For U.S. hotels hoping to attract big-spending Chinese travelers, it may start with learning to say "Nin Hao" but it's also about knowing the lucky numbers, unlucky colors, and which carafes to order for the coffeemakers.
The staff at the New York Marriott Marquis hotel recently got a crash course in how to welcome some of Amway China's 1,500 guests who won incentive sales trips to New York City in April.
"We replaced the carafes so these guests could make tea each morning," Kathleen Duffy, Marriott International's market director of public relations/NYC, told CNBC. "And we brought in Terri Morrison, author of 'Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands,' to give a course for managers to learn all the cultural things we need to be aware of."
From the days when its only Chinese visitors were high government officials, the Marquis had already assigned names (Royal, Pinnacle, etc.) to presidential suites on the 44th and 45th floors, because the number four is considered unlucky in Chinese culture.
But now that many more Chinese citizens are heading to the United States on business and leisure trips, Marriott International hotels, as well as Starwood, Hilton and many other lodging brands, are working harder to boost brand recognition and make the hotel visit a more important part of the Chinese tourist's visit.
The target market is big - and getting bigger.
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