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Boston companies use Cultural Awareness to lure Chinese Tourists

Boston companies use Cultural Awareness to lure Chinese Tourists

As many Chinese tourists only pay a brief visit to the city, local Boston companies are now getting training to increase their appeal to this important group of visitors (and revenue stream).


According to The BBC, many Chinese tourists travel to the United States for their holidays. The top three American cities they visit are New York, Los Angeles and Washington DC, but Boston isn’t far behind.

However, the Chinese often only visit this city to check out universities like Harvard and the MIT, resulting in very short visits that aren’t very beneficial for the local Boston businesses.

If Chinese visitors could stay longer, the boom to the local economy could be massive.

Jolin Zhou, who works for the Chinese tour operator Sunshine Travel in Boston, tells a story about a Chinese man and his teenage son who had come to Boston to look at universities. "One day he asked my co-worker, 'Can you recommend a meal, a good restaurant and bring me there? The best restaurant in Boston, no matter how expensive.' My co-worker brought him to a restaurant; they spent $1,000 for two of them for dinner."

Zhou told this story to participants of a tourism workshop that was set up by the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism. The Office wants to attract more Chinese people to the region as the middle class in China consists of about 300 million people who are spending more and more time abroad. In terms of most visitors per country, they are the ninth biggest group in the US, and the fastest growing one. They even rank third in the biggest spenders when travelling abroad.


Evan Saunders is one of the speakers who attended the workshop above. He is the chief executive of Attract China, a company that helps businesses get noticed online by Chinese surfers. One of his clients is the popular restaurant Legal Sea Foods. According to Saunders, this isn’t a very good name for a restaurant, as the Chinese associate legal with the government. Moreover, Chinese tourists might this that the restaurant ‘is involved in making sure people go to jail if they're not serving the right things.’ It is Saunders' job to make sure this image is corrected.

Haybina Hao, working with the National Tour Association in Kentucky, gives more tips on making foreign visitors feel at home in an American hotel or restaurant. According to her, serving warm soy milk and providing disposable slippers in hotel rooms are essential to make Chinese visitors at ease. It’s the little things that count.

However, not all of the participants are thrilled about making adjustments for this new group of tourists. David Ritchie, sales and marketing director in the Omni Parker Hotel in Boston, dislikes the idea of serving Chinese food in hotels and restaurants. ‘We invented the Boston cream pie, so we are the American iconic culinary institution. I think we're staying with our concept. I think it works.’ Hospitality professor Donna Quadri agrees with him, as she believes ‘Travellers really want the authentic experience.’ That doesn’t involve noodles, but hamburgers and other  typical American food.

According to Quadri, speaking the language of the visiting tourists is always a good thing. However, the workshop doesn’t provide any standard Mandarin Chinese courses; every hotel or restaurant should provide their employees with his or her own language course. Many Boston companies are still a little hesitant about jumping on the Chinese tourist bandwagon; but they better make the plunge, as the US Department of Commerce expects the number of Chinese that will visit the United states to double in the next three years!

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