China is richer than ever—or at least richer than any time since the Qin dynasty—and Chinese disposable income is on the rise. Savvy entrepreneurs have been eyeing this trend and scurrying to capitalize on it. Even not-so-private interests like public high schools have thrown their hats in the ring.
The travel industry is no different. In a recent interview, Ferragamo CEO Salvatore Ferragamo advocated a more exclusive shopping experience at airports, including VIP areas for, well, VIP travellers. To support this move, he cited the expectations of wealthy Chinese travellers who he says want high-quality European products coupled with as Asian-style customer service.
International hotelier Hilton recently launched Hilton Huanying, a hospitality program aimed specifically at Chinese travellers to make them feel at home abroad. For instance, the Huanying hotels offer familiar Chinese breakfast options like fish congee and turnip cakes and an in-room selection of Chinese teas; a Chinese-speaking front desk attendant is guaranteed around the clock. (As yet, the only Canadian hotels to roll out the program are the Hilton Vancouver Metrotown and the Hilton Toronto Airport Hotel & Suites.)
Those businesses—and nations, for that matter—who don’t consider the Chinese traveller may miss out. A recent New York Times opinion piece suggests that the U.S. is losing market share to countries like France with less-stringent tourist visa requirements and with shops scrambling to hire Chinese-speaking staff.