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By Colleen Isherwood, Editor
ORILLIA, ON—Last year, Resorts of Ontario delegates asked why Chinese travellers didn’t ‘get’ the resort experience. This year, they were pro-active, assembling a panel at their annual conference in Orillia last month to talk about ways to attract the local and overseas Chinese communities to their establishments.
Cindy Gu, publisher of the Epoch Times, a leading Chinese newspaper, moderated the panel, which included newspaper columnist and teacher Jane Tang, CMA Janet Chi, and Jennifer Wang, who is in the import business. All of them immigrated to Canada from China.
Gu noted that about half the population of Toronto is foreign-born, and about 10 per cent of the city’s population is Chinese—there’s a lot of Chinese spending power.
All three panellists agreed that location is what determines where they will spend their vacation, noting that they are generally looking at trips on weekends—particularly long weekends.
“I’d drive four or five hours if I was with friends; two to three hours if I was with family,” said Chi.
“When we have family come from China, they want to brag that they have been to all the famous places—Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Kingston, Ottawa, Quebec City and Montreal, so that is where you go.
“If you are with local Chinese friends, you stay away from those places!”
The experience is also important. “You want to find something new —find what the place is famous for,” said Tang.
“The experience is very important—you have to look at it from the point of view of the family, the kids, or the husband and wife,” Chi added.
Packages are appreciated, but only when they are relevant. “We want spheres we are comfortable with, nothing too extreme,” Chi said. “We want to be reassured about safety.”
“If the package includes things we don’t need, then it’s not a good deal any more,” said Gu.
Fishing, kayaking and canoeing, with the help of instructors are popular. Golf is associated with enhanced social status. Hiking and water activities are suitable for all generations. These activities should be highlighted in promotional materials.
Wang noted that since pollution is bad in China, overseas guests, in particular, want to enjoy nature—the unspoiled lakes and forests of central Ontario certainly have their appeal.
“If you want Chinese visitors to stay overnight, tell them they can see the Milky Way or the stars,” said Gu.
Print and TV marketing
Despite all the current focus on Internet and social media, the panellists felt that the best ways to reach Chinese people are by using traditional print or TV media—preferably Chinese media.
“Most Chinese people can’t research online in English,” said Chi. She added that new immigrants in particular learn about things by word of mouth, particularly in English as a second language schools. “They start chatting about where to go, how to eat and how to cook,” she said.
Tang noted that it’s important to target both local and overseas Chinese.
“Newcomers make plans for their kids and families every year, but they also have friends visiting them.”
Chi said she thought targeting locals was more important. “The Canada/China trade tourism agreement involves people coming with tourist groups, but if relatives are coming to visit family, then it’s best to target local people.”
Food and language
While Chinese tourists don’t necessarily expect Chinese food, they would have trouble reading a menu with unfamiliar words in a fancy French restaurant.
“Keep it simple—for example, steak, seafood or chicken,” Wang recommended. “You can have some Chinese food choices, but it’s not necessary to speak the language.”
Chi added that her son is dying for Western food when they travel. “Give us the chef’s top recommendation—meat, chicken or fish, and we’ll order that,” she said.
People may imagine that the food may be bad or that it is very expensive—they find it intimidating and need more information, noted Gu.
But, if they know there is a chef’s special for $29.99, that will help ease their minds.