EVER HEARD OF THE ‘EXPLODING WEALTHY’? Pronounced ‘bào fā hù’ (暴發戶) this title is used to represent Chinese who have made a ton of cash, or rather yuan, suddenly. They are, as the French would say, nouveau riche.
Back in 2012, when I was on a speaking tour in Australia with my presentation titled ‘What is your China Strategy?‘, the ‘bao fa hu’ featured heavily in the Q&A section. Representatives from large public corporations, smaller private businesses, as well as various government departments wanted to know how to influence this new potential segment – a segment that Boston Consulting Group states is now comprised of over one million millionaires!
That is truly the million dollar question, and one that the global hospitality industry is positioned to answer. You see, with this ‘explosion of wealth’ has come a new appreciation for travel and according to the South China Morning Post, this appreciation grew to 97 million Chinese travellers in 2013. So while you are pondering your ‘China strategy’, the Chinese may literally be standing before you, ready to buy. It’s time to get China ready!
So what does ‘China readiness’ entail? If you are in the hospitality industry, you need to understand the different segments of the Chinese consumer today. I emphasise ‘today’ because consumerism was only spawned in 1992 with the famous Deng Xiaoping quote, “To be rich is glorious” (致富光荣: zhìfù guāngróng). That’s only 22 years ago. Even 10 years ago,’bào fā hù’ was not used within the common lexicon. Nor was ‘second generation rich’ (富二代: fù èr dài) or ‘children of government official’ (官二代: guān èr dài); two other segments of guests that could, at this moment, be standing in your lobby.
So how can hotels take advantage of these emerging socioeconomic groups? Maintaining face, or as its called in Chinese, ‘liú miànzi’ (留面子), is even more pronounced in these three wealthy Chinese consumer segments than in the general Chinese public, so tap into this vanity. These guests appreciate great service even more when they are within a group, and while praise and personal attention, might be deemed excessive to some of your non-Chinese guests, the bào fā hù will greatly appreciate it – even if they don’t outwardly show it. This can be as simple as serving the Chinese ahead of another guest.
The second area to understand is the power that the internet, and it’s intersection with mobile phones, has played on Chinese culture. Today, bow-backed old ladies shuffle down Chinese streets; a walking stick in one hand, and a mobile phone in the other. Restaurants, previously noisy domains, are often pleasantly quiet, as entire tables multitask – chopsticks clicking and thumbs tapping in unison. And when these Chinese travel, these mobile phones are the first item to be packed, since they serve as maps, translators and, of course, communication tools. But forget the traditional calling and SMS function; communication for the Chinese is now primarily done via WeChat (微信: wēixìn). WeChat is such a force that China Mobile Vice President Li Zhengmao complained that two thirds of China Mobile’s subscribers use WeChat and that it (ironically) was becoming a monopoly. Estimates say that the number of WeChat users is now 300 million. And many of these people travel.
So how can hotels take advantage of this new technology? Since many Chinese travel in within tour groups, create a ‘group chat’ that is administered by your hotel, and invites the individual members of the tour group to join. Regardless of whether these guests are within the hotel’s walls, or 100 kilometres away looking at the local wildlife, they are still connected to the hotel. Special offers, bar discounts, or even reminding guests of their check-out time, can all be sent to their mobile phone by the hotel. Partnerships with tourist attractions and restaurants can also be created for the more entrepreneurial hotels.
Understanding your Chinese customer and engaging them with relevant technology are just two ways that your hotel can help influence your guests and increase revenues in 2014. To learn the other methods, simply attend ClarkMorgan’s Cross Cultural Training and prepare for China!