd, a company that deals mainly with Australian and Singaporean real estate.
Desire to emigrate and the sharp depreciation of the Australian dollar have piqued investors’ interest, Schleif said.