Expert’s Voice: How hotel GMs should prepare for recovering Chinese tourism post COVID-19

by | 29 Apr 2020 | Experts, Interview

(Photo from Unsplash by Nicolas Weldingh)

With Chinese domestic travel resuming gradually and people wishing to “live the moment” post COVID-19, hotels would miss a good opportunity if they don’t take the following steps, writes Anita Chan, CEO at Compass Edge.

Here are some post COVID-19 trends and what hotel GMs can do now to get ahead of the game to welcome Chinese travellers post COVID-19.

1. Flexibility

This is what the world is expecting now. If you want someone to book now, it must be fully refundable. I believe the non-refundable discount rates strategy that we have implemented for years have to be thrown out of the window for the near future. Chinese will book discount rates but with no ties attached. So, it is time for GMs to rethink the rate strategy as booking habits will change post COVID-19.

2. Ambient wellness

Safety was the number 1 consideration of Chinese travellers even before COVID-19. And now no matter what nationalities, we are all very cautious about hygiene. But in my mind, it is not just taking body temperature or giving out hand sanitizers or having a disinfectant schedule, etc. All hotels will do this. But to be ahead of the game, GMs need to rethink all physical spaces to embed health-boosting measures into the spaces that hotel guests pass through, enabling healthy stays.

3. Mental wellbeing

I have talked about the sensitivity of Chinese travellers in my last article so I hope GMs can be a role model to help alleviate possible resistance between your front line staff and Chinese guests.

Here, I am adding the peace-of-mind factor. Before a COVID-19 cure is widely available, Chinese travellers would like to get assurance that even if they get sick, the medical system of the country they visit can support them and the hotel can offer assistance if needed. Hence, GMs can prepare checklists and procedures for “what if” so staff can be trained on how to handle potential crisis scenarios in the future.

4. Assisted development

One outcome of more time spent at home? Many will be prompted, or forced (like me), to learn some life skills such as cooking for themselves. Also mentioned in my last article, 49.3% Chinese females wish to “live the moment” post COVID-19 and will spend money now on what they believe is worthwhile.

Chinese want to learn while travelling and be better versions of themselves. This is the new luxury. So hotels that can assist in their personal development will be the winners. I am not talking about just a cooking class or yoga class. I am talking about a deeper level. For example, text-the-chef to get cooking inspiration and tips. For example, a mediation program with set goals and challenges. As social distancing will continue for a while, private classes may be popular. It is an opportunity for GMs to rethink activities in this direction now.

6. Create an in-room dining experience

In the past, the room service menu was only a fraction of the restaurant menu. Post COVID-19, especially in the beginning, hotel guests may opt out of buffet breakfast. Many guests may want to order room service instead of eating outside or dining at the hotel restaurants. It is a good time for GMs now to consider ramping up room service menus to include famous local food items and to create/upgrade a unique in-room dining experience.

7. Space arrangement

Just a quick point to mention that not only restaurant seating needs to be arranged to maintain the 1.5m safe distance. GMs can also look at beach chairs distance, conference rooms set-up, etc. And this may mean less covers, lower capacity for MICE or banquets too. A big question for GMs is how to make up lost revenue from the new normal space arrangement.

8. Better marketing and promotion

I have a strong opinion that GMs should not stop marketing especially media marketing for the Chinese market now, even if it is a financially challenging time. At the time of writing, China is normalising and domestic travel is resuming gradually. In fact, Chinese are spending more time on social media during COVID-19 and hotels will be missing a good opportunity if they stop their online branding and marketing efforts now. I have expressed my opinion in the interview with Campaign Asia-Pacific.

For hotels in general, engage with OTAs now. I have told audiences over webinars that Ctrip launched the V Plan, “Schedule your future trips” program offering discounts on tens of thousands of hotels, airline tickets and tourists attractions tickets at 40-80% discount with a guarantee for a full refund. Yes, these are mostly for domestic travel first but I will not doubt Ctrip will launch more international offers soon.

At the end of the day, there are still 10,000+ hotels that offer discounts via Ctrip. Why will the Chinese pick you rather than the hotel next door? Other than price, as we do not recommend a blanket discount strategy, it really goes back to getting your hotel top of the mind of Chinese travellers. Whoever can do better marketing and promotion will achieve a faster recovery.

In closing, Carnival Corp’s Chief Executive Officer just said China might be among the first areas where cruise lines start sailing again as the coronavirus pandemic eases. If a cruise company can be optimistic about the China market to be among the first to rebound, I think we can be as positive as well.

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Anita Chan
Anita Chan

CEO, Compass Edge

Anita has extensive travel industry experience, and has worked all over the world with leading companies such as Four Seasons Hotels and Delta Hotels, as well as in corporate offices and technology service providers. Before joining Compass Edge, Anita worked as Regional Director for a leading OTA in Asia, as Global VP for a leading digital agency, and as VP Asia Pacific for Small Luxury Hotels of the World.

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