This December, Hainan Airlines Co. Ltd. flew from Beijing to Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport. The flight was the airport’s first nonstop from China and was one McCarran executives have been designing for some time. It is a routine flight that will now arrive three times a week, filled with passengers eager to indulge in the desert cities infamous delights. However, when the passengers land they will be met with an unusual change to proceedings: three bilingual ambassadors, ready at hand to help with their new Chinese clientele.
200 million travelers set to leave China next year
With 200 million travelers set to leave China next year and venture abroad on holiday, many companies are making it their interest to cater for these new and affluent consumers. “I want somebody from China to come into Las Vegas and to feel like Las Vegas is welcoming them and we value them,” said Chris Jones, the chief marketing officer at McCarran.
Consulting Las Vegas airports is a new company called China Ni Hao, part of Boyd Group International and run by former industry executives Mike and Marianne Boyd. As well as this New York-based China Ni Hao is marketing its trademarked “China Welcome” program for U.S. airports and other destinations that are anticipating over 23 million Chinese visitors by 2021. However, quantity is not just what these airports are looking at, as these Chinese tourists spend on average 8,00 dollars a trip, with a particular taste for luxury brands.
China Ni Hao will help ease Chinese consumers into their traveling by providing bilingual contractors and implementing their company pages onto WeChat, the one-stop App that almost 700 million Chinese people use.
“We kind of outran our headlights,” said Mike Boyd. “When we started to promote it, the next thing we knew, we had business up the wazoo.”
However, it isn’t all smooth sailing with Trump’s rhetoric of late generating a rift between America and China. Despite Obama opening travel borders between the two, Trump has sought to declare China a trade and business nemesis to America. As well as this the president called Taiwan’s president, which is a great break in tradition amongst former presidents of the US. However, Boyd said it is extremely doubtful that such rhetoric will hinder Chinese tourism in America.
Boyd was quick to state that the new measures put in place were not because America was once a xenophobic country. He simply explained that due to the lack of Chinese tourists such measures were unnecessary and gratuitous, yet now with so many comping, it is integral to the function of the airport and its ability to attract such an appetizing consumer base.
Chinese Tourists Market
Another reason is that Chinese tourists, particularly younger ones, are traveling freely and even solo. Before, it was common for Chinese tourists to travel in tour groups. They were shuttled by the bilingual tour guide from the airport to bus and to tour destinations. Their hand was held the whole way and they were in large numbers. However, now Chinese tourists, some of which have little English, are venturing to new horizons. It is not all New York and L.A either with some venturing to places like Southern Pennsylvania, attracted by the rural Amish communities there. Their reach is spreading to even further places with Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport recently ordering traveler brochures in Mandarin through China Ni Hao.
Ahead of the Hainan service to Las Vegas, McCarran airport directors put a one-year budget in place, at $150,000 for the program, with one-third spent for startup expenses, explained Jones. The rest is then allocated to 60 hours of staffing per month for the flight arrivals and departures.
“The Chinese market is so different and so unique,” he said. “I get that [travelers] needed their own signage. You could drop me in Italy or France, and I could get by. You drop me in Beijing, and — if it weren’t for the signage printed in English — I’m lost.”