The UK China Visa Alliance states that 284,000 visitor visas were issued in China from October 2012 to September 2013, a 40 per cent increase from the same period in the previous year. Meanwhile the UAE, Malaysia and Singapore were among the top five international consumer nations by value in the UK last year.
While we’re traditionally geared up for major festivals like Christmas and Easter, the influx of international visitors is creating a new calendar of events that restaurants and bars are missing out on.
Huge spikes in demand during China’s Golden Week and Eid al-Fitr after the end of Ramadan are new opportunities for outlets who could be offering international customers a first class experience.
Indeed, WorldPay saw an increase of 20 per cent in card payments by Chinese visitors in last October's Golden Week while the opening weekend of this February’s Spring Festival has seen an increase of over 50 per cent in payments processed versus the same weekend in 2013.
Restaurants and bars need to pull out all the stops to be as attractive as possible to visiting customers, and as easy as possible for them to pay. Marketing added value services such as Dynamic Currency Conversion (which allows shoppers to pay in their local currency at the point of sale) can pay dividends when overseas visitors are planning their shopping trips. And simple things like letting Chinese shoppers pay using the card they want to, like China UnionPay, can make a huge difference to the whole hospitality experience.
Chinese visitors use social media extensively to find out about places they want to visit. To make the most of the revenue potential it’s vital to understand what Chinese visitors are saying before, during and after they visit. While a number of Western micro blogging sites such as Twitter are unavailable in China, native versions like Weibo and RenRen are extremely popular and carry a lot of weight, as do other online forums.
World Cup opportunities
This year’s FIFA World Cup takes place in Brazil which means a large number of matches will be played in the evening UK time. This is a major opportunity for the hospitality industry to appeal to a range of international visitors, here in the UK, who want to combine watching the action with a meal or a drink. Outlets could be planning specific country-themed evenings to attract people from all corners of the globe. Managers should also consider employing VIP services such as taxis to and from the restaurant or hiring multilingual employees’ behind the bar.
Assumptions about international consumer behaviour are often based on stereotypes. Yet, the reality is that international consumers are often more sophisticated than their domestic counterparts, and expect a standard of service that starts long before they leave home.
It is easy to think about tourists as a one-shot opportunity, assuming they visit a restaurant or bar once and then do not return. But outlets should treat them exactly the same as domestic consumers, by establishing a relationship with them digitally, and offer specials based on sales history and insight. This is particularly important for chain restaurants and bars as many visitors travel around much of the UK when they come to visit.
So rather than focusing too much on Valentine’s Day or a wet bank holiday weekend, tune into the international consumers’ event calendar and tap their enormous spending potential.