A USA Today headline caught my eye the other day. It read: "Chinese travelers are seeing the USA in record numbers." A follow up article said: “NYC’s Marriott Marquis ready for Chinese visitors.”
What’s happening in U.S. tourism is really exciting. Barriers are being removed and we’re taking steps to attract the Chinese customer. And, with Times Square one of the world’s top tourist destinations, our associates at the Marriott Marquis are being taught many Asian customs like bowing to the other party, exchanging business cards the proper way, and saying “hello” and “thank you” in Mandarin.
There have been some hotel signage adjustments, too, at the Marquis. The number four is a bad luck number in Asian cultures. So our largest suites on floors 44 and 45 have been changed to “Imperial Suite” and other non-numeric names to reduce use of the number four.
Other Marriott hotels are also making cultural changes. Franco Campanello a lead concierge in Boston is taking Mandarin classes and he’s looking into publishing a Mandarin subway map.
As our economy slowly recovers, the influx of Chinese tourists will make a big impact on our industry. Europe is already feeling a bounce. Last month, according to the World Luxury Association, Chinese visitors to Europe spent $7.2 billion on luxury goods. Those purchases accounted for 62 percent of all luxury items sold on the continent.
When President Obama signed an executive order easing visa travel restrictions, he declared that our travel and tourism industry is “open for business.”
And wow is it ever! Arrivals from China are forecast to increase by 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.
I’m proud of the way our hotels are changing and adapting their customs to welcome our Asian friends.
That’s what hospitality is all about. As the USA Today headline said: Marriott is “Ready for Chinese Visitors.”
I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.