Language is the main barrier for Chinese tourists. Hotels in Nepal should train their staffs in basic Chinese language and culture
Arrival of Chinese tourists outpaced the number of Indian tourists in Nepal in the first quarter of 2018. A total of 36,384 Chinese tourists visited the country in the first quarter of 2018. It must have been quite surprising change for India. Indian media highlighted this in April 2018. The Hindustan Times wrote that India had long been the top source of tourist arrivals for Nepal and now China has overtaken.
In May, Nepal Tourism Board launched an interactive tourism website [https://www.welcomenepal.cn] in the Chinese language to attract more Chinese tourists to support visit Nepal 2020. Some Chinese tourist guidebooks in China include Pokhara as one of the “top ten places in the world to see before you die.” This can be taken as an aggressive marketing strategy to attract more Chinese tourists.
Nepal has the potential to flourish as a popular destination for the Chinese outbound tourist segment ranging from trekkers to group visitors, to heritage tourists to gamblers and luxury travelers. Nepal can offer from the cultural homestay with a day trek in the remote village to luxury helicopter travel to Everest base camp, Rara Lake and other high Himalayan range.
According to McKinsey & Co, by 2020 more than three-quarters of China’s urban consumers will earn from 60,000 to 229,000 yuan (US$ 12,247 to $46,745) per year. This means nearly 400 million Chinese people are middle-class. The rise of middle class in China could mean the growth of Chinese tourists in Nepal. With high Himalayan borders, Nepal is only a few hours flight from the major Chinese cities. The inbound tourists who want to visit Tibet and Lhasa through the adventurous train could visit Nepal within an hour flight.
Cost of travel and other expenses for Chinese middle income group is much affordable. Besides, communication is much easier as English is not a big challenge for Chinese tourists. Nepal and Nepalis have positive impression of China and Chinese people since the two countries do not have major border disputes and political relation is as smooth. As a student in China between 2009 and 2013, I enjoyed a great opportunity visiting different parts of central China and many of them used to call me “a man from the country of Buddha”. This positive image could be cashed in to promote tourism.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Chinese tourists overseas spent $261.1 billion in 2016, up from around $10 billion in 2000 (the figure for 2017 is likely to top $300 billion) whereas American tourists spend $123.6 billion during the same period. To spend $261 billion, Chinese tourists make 127 million trips outside their country and their top destination was Thailand after Hong Kong and Macau. Expenditure pattern of Chinese tourists is different from American and European tourists. The Telegraph survey shows that Chinese tourists can fit in moderate accommodation, but love shopping in high end markets.
Course of action
Nepal should focus on middle class Chinese tourists, who generally love to travel in a group. We have plenty to offer them. Even though they love to try different foods overseas, they want their own food in one or two days to adjust. The group travelers love to explore the popular destination and buy souvenirs from moderate to high prices.
Developing customized product targeting the Chinese outbound tourists will provide new jobs and income to many people. Thus Nepal should initiate strategic marketing of our customized product like high-end Pashmina, singing bowl, hand-knitted clothes, handmade shoes, bags, tea, carpets and many more.
Nepal is a safe and wonderful destination. Nepali people are welcoming and generous to tourists. Our unique rituals and cultures especially Hindu festivals, Newari cultures and Jatra, temples, stupas, wildlife reserves, lakes, forests and mountains will definitely attract Chinese people. Currently, a lot of Nepali students are studying in different Chinese cities. Nepal embassy in China should mobilize them to organize and promote Nepal through Nepali cultural programs or by organizing Nepal Day. Nepali travel agencies should also offer competitive and attractive packages.
Language is the main barrier for Chinese tourists in Nepal. Thus hotels in Nepal should train their staffs in basic Chinese language and culture. People working in tourism sector should be well trained in Chinese, apart from English language. This will help Chinese tourists feel homely and comfortable. In the long run, Nepal should formulate strategies to attract more Chinese investment to help promote tourism industry in Nepal. If we can tap our potentials to attract even two to three percent of total Chinese globetrotters, it can really reshape our tourism industries.