Chinese tourists, Tourism Ireland, Tourist information, China economy, Chinese visitors
China is a country that has been in economic transformation over the past number of years, however, what appeared to be an unstoppable economic boom in China has become a slowly deflating balloon. Over the past number of years western pundits have been talking about ‘the flood’ of Chinese ‘money spending’ visitors that will adorn our shores, however, that predicted flood has been nothing more than a trickle and it is expected to remain so. The UK in a recent tourist promotion relating to visitors from China, stated that they expected that between 2013 and the end of 2015 they expected to see approximately 300K Chinese visitors, not really a flood, and figures were not broken down in terms of visitor types, for example, business trips, students and so forth.
Whatever the reality of numbers, we do know that the Chinese middle-classes have expanded with their economic ‘boom’ and those middle-classes have some disposable income, that means that Ireland needs to be prepared to meet the needs of Chinese visitors. This week a number of well-known Irish businesses are heading to Adare for a course on how to maximise the opportunities offered by the rapidly growing Chinese tourist market.
China recently outstripped Germany as the country from which most tourists travel abroad, and 95 million of its citizens will holiday in a foreign country this year, spending over $100 billion in the process.
Many will be heading to Europe. However, according to Prof Wolfgang Georg Arlt, a specialist in tourism management who has been visiting China since 1978, these cash-rich but time-poor visitors have particular demands of their hosts.
In partnership with local firm Riordan’s Travel, his China Outbound Tourist Research Institute is running a two-day course at the Dunraven Arms in Adare, Co Limerick, from tomorrow on how to adapt to these demands. Participants will include the likes of Dromoland Castle, Luxury Ireland, Brown Thomas and the Guinness Store.
Prof Arlt explains the Chinese have specific expectations of a trip abroad, particularly a long and expensive one. While they don’t mind paying for something, they feel that to be kept waiting is a waste of time.
“To put it in a nutshell, Chinese tourists, when they come to a European country, they are not coming on holidays,” he says. “They come to gain prestige, to learn something, to see something and be able to brag about it when they go home. They want to be able to say that they played on this or that famous Irish golf course.”
He warns they may also have particular sensitivities, and can sometimes take poor service personally and interpret it as a slur on them or their culture. “Their government has told them that they are ambassadors and they take that seriously,” he says.
They are conscious of their country’s growing influence and like to see signs and information in Chinese, alongside other international languages.
Prof Arlt points out that as they come from a 4,500-year-old culture, they will not necessarily be impressed by something that we, or other tourists, regard as ancient. “You have to understand your customer and treat them accordingly,” he says.