Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Huanying Is in the Details

Hilton hotel Chinese-language menu
If there is one lesson that can be drawn from Editor in Chief Michelle Russell’s story about the how planning for an international meeting planning threatened to stall over differences in how Japanese and American cultures react to the image of a single cherry blossom, it’s that the little things can turn out to be the big things.

It is in that spirit that Hilton Hotels & Resorts is taking a detail-oriented approach to extending hospitality to Chinese travelers, with the launch of the “Hilton Huanying” program in 30 global hotels. (Huanying means welcome in Chinese.)

The hotel chain Interviewed general managers at Hilton hotels in China, as well as Chinese travel agencies in order to find out what would make Chinese travelers feel most at home. 

Based on that research, participating hotels all will have a front-desk member fluent in Chinese language, and in guest rooms, amenities will include tea kettles and Chinese tea, slippers, and a television channel dedicated to Chinese programming. Hotels also are adding Chinese breakfast dishes to their restaurant menus, including congee, dim sum, and Chinese tea and soy milk.

The hotel chain tested the amenities for three months at hotels in the U.S., the UK, and South Korea. Given the importance in Asia of the custom of removing one’s shoes before entering a home, it’s no surprise that supplying slippers in guest rooms was a good move.

They were “a big win during the test period,” said Andrew Flack, vice president, global brand marketing for Hilton Hotels & Resorts. “At Hilton Los Angeles/San Gabriel the hotel ended up placing them beside the bed instead of inside the closet because they were receiving so much interest from Chinese guests.” The hotel recently hired a concierge fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese who will escort Chinese guests to the front desk, Flack added.

China’s enormous expansion means that many in the business world are struggling to learn how to effectively do business with the Chinese. Offering tea, slippers, and a welcome in a familiar language seem like a pretty good place to start.

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