International leisure travel has been booming lately and is expected to further expand at a fast pace in the coming years. The number of arriving international tourists worldwide was 950 million in 2010, but by 2015 reached 1.19 billion. According to the UN World Tourism Organisation, international travel is projected to increase further, by 3-4 percent - or around 40 million additional visitors - annually in the next decade.
The recent increase of international travel has unveiled changes in the origin of tourists. Traditional outbound markets, such as the US, UK, Germany and France, remain an important source of visitors worldwide. However, China is definitely the global market leader: it already accounts for about 10 percent of total tourists and is still rapidly growing. Though less spectacularly, other non-traditional origins in Asia have also expanded fast.
For major tourism destinations, in Europe and the US in particular, these trends entail a challenging adjustment of the hospitality industry.
Since knowing the needs and behaviors of guests is paramount to creating a positive guest experience, hospitality services are increasingly required to take into account a range of different backgrounds, languages and cultures, so as to suit visitors’ expectations.
In the past, Chinese visitors mainly traveled in group, but there has been an upsurge in individual travel planning. Today 2 out of every 3 travelers arrange their own stay. This means that hotel marketing and staff must be prepared to explain their offers in the language of their guests. Individual bookings may lead to additional questions about the location, amenities, services and surrounding activities as compared to when a group leader with previous knowledge of the area or multilingual fluency booked a stay.
Guests do not only want a comfortable room; dining, entertainment and the availability of modern facilities contribute to their fully enjoying the stay. Hospitality service providers should be able to competently address the questions and demands from such guests and adapt to fulfil their needs; that, again, requires special expertise from staff.
Over 600 million Chinese access the Internet, most of them with their mobile device. When traveling, they expect seamless internet capability. The availability of a performing Wi-Fi system throughout a hotel and its grounds is certainly a must. Efforts to encompass multiple devices and branded mobile applications targeting the various segments of international visitors to a specific hotel and region would be smart additions.
A well-functioning Internet connectivity in hospitality facilities cuts both ways: it helps hosts and may become an important ingredient in reputation management. Today, visitors (also Chinese guests and especially individual travelers) are eager to share their experiences online with others on mobile platforms and review sites.
The unique touches provided in suiting the behaviors and needs of a specific culture can thus gain more traction and exposure than ever before.