Spotlight on: Chinese New Year travellers

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With millions of Chinese citizens preparing to travel both at home and abroad during the fortnight-long festivities, are hoteliers doing enough to capture this market?

Chinese New Year is almost upon us. The date, which varies annually in accordance with the Chinese lunisolar calendar, will take place this year on Tuesday February the 5th. Also known as Lunar New Year, the celebration begins with the first new moon and ends 15 days later, on the first full moon of the lunar calendar. 2019 marks the Year of the Pig, a beast associated with wealth, emotion and intuition.

A worldwide celebration

And so begins a fortnight of festivities, as people honour their ancestors, feast on meals with historic significance and wave goodbye to the year that was. Chinese New Year is celebrated not only in mainland China and other regions of Asia, but also by Chinese communities across the world; from boutique hotels in the Maldives to London’s Chinatown, which plays host to the largest Spring Festival celebrations outside of Asia.

A growing number of Chinese citizens are making the most of this public holiday by travelling. It is estimated that over 400 million Chinese people will travel during the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year, including nearly seven million that will travel abroad. “It’s these individuals who will be spending much larger sums on hotels, shopping and activities while visiting the USA, UK, and Australia primarily,” says Mark Murphy, President and CEO of TravAlliancemedia. “Hotels need to have employees who can communicate in the traveller’s native tongue. After language, dining options are the most important feature for Chinese tourists.” 

Skyline during nighttime

400 million Chinese are expected to travel this Lunar New Year. Photo: Helathycliff Syndor, Unsplash

So are hoteliers doing enough to capture this market during the holiday? In Hong Kong, preparations are already underway. “Hoteliers around town have already begun the celebration promotion, varying from festive dining to auspicious entertainment,” a spokesperson for the Hong Kong Tourism Board said. One such hotel is the The Peninsula Hong Kong. Michael Chou, the hotel’s Chef Concierge, says the decor will reflect the festivities: “Elaborate decorations featuring peach blossoms, red flowers and festive lanterns will adorn all areas of the grand building and forecourt to symbolise good luck, while pink plum blossoms and kumquat bushes laden with golden-orange fruit signify prosperity.”

Connect with your guests

For Sophia Zhang, Assistant Director of Rooms at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, Chinese New Year is an opportunity for hoteliers to showcase the festivities through their own, specific lens – allowing guests to feel more connected to the local culture as a result. “How the Lunar New Year is celebrated really varies from city to city,” she says. “For example, Northern Chinese will eat noodles and dumplings for good luck. In Hong Kong, we eat air-dried seafood, such as abalone and oysters, as it is considered lucky to eat this luxurious food. Showcasing and sharing our Chinese New Year traditions allows for us to connect more deeply with our guests. For our guests, it allows them to connect more deeply with the culture.”

The hotel will also incorporate a celebratory menu, including afternoon tea with traditional Chinese desserts. And it’s not the only hotel to place emphasis on food. Edward Yuan, General Manager of The Sanya EDITION on Hainan Island in China, advises other hoteliers considering introducing themed celebrations to lay on speciality menus. “Make sure that they are relevant to the brand and show off the innovation of your hotel,” he adds.

Guests should feel like they are part of an authentic celebration that they could not have experienced at home

This year, Chinese New Year coincides with Valentine’s Day so many couples are booked into The Sanya EDITION, with its romantic, beachside setting. But families remain the chief traveller type during the holiday and – though it’s customary to stay home with your family during the first two days of the New Year – arrivals are expected from the second day on. As well as putting on beach fireworks and a lion dance festival, the resort will include family-friendly activities.

For Yuan, authenticity is key to enhancing guest experience. “Guests should feel like they are part of an authentic celebration that they could not have experienced at home,” he says. “It adds another layer to their vacation and gives an exciting insight into Chinese culture and tradition.”

Zhang agrees that offering guests a genuine experience is the secret to success. “Whatever you do, be authentic,” she says. “You also can't go wrong with using the colours red and gold in your decorations while avoiding black and white. Another tip is to avoid assigning Chinese guests rooms ending with the number 4 over this period, as this number is associated with bad luck.”

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It’s expected that 400 million Chinese citizens will travel during the Lunar New Year holiday, including nearly seven million that will head abroad, spending much larger sums on hotels, activities and retail
Hotels need to have employees who can communicate in the travellers native tongue, then focus on dining options
A speciality menu is a great way for hoteliers to introduce themed celebrations. Ensure that they show off the innovation of your hotel and are relevant to your brand
Showcasing your local traditions allows guests to connect more deeply with the culture, and hoteliers to connect with their guests