Hilton Welcomes Chinese Travelers with New Program
Hilton Worldwide officially rolled out its much-talked-about Huanying welcome program for Chinese travelers Aug. 16 at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square. The program — available in four Bay-area hotels — was launched at 51 Hiltons in 13 countries worldwide.
Huanying is the Chinese word for “welcome.” Each hotel involved in the program trains employees who might contribute to the guest experience. While training is transparent, Chinese guests see services and amenities in three key touch points of the on-property experience: arrival, guestroom and breakfast experience
Hilton Worldwide is well-qualified to serve Chinese guests stateside. The company has nine Hilton Hotels & Resorts in China and plans to reach a total of 100 Hilton properties in the next five years.
“Hilton Huanying leverages our more than two decades of experience in mainland China and direct feedback from our Chinese guests, agents and operators,” said Dave Horton, global head, Hilton Hotels & Resorts. “As the growing number of outbound Chinese travelers explores key destinations around the world, they will find a warm, authentic welcome at Hilton.”
The company chose San Francisco as the rollout city because of its high visibility within the American and foreign Chinese communities. “San Francisco has been a Chinese top city destination for many years, it’s infused with Chinese culture,” Andrew Flack, vice president of global brand marketing, told a room crowded with media, hotel operators and local leaders for the rollout announcement.
San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee notes that the city has been courting Chinese businesses, most recently in the banking industry. Giving them a traditional experience during their stay is a bonus when the city is building foreign relationships.
San Francisco isn’t the only city, though, which benefits from Chinese-focused services. Charlotte, NC, for example, makes sense because the Chinese are interested in the banking and energy businesses located there.
The day-to-day experience of Huanying is organized around three highly practical points of service.
At the first touch point — check in — Chinese travelers are greeted by front-desk staff fluent in Chinese. There they receive an information packet with a welcome letter on, symbolically appropriate, red paper. Among other things, the letter introduces in-room Chinese television programming and offers instructions for calling China.
At the second touch point— the room — visitors receive white slippers. A black plastic tray on the wooden desk holds a stainless steel, electric Hamilton Beach tea kettle, two Styrofoam hot beverage cups, two bottles of water and a selection of three Bigelow teas — green tea, decaffeinated green tea and Chinese oolong tea. Chinese newspapers are available upon request.
And finally, at the third touch point — breakfast— Chinese and non-Chinese travelers alike can choose a traditional Chinese breakfast that includes congee with traditional condiments, a selection of dim sum, fried rice and noodles as well as a variety of juices such as lychee, mango and pomegranate. Congee is a rice porridge served with pickled daikon, chili radish, scallions, julienne ginger, diced tofu and Century egg.
Stanford Hotels is among the first Hilton franchisees to adopt the Huanying welcome program. Owner and operator of 13 properties under various flags, the company has introduced the program at six Hilton hotels.
“I absolutely saw that we had to be part of this,” says Linda Simpson, vice president of sales and marketing for Stanford Hotels. “We wanted the potential relationships and the revenue that could be driven.”
To get there, Stanford’s hotels, like all Hiltons in the program, engaged in training in service and culture. “There are many aspects and tenets that are taught, not just the three areas we saw,” says Simpson. “The other areas are more intellectual, emotional and relationship building.”
For example, communications are especially important to those on the front line like housekeeping and food service. “The nature of the way the Chinese speak is different,” she says.
“We need to be sure we don’t have any misunderstandings. Chinese are undemanding,” she notes. “They only hint at difficulties. We need to take that hint seriously.”
Employees were also trained in how to solve situations. “Always have a senior person speak to them and the resolution will be higher,” notes Simpson. “These are practical things for hotels to be able to make our customers comfortable.”
“We’re looking forward to [Huanying], this is a brand new market for our hotels and it’s exciting,” she says.
While the initial hotels are Hilton-branded properties, the program is available to all of Hilton’s brands, if they meet the standards and undergo training. The new program starts at gateway cities such as San Francisco, New York City and Vancouver along with foreign locations like London, Tokyo and Sydney.
Travelers can visit www.hilton.com/huanying to view a list of participating hotels. They can call their desired hotel directly to request special Hilton Huanying amenities and services in advance of their stays. Visitors to the site can also download recipe cards for traditional Chinese breakfast items found at hotels offering Hilton Huanying.
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