Cheering up your Chinese guests
Sep 21st 2011, 15:03 by Z.U. | SAN FRANCISCO
ANGLOPHONE business travellers are accustomed to a certain sense of familiarity wherever they go. The desk clerk in Bangkok speaks flawless English; the television in São Paulo picks up CNN and Sky News; the continental breakfast buffet in Lagos offers Earl Grey tea and Cheerios with skimmed milk.
But as Chinese businesses go ever more global, their executives would also like to feel at home even when they’re far away. In fact, the Hilton Hotel group is putting big money into this very notion. Last month it launched Hilton Huanying in an attempt to corner the market in Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking travellers who would like to pretend they haven’t left home.
“Huanying” means “welcome”, and the programme promises Chinese hospitality at three key “touch points”, with desk clerks fluent in Chinese; slippers, tea kettles, and Chinese-language programming on the in-room television; and a breakfast menu that includes such eastern favourites as congee and dim sum. To ensure Chinese travellers a “warm, authentic welcome at Hilton” the programme’s website promises essentials such as “Chinese spoons” and a welcome letter in Chinese. Hilton launched the programme in San Francisco, which boasts a Chinese-American mayor and a population that is over 30% Asian. Fifty hotels in 12 countries are currently offering the service, and more such properties are expected to be added across Hilton’s ten brands.
Clearly, Chinese travellers are a huge market that will only increase as time goes by. Hilton is betting that adding fried-dough fritters to the room-service menu will allow these guests to enjoy the same anonymous, interchangeable hotel experience that Westerners have sampled for decades. And in other good news, Americans who want to experience the heady rush of foreign culture will now be able to order pork fried rice for breakfast in hotels rather closer to home.