Posts tagged learn Chinese in China
Posts tagged learn Chinese in China
Bryan Herbert, CLI Immersion student, first came to China through James Madison University on a three month study tour. However, after the three months were over he felt something was missing. He had a hunger for more culture, more language, and more of a local experience. Bryan writes in this week’s CLI Perspectives how that hunger drove him to return to China where he now lives, works, and studies.
Backpacking through China had been a dream of mine all throughout college. I wanted to see the beauty of China’s landscape and all the country’s unique faces. A dream, that while still in your head, seems like a wonderful, relaxing vacation, but once you put that dream on paper and purchase a plane ticket you begin to doubt yourself. Is this really what I want to do? I will be on the complete and utter opposite side of the planet!
I first came to China with James Madison University. I studied Chinese business and traveled for three glorious months. I can officially say that I have seen more of China than I have of the United States. But, after three months of having seen most of the country, and being spoon fed practically every step of the way, I was still left with a certain dissatisfaction in my heart, an emptiness that needed to be filled. I guess the adventure I was hoping to have was replaced by a lab experiment, where observations could only be made from behind a one way mirror and interaction with my environment was limited and difficult. Not to say I didn’t enjoy my summer seeing this wonderful place, but my hunger pains for adventure were uncurbed.
After a short return to America, I signed a teaching contract at a small private university in Wuhan, Hubei China. When asked why I chose to teach in Wuhan opposed to say Shanghai or Beijing, my answer was, “Have you ever heard of Wuhan?!” This was the adventure I had been waiting for. Most friends and family assumed I was going to a small town or even a village, but no. I was going into the jungle, and a concrete jungle at that. Wuhan, although not well-known outside the boarders of China, is a big, filthy, industrial city in the heart of China with about 12 million people. That’s right, 12 million! This is the REAL China. This isn’t the highly westernized regions on the coast of the China Sea, where life for a foreigner is certainly easy and lavish. This was the lifestyle that your average Chinese was used to. That is what I wanted.
After my arrival and the initial few days of regret, I was starting to warm up to my new home. Wuhan, lacking in a much needed system of metro lines, is quite the task to explore. That being said, after six months living here, I still have not seen half the city. A Wuhan specialty, hot dry noodles, has stolen my heart. A mixture of sesame paste, soy sauce and vinegar served over flash boiled noodles with pickled vegetables quickly became my meal of choice for breakfast, lunch or dinner – sometimes all three. This “working class” meal can be found all over the city with everyone claiming to have the best recipe. While competition is fierce, the art of making hot dry noodles is highly respected. For a taste of this commonplace working man’s breakfast, one must venture into the heart of Wuhan. No other city in China does it quite the same.
During the bitter cold winter in Wuhan I decided to retreat south to Guilin for a month of relaxation, warmth and intense Chinese language studying. In comparison to Wuhan, Guilin has quite the delectable staple noodle dish as well. Guilin rice noodles are a force to be reckoned with. They are a sauce mixture of savory and sour with mouth watering pork slices – this meal can also be enjoyed at any point of the day. Although the two cities of Guilin and Wuhan share equally delicious foods, they are quite different as cities. Guilin is a wonderful combination of local yet urban, Chinese yet cosmopolitan, and fantasy yet reality. The majestic mountain ranges that seem to be straight from a J.R. Tolkien novel are seamlessly woven throughout the city.
The city provides many local parks which are great for day hikes to the top of these peaks – you will want to climb as many peaks as possible as each one provides a unique view of the city. You don’t have to go too far from your door to find landscapes that leave you questioning the busy world around. After my stay in Guilin, it was a grueling wake-up call to return to the place I had been calling home, Wuhan. I will surely be going back to Guilin soon, as the strides I was able to make in my Chinese language ability were off the charts.
As for the people of Wuhan, the subtleties of their daily lives are certainly foreign and largely varied. From one side of the city to the other, as well as from lower class, day worker to the upper class, government official one can see there is something that inherently makes everyone Whuanese, and, in parallel, something that makes them all so different. The simplistic life that so many people embrace is strange given the fast paced, ever-growing city they live in. For example: the hundreds of men and women who scatter the city to independently sell roasted sweet potatoes, day-in and day-out, from recycled 55 gallon drums. But, those who have risen to the occasion and already reached the top can easily be spotted in their flashy cars and overpriced clothing. The struggle of those trying to climb the social ladder at an insurmountable pace is from time to time saddening. However, you almost always see a hint of a smile on their faces as routine work, no matter what it may be, does not keep them from enjoying the pleasures of life.
I hope to return to Wuhan sometime in the future, expecting to see a city quite different city from the one I lived in. I will miss this place when I go, but I will take with me the memories of the things I have seen, the people I have met, and the lessons I have learned.
The lunar calendar is coming to an end, meaning it is time to celebrate one of China’s most traditional holidays. Chinese New Year (also referred to as the Spring Festival) marks the end of the winter season and the beginning of a new Chinese Zodiac.
When it comes to learning a second language, simply being intelligent doesn’t guarantee success. Mastering a second language requires a unique form of discipline that will get you far no matter your age, education level, or prior experience. However, language learners often fall victim to five common mistakes that can be easily avoided with a little practice and insight. Being aware of these pitfalls will give you a jump start towards your language goals, whether you are aiming to study Chinese or any other foreign language.
In the coming years, it is predicted that about one-third of the Australian economy will be tied to Asia. This is the reasoning behind Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s call for all Australian students to learn Mandarin or another Asian language. As countries like China grow in economic power and global importance, Australians have a vested interest in maintaining a “working knowledge” of Asian culture and language.
As CNN’s Monica Attard reports, now is the best time for Australians to give themselves an edge in the “Asian Century.”
Gillard: Australia must embrace “Asia century”
29 October 2012 by Monica Attard | CNN
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard arrives to speak at the Lowy Institute on October 28.
Every Australian child should learn Mandarin, Hindi or other regional language as the nation’s future is tied to the rise of the “Asian Century,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in a policy speech on Sunday.
“Whatever else this century brings, it will bring Asia’s return to global leadership, Asia’s rise. This is not only unstoppable, it is gathering pace,” Gillard said in a long-awaited policy white paper entitled, “Australia in The Asian Century.”
The policy outlines 25 objectives Australia must achieve by 2025 to take advantage of Asia’s rise to boost the wealth of Australians.Chief among the goals are that every child learn an Asian language, in particular Mandarin, Japanese, Indonesian or Hindi, and that they leave school having studied Asian culture.
”Children in kindergarten now will graduate from high school with a sound working knowledge of Asia,” Gillard said at the Lowy Institute in Sydney where she unveiled the white paper.
The Prime Minister said “a hundred years ago we spoke of the working man’s paradise. Today we speak of the high school, high-wage road. We have always wanted to do it our way.
“We long saw Asia as a threat to all this - racially, militarily, and economically. Indeed this was precisely the moral paradox of the working man’s paradise. A hundred years ago, high wages meant white man’s wages. No more,” she said.
While the Australian economy has ridden high on the back of the mining boom and commodity sales to Asia, Gillard said the next economic wave will be pushed by the burgeoning Asian middle classes. Broadening technology in agriculture and raising the global rankings of Australia’s schools and universities will help meet increased regional demand from newly wealthy Asian neighbors, Gillard said.
“More middle class people than there are anywhere else on earth will want access to clean food, high quality food, high quality wine the same way we do. This is a huge opportunity for regional Australia. And we want people out there ready,” she told a media conference after her speech.
The Gillard government will create a new ministry of Asian Century Policy to drive the reforms across education, infrastructure, tax and regulatory reform.
If the objectives are met, Gillard predicts about one-third of the Australian economy will be tied to Asia, up from 25% in 2011, and the average national income will increase to A$73,000 (US$75,700) per person, up from the current A$62,000. The white paper notes that Australia will seek to stay competitive by abandoning its historic fear of low Asian wages and by becoming a “higher skill, higher wage economy with a fair, multicultural and cohesive society and a growing population.”
Kathe Kirby, the executive director of Asia Education Foundation at the University of Melbourne, says the paper sets out a deep vision for Australia’s future “which starts with our young people at school.
“It encompasses reform in the education sector, schools, universities, vocational education. It’s a much broader and deeper plan than we’ve seen to date. This is not a government report. It’s government policy,” she told Sky News.
Gillard also noted the broader geopolitical ambitions for Australia between military ally Washington and economically Beijing.
In tacit acknowledgment of the criticism of her government’s deference to the United States in Asia, she said “We have an ally in Washington — respect in Beijing — and more, an open door in Jakarta and Delhi, Tokyo and Seoul.”
“We in this paper are focusing on the huge economic transformations happening in our region. We are not focusing on the mature economy of the United States,” she later told a media conference.
The United States is Australia’s third biggest trading partner and a recent survey by the Lowy Institute shows a majority of those polled believe the U.S. to be Australia’s most important security partner.
Opposition party members are broadly supportive of the government’s ambitions for deeper economic and social engagement with Asia, but skeptical it can be delivered.
“It is full of laudable goals but not very many specific initiatives and certainly no commitment of money to any of them,” said opposition leader Tony Abbott.
“To some extent this government is scrambling to overcome some serious failures in its relationship with Asia,” he said, “most notably the early ban on uranium sales to India, only just reversed, and the catastrophic ban on live cattle sales to Indonesia, which still has ramifications.”
Polls show the Prime Minister’s goals for greater Asian engagement are broadly accepted by Australians. But there are caveats.
According to a Lowy Institute poll, a majority felt Australia did not fall into recession in the global financial crisis because of Asian demand for Australian resources. However some 56% thought there was too much investment from China and 63% were strongly opposed to allowing foreign companies to buy Australian farmland to grow crops or farm livestock.
Read full article here.
The eighth installment of CLI Perspectives is written by Immersion Program student Jason Rogers. Jason shares his story of trekking the Guilin countryside on bicycle. His 10-speed provided a front row seat to Chinese language and culture. Check out what Jason saw from the back of his trusty steed.
By Jason Rogers, CLI Immersion Program Student
The last time I rode a bicycle was over a decade ago, and it ended in the scar I still have on my right knee. So when Molin, a cycling enthusiast and one of the teachers at CLI, invited me to join her on a “quick, two hour” bike ride through the admittedly beautiful countryside surrounding Guilin, I agreed.
After about forty-five minutes of pedaling along the freeway, Molin and I turned off the paved road and onto a dirt trail. Except for occasional scooters or goods trucks, we were alone with the mountains. They rose up on either side like distant giants just visible in the mist. This is a place far older than me as a man and far older than Men. As Americans we rarely get the opportunity to experience this sensation, if we ever do. We’re told every day how important our affairs are, how urgent it is to drive the best car and drink the coolest cola. Looking at these mountains was like looking up at the stars. It’s a refreshing check on our bravado, a silent suggestion that maybe there are things bigger than us.
Even this trail, too, ended, and following a village girl who had volunteered to show us the way, we carried our bikes on our shoulders through rice fields and irrigation channels. Finally we came to a river where a ferry was waiting to take farmers across to another village on the other side. We paid the fare, smiled at the looks of disbelief from locals who had never seen an outsider, and boarded the ferry. Old fisherman on driftwood rafts smoked cigarettes and contemplated the river.
Matt Kao, CLI Immersion Program student, wrote this week’s CLI Perspective. Before coming to CLI, Matt had previously been introduced to the Chinese language and culture through his father, who was born in Taiwan. However, this time Matt decided to immerse himself in the Chinese culture by studying Chinese in China. Find out how Matt’s views on China grew after traveling and studying in China.
By Matt Kao, Immersion Program Student
To say China and America are different is stating the obvious. But, before coming to Guilin, I never thought I would notice so many differences. The little things were the most noticeable, but before you call me out for being cliché, big things were noticeable as well.
I first came to China with my family two summers ago. It was only for a week and a half and we rushed through as much of Inner Mongolia and Beijing in that timeframe as we could. My father is Chinese, so I have been in close contact with the culture. Spending two entire months in mainland China allowed me to seriously slow down and truly experience everything that was going on around me. My friend Kian, on the other hand, had never been to Asia and has no blood ties to China. He did not know what to expect.
As soon as we landed, we headed to our apartment where we were more than pleased to see how spacious, comfortable, and convenient our living space was. It was clear from day one that CLI took great care of their students.
I will never forget the next morning when we passed a few staring natives and CLI local director Molin told us, “Yeah…you might get a few looks while you’re in Guilin”. Some may feel these stares are meant to scare, but in reality they are purely curious. Most of these Chinese have never seen tourists or been out of the country. During my whole stay here, I have not encountered one impatient local who wasn’t excited or willing to converse with me in my surely frustrating, broken Mandarin. I wish New York City could treat their tourists the same.
Our first trip outside of Guilin was to the Longji Rice Terraces in Longshan. I wanted to soak in all of the beauty of the extremely unique landscape, but it was truly too widespread for me to take in at one time. I seldom experience that feeling. Photos don’t do justice to all of the incredible views and sights we have seen in China. The city of Longshan was literally built on a mountain. One could often experience vertigo moving from one shop to the next. On Saturday night, the entire town was eerily silent by 10 P.M. I have been to many countries in my life, but few can go from bustling during the day to completely dead at night like China often does.
Our next trip was to Zhangjiajie, the inspiration for the floating mountains in the American film Avatar. It was so interesting to see, firsthand, what helped cause a global sensation in all its glory. Once again, the scenery was incredible and the mountains were countless. At the park, I noticed a difference from American parks. Parkgoers were given much more freedom. At Zhangjiajie, there were boundaries surrounding the mountains, but they were quite small. It was awesome being so close to nature, but I realized American parks would never trust their customers with so much freedom. For example, monkeys were within an arm’s reach of me! Even in Guilin, there seems to be a greater sense of freedom.
We also went to Maoershan, a mountain within the city area of Guilin. Unfortunately, during our trip, the rain and dense fog prevented a typical viewing experience from the mountain top. Yet I and Kian agreed, there was something so refreshing and mysterious of the calm, soft mist. It was definitely a nice change from the everyday heat and humidity of Guilin. Before we reached the top, we came upon a memorial remembering WWII American airplane fighters who crashed on the mountain during the war. It was a fascinating feeling to be at a spot halfway around the world where our country’s bravest gave their lives for us. It was even more amazing to note that little to no foreigners have ever been to Maoershan. I can only hope more great experiences will come in my last weeks at CLI.
Last week, CLI adventured into Guilin’s countryside for an evening of swimming and dining. The beauty of studying Chinese in China is learning and experiencing the Chinese language and culture first hand. This trip gave students a chance to form their own opinion about life outside China’s main metropolises.
For a little escape from the summer heat, some CLI students took a refreshing dip in the village’s clean, flowing stream. Roaming goats, local crops, and Guilin’s famous karst topography provided a picturesque backdrop for the evening’s swim. After everyone was finished performing their best Michael Phelps impression, we dried off and prepared for a tour of the village before dinner.
As we walked through the village, we were greeted with curious stares, friendly smiles, and the occasional goose honk announcing our arrival. With no English being spoken in the village, students had the perfect setting to practice and tune their Chinese language abilities. As students found out, a simple 你好 turns even the most standoffish local into the most willing language partner.
We eventually found ourselves in the town center, where some of the local villagers had prepared dinner for us. The villagers’ hospitality was more than we could ask for and everyone agreed that the meal was 好吃. The evening culminated in a watermelon dessert, good conversation, and a peaceful silence that can only be found in the countryside.
CLI has previously shared articles about the trend of Westerners learning Mandarin at an earlier and earlier age. However, this trend is not just coupled to the typical classroom learning format. Families are getting creative with how their youngsters tackle this language.
Families are taking Chinese language Skype classes, purchasing Disney movies in Mandarin, and some are even selling their homes and moving to China. Yes, that’s right; some parents are actually moving their families to China.
Why make the immense move to study Chinese in China instead of studying in the US? “Mandarin competence takes 2,200 class hours, with half of that time spent in a country where it’s spoken, according to the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Service Institute…”
Read on to see how these ambitious families coped with the move and learning a new language.
To Improve Kids’ Chinese, Parents Head to Asia
26 June 2012 by Sarah Tilton and Joanne Lee-Young | The Wall Street Journal
Michael Roemer had never lived abroad before he took a one-year leave of absence from his job as an attorney, rented out his family’s Orinda, Calif., house, and moved to Chengdu, a city in western China, in 2010 with his wife and two children.
Mr. Roemer’s goal: to give his kids, Erin and Conor, an up-close look at China and an edge in what is fast becoming a must-learn language. “Speaking Mandarin is important,” says the 57-year-old Mr. Roemer.
The Roemers are among a growing group of Westerners going to great lengths to give their kids a leg up in Mandarin. With China’s rising global influence, these parents want their children to be able to communicate fluently with the country’s 1.3 billion people. The phenomenon is similar to what happened in the ’80s, when Japan’s economy boomed and there was a rush to learn Japanese.
But this time, after-school classes aren’t enough for some people. Families are enrolling their children in Mandarin-immersion programs that are springing up from California to Maine. They are hiring tutors, Skyping with teachers in Beijing and recruiting Chinese-speaking nannies. Some are stocking their playrooms with Disney videos in Mandarin—not to mention the iPhone apps aimed at making kids into Mandarin speakers.
Of learning Mandarin, Mr. Roemer says, “mastering that challenge gives [the kids] a great deal of confidence.” Learning Chinese, he adds, is “good for the brain.” Still, he says it was stressful watching his children struggle in a place where at first they didn’t understand much of what was happening at school.
Now back in the U.S., the Roemer kids say they value that year in China learning Mandarin, even if they can’t quite keep it up now. “It was cool living in a foreign country” for a year, though achieving command of Mandarin’s tones remains difficult, says Erin, age 9. Her 11-year-old brother Conor says he likes being able to switch into a different language when he doesn’t want other people—like his father—to understand. “Sometimes my dad doesn’t know as much as we do, so if we’re talking about his birthday present we can keep it from him,” Conor says.
Recruiters say Mandarin gives candidates an edge in the job market. “When it comes to Mandarin speakers, we don’t have them [in the U.S.], so does it give you a competitive advantage to have it? The answer is yes,” says Michael Distefano, a Los Angeles-based senior vice president at executive recruiting firm Korn/Ferry International . Mr. Distefano’s own son is studying Mandarin in high school, with an eye towards possibly working in Asia.
Jim Rogers, 69, and his wife, Paige Parker, 43, sold their New York City home and moved to Singapore in 2007, specifically so their children could grow up speaking Chinese. The couple now rent a house across from Singapore’s Botanic Gardens. The address positioned them to get their 9-year-old daughter, Happy, into a top local school called Nanyang Primary, where core subjects are taught in Mandarin. Her sister, Bee, 4, attends Nanyang Kindergarten, where instruction is completely in Mandarin for two years.
Mr. Rogers, who started Quantum Fund with financier George Soros, doesn’t know Mandarin and had never lived in Asia. But he says it’s crucial for his kids to learn Chinese naturally from the start. “This is going to be the century of China, so we’re preparing them,” he says.
Mandarin is notoriously difficult to learn. The language is tonal, and fluency requires mastering thousands of characters. Mandarin competence takes 2,200 class hours, with half of that time spent in a country where it’s spoken, according to the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Service Institute, whereas Spanish can be learned in 600 to 750 class hours.
Educators say there’s no one right way to learn Mandarin. Jeff Bissell, head of the Chinese American International School in San Francisco, says teaching is “evolving” as metrics and standards are established. He applauds efforts to get students to China to learn Mandarin, which he calls “a major strategic priority.”
What happens after moving back from China is another matter. Jim Cashel and his wife, Anne Ching, a fourth-generation Chinese-American who never learned Mandarin growing up, moved from Sonoma, Calif., to Chengdu in 2009 with their two daughters. Their goal: to learn Chinese and experience China.
Since moving back to Sonoma in 2010, Ms. Ching and her older daughter regularly Skype with a teacher in Chengdu to maintain their Mandarin. But there’s no real chance to practice Mandarin otherwise, acknowledges Ms. Ching. “My whole approach is I’m just going to keep working on it for the next decade,” she says.
Among parents considering a move to Asia for a year is Jeff Baird, a hedge-fund manager who lives in Berkeley, Calif. In April, he took his wife and two daughters, ages 3 and 6, on a tour of Taipei and Singapore to see schools and research the idea.
His wife, Millie Chu-Baird, is Chinese-American but can’t read or write Mandarin, having grown up in Columbus, Ind. “More than just instilling Mandarin into them, we would want it to be about giving them the joy of experiencing the language overseas,” says Mr. Baird.
In Singapore, the Bairds visited Mr. Rogers, Ms. Parker and their daughters to discuss the best place to learn Mandarin. As the playdate progressed, Happy Rogers was asked to name the hardest thing about learning Mandarin. She replied, in Mandarin: “Oral tests. And composition. And comprehension. And Q and A.”
Her mother, who doesn’t speak Mandarin, stared at Happy uncomprehendingly. After a reporter translated Happy’s answer, her mother said, “So basically, everything?”
“Yes,” Happy nodded.
From airlines to retail and real estate, CLI has covered many recent news stories about the innumerable ways in which learning Chinese can open doors to success in the competitive world of employment. China is without doubt the most important market in just about every contemporary industry, and tourism is one of the fastest growing. According to the Huffington Post, “More than a million Chinese visited the U.S. in 2011, contributing more than $5.7 billion to the U.S. economy. That’s up 36 percent from 2010…. By 2016, that figure is expected to reach 2.6 million Chinese.”
A combination of Chinese speaking ability and knowledge of Chinese culture is invaluable in this new global context. Rich Harrill, director of the Sloan Foundation Travel & Tourism Industry Center at the University of South Carolina, said it best: “We’re not as ready as we should be. We don’t have the language skills. We have an opportunity to be on the ground floor of something that could be very, very big.”
CLI’s bottom line? It’s never too late to enroll in a Chinese language program to get that competitive edge.
At US hotels, Chinese treated to comforts of home
June 21, 2012 by Meghan Barr | Huffington Post
NEW YORK — Major hotel brands are bending over backward to cater to the needs of the world’s most sought-after traveler: the Chinese tourist.
Now arriving on American shores in unprecedented numbers thanks to a streamlined visa process and a rising Chinese middle class, Chinese tourists are being treated to the comforts of home when they check in at the front desk. That means hot tea in their rooms, congee for breakfast and Mandarin-speaking hotel employees at their disposal.
Chinese “welcome programs” at reputable chains like Marriott and Hilton even address delicate cultural differences: No Chinese tour group should be placed on a floor containing the number four, which sounds like the word for death in Mandarin.
“They’re very relieved, like finally somebody’s doing these things that make sense,” said Robert Armstrong, a sales manager who handles all bookings for incoming Chinese travelers at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. “Finally somebody’s catering to them.”
More than a million Chinese visited the U.S. in 2011, contributing more than $5.7 billion to the U.S. economy. That’s up 36 percent from 2010, according to the Department of Commerce. By 2016, that figure is expected to reach 2.6 million Chinese.
In a striking departure from the traditional Chinese business traveler, a growing number of them are simply coming to America for fun – with lots of cash on hand. (The average Chinese visitor spends more than $6,000 per trip.)
And so hotels are openly competing to win the hearts of the Chinese, who generally travel in large groups and stick to a tight itinerary, often packing multiple cities into a two-week American tour. What they’re looking for is a hotel that makes them feel at ease with their surroundings, said Roy Graff, a travel consultant who educates hotels in proper Chinese culture and hospitality.
That may take the form of slippers and a tea kettle in the hotel room or a Mandarin-speaking employee at the front desk – or all of the above.
“They drink tea. Eastern style, everything cold,” explained Charlie Shao, president of Galaxy Tours, a New York City-based Chinese tour agency, who used to frequently request special amenities for his clients. “They don’t walk inside the room with bare feet.”
It’s rare that Shao has to ask hotels for anything anymore. Marriott International, for example, now offers not one but several Chinese breakfasts, depending upon which region of China the traveler hails from: there are salted duck eggs and pickled vegetables for eastern Chinese, for example, and dim sum and sliced pig’s liver for the southerners.
Major chains are also training employees to avoid cultural missteps that would offend a Chinese visitor. Superstition is a big one: Red is considered a lucky color, along with the number eight, which signifies wealth. The color white, meanwhile, is frowned upon, not to mention the cursed number four.
Failing to respect the pecking order in a Chinese group is another common blunder by hotels that have limited knowledge of Chinese culture.
“We try to make sure nobody’s on a higher floor than their boss,” Armstrong said. “Even if the boss is on a beautiful suite on the eighth floor, if the assistant is in a standard room on the 38th floor, it doesn’t translate.”
As hotels fine-tune Chinese outreach stateside, the race is on to build loyalty within China’s borders.
Last year, Starwood Hotels – which has a Chinese “specialist” at each American hotel – relocated its entire senior leadership team to China for a month. The Ritz-Carlton rotates general managers and other hotel staff into its Chinese hotels for three-year stints at a time. And both chains are banking on the success of their customer rewards programs, which have been a big hit in China.
“It’s important for our leaders to understand what’s going on there at a more personal level than just the statistics,” said Clayton Ruebensaal, vice president of marketing for the Ritz. “Everybody’s going after this market because of the sheer volume of luxury customers. At the same time, it’s a very crowded landscape.”
In response to the surge in Chinese visitors, the State Department decided earlier this year to spend $22 million on new facilities in several Chinese cities and add about 50 officers to process visa applications. And in February, the U.S. government announced that Chinese visitors who had obtained an American visa within the last four years did not have to reapply in person but could apply via courier instead.
As a result, visa interview wait times in China are currently just under a week – compared to last year’s average of more than a month.
But some experts say the U.S. still lags far behind other countries, especially in Europe, when it comes to attracting Chinese tourists. Despite President Barack Obama’s recent push to promote tourism, America is woefully ill-prepared to welcome China at an industry-wide level, especially at restaurants and major attractions, said Rich Harrill, director of the Sloan Foundation Travel & Tourism Industry Center at the University of South Carolina.
“We’re not as ready as we should be,” Harrill said. “We don’t have the language skills. We have an opportunity to be on the ground floor of something that could be very, very big.”
Read full article here.