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01-19-2012: Financial Times - International businesses beef up Mandarin services

Does your resume include Chinese language ability? As international business trends shift, more and more global companies are seeking to beef up their Chinese language services in an effort to capture the lucrative Chinese market. As the Financial Times reports, Airport operator ADP (Aéroports de Paris) plans to help Chinese “feel at home” through a series of new Chinese language service initiatives. In addition to making announcements in Mandarin and Cantonese and training staff in Chinese etiquette, the ADP plans to hire “an army of smiling Mandarin-speaking officials” to greet Chinese tourists.

Paris rolls out the red carpet for Chinese tourists
January 19, 2012 by Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura

China hosts the world’s biggest yearly mass migration during Lunar Year/Spring Festival celebrations, but the pushing and shoving involved with returning home doesn’t stop there. The travel rush is also spilling to Europe, where beleaguered economies are hoping to benefit from the bonanza.

Paris is rolling out the red carpet for Chinese tourists as soon as they touch down on French soil.

Airport operator ADP (Aéroports de Paris) plans to organise a lavish “welcome scheme” – its biggest ever for a single nationality – at its Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports designed to help Chinese “feel at home”.

Although Paris is as famous for its brusqueness (the oft-cited anecdote of garçons refusing to answer tourists in English being one example) as it is for its sophistication, the fanfare would seem sensible, considering that Chinese are among the most lavish buyers of French goods.

One Chinese jewelry magnate last year wasn’t satisfied buying just Bordeaux wine, so he decided to buy a vineyard complete with its 15th-century chateau. Another tycoon was so mesmerised by Versailles that he recreated the palace back home with imported materials.

The ADP plans to deck its airports in Chinese New Year decorations and have an army of smiling Mandarin-speaking officials waiting to hand out red envelopes with a welcome message written by Pierre Graff, the operator’s president.

The VIP treatment doesn’t stop there. Announcements will be broadcast in both Mandarin and Cantonese, passengers will be offered free guides, reductions on certain luxury items, and even apps for iPhone/Android in Mandarin that will help them organise their travel.

The operator has even given guidance to non-staffers such as police officials and cleaners to be “aware” of cultural sensitivities in order to improve serviceability, an ADP spokeswoman told beyondbrics, adding that a research team had been set up to observe Chinese behaviour.

“When our staff return credit cards [after a transaction] or a document to Chinese passengers, they make sure they are given with both hands instead of one,” she said. “In light of the constant rise in the number of arrivals of Chinese tourists in the past five years, the decision to organise the scheme was obvious.”

While China’s Communist party has campaigned to put tourists on their best behaviour (via the Spiritual Civilisation Steering Committee) by issuing guidelines against spitting, queue-jumping, eating loudly, or haggling in shops with fixed prices, Parisians and other French people are also adapting.

France is the top destination for Chinese travellers in Europe with 910,000 arrivals in 2010, according to the latest report from Euromonitor International, which looks at industry trends. Beyond Paris, the lush lavender fields of southern Midi are also popular, in part due to a Chinese television mini-series set in the region.

Chinese spent by far the biggest amount in France too – $375m, according to Euromonitor. Chinese are avid shoppers, preferring to fork out on goods – often luxurious ones – rather than hotels and food. In fact, a majority of Chinese tourists visiting Paris stay in cheaper accommodation outside the city.

Chinese visitors are clearly enticed by those very French flavours of romance, history, luxury and quality. But competition is hotting up, Euromonitor warned.

European countries face a greater deal of competition for Chinese travellers from other Asian destinations, as well as from the US and Australia. It is therefore important for European countries to market Europe in China in order to continue its prestige reputation and to inspire Chinese travellers to pay the higher costs involved in travelling to the region.

So China may come to Europe’s rescue after all. But rather than through the bond market, it’ll be via the baggage reclaim.

Read full article here.

The Chinese Language Institute


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