Showing Upwardly Mobile Chinese Your Face

130517141050-china-tourists-hong-kong-camera-story-topIf you’re looking to make a few bucks in the stock markets in the next decade, a good recommendation might be hotels catering to the Chinese. And if you’re really smart, you’ll look for brands who understand face.

No, I don’t mean focusing on brands willing to hire Emma Stone or Brad Pitt as their spokespeople, I mean the Chinese cultural value that encourages showing prestige, wealth and pride. If you think Americans have a penchant for buying luxury goods for no other reason than that they’re recognized as luxurious, you don’t know Wang.

I’m pretty sure you’ve probably heard about the thriving Chinese economy. As their billions of people continue pumping new goods into the market and new emissions into the atmosphere, their culture is seeing the same rise of the middle class that America did 50 years ago. This means more Chinese with extra spending money to buy goods and travel.

And traveling to America means major face.

A recent study from the University of Illinois looked at how Chinese citizens look at three major U.S. hotel brands—Hilton, Holiday Inn and Super 8. Of the more the 600 people interviewed, only 10 percent of the participants had previously stayed at any of the three brands studied, although participants were aware of them and the numbers of completed questionnaires were distributed almost equally across the three brands.

As you might expect, the respondents saw Hilton and Holiday Inn as luxurious brands whereas Super 8…not so much. If they were just looking to stay somewhere in China, they didn’t mind saving some money at a Super 8. But if they were going to America, they suddenly became more interested in intangible features of the hotel, such as prestige and luxury.

And, in short, the study says US hotels need to recognize that and do a better job presenting “face” to potential Chinese tourists.

All of that is well and good, but let me share some more troubling numbers from the study.

In 2013, more than 1.8 million Chinese tourists visited the United States. That figure is expected to rise to more than 2.1 million this year and increase roughly 20 percent every year through 2018. For those of you without calculators, that equals 5.2 million Chinese tourists.

So I’m really glad I don’t live in LA, NYC, DC, Las Vegas or Niagara Falls. There’s only so many slow-moving tourists videotaping every second of their trip that I can take.

The study, “Modeling consumer-based brand equity for multinational hotel brands – When hosts become guests,” was published by Joy Huang, professor of recreation, sport and tourism at Illinois, and Liping Cai, professor of hospitality and tourism management at Purdue University.

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About bigkingken

A science writer dedicated to proving that the Big Ten - or the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, if you will - is more than athletics.
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