It’s not just travel agents that benefit from educational tours, as Kuoni Group Travel Experts is planning a regular, annual business mission for hoteliers following a successful debut in China.
The world’s leading group travel provider hosted 20 leading hoteliers from nine European destinations on a visit to Beijing and Shanghai last month to learn more about Chinese travellers and their expectations when visiting Europe on group tours. Hosted by Marco Russi, Kuoni Group Travel Expert’s Vice President for Hotel Sourcing and Reservations, the whirlwind tour helped them understand how to better meet the particular needs of these visitors.
Says Marco: “As the biggest group travel provider in China, we bring a lot of visitors to European destinations and book hundreds of thousands of room nights every year. Many Chinese visitors are experiencing a long haul destination for the first time and to win more of their business, hotels need to reassure them of the welcome they will receive.
“Because of the size in our business in Asia, we can also help Europe’s hoteliers understand the nature of group travel in other countries with growing numbers of outbound tourists.”
Group travel is often the first choice for large numbers of newer travellers who want to explore longer haul destinations. It gives them the reassurance and security of native language tour guides, pre-planned meals and accommodation in hotels that are best able to meet their needs, alongside itineraries that ensure they enjoy the attractions and experiences they want. With economic growth in China, India and South East Asia helping to build large middleclass populations better able to travel long haul, Europe’s travel and hospitality industry is looking for advice on how to meet their needs.
Participants found the tour very useful in understanding some of the challenges that Kuoni Group Travel Experts can help them overcome. One of these was the language barrier as many Chinese travel agents have limited English. It is here that Kuoni’s locally employed Experts really come into their own, using their understanding of language, cultures, local regulations and consumer preferences to help European hotels succeed. Hoteliers returned with a wealth of ideas for improving their service for Chinese travellers – such as the kind of breakfast preferred and a desire for free Wifi – and a greater understanding of visa implications and the time needed to deliver operational excellence.
Jean-Philippe Gouet, IHG’s Key Account Director for Leisure Sales France rated the roadshow “five star”. Particularly valuable was the opportunity to meet with sales staff and key accounts, as well as get information about visa issues and consulate policies, direct from key embassy staff. Even meals were an opportunity to observe standards of service that the Chinese enjoy in their own country and so might expect abroad.
“All this,” he said, “will help us shape the right policies in terms of existing and new products and services to bring even more value from the relationship with Kuoni Group Travel Experts and benefit from this rapidly growing market.”
Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand – as well as the established source markets of Japan and Singapore – are all being considered for the next educational tour. Following the format of the China trip, hoteliers would meet with Kuoni Group Travel Experts who have developed close relationships with leading travel agencies and tour operators. They will hold meetings with these key businesses to gain insights into the standards of quality and service expected by their citizens when abroad. As well as learning about the size, value and peculiarities of the particular nation’s group travel market, hoteliers will have the chance to showcase their properties in a series of one-to-one appointments.