Kung Hei Fat Choi! Gong Xi Fa Cai! Happy Lunar New Year!

As the majority of the Asian continent celebrates the Spring Festival (or Lunar New Year) over the course of the coming days, I thought it might be interesting to share my thoughts on how Chinese New Year (CNY) impacts the tourism industry. I thought it may also be helpful to share some customs and observations that our non-Asian audience might find useful.

But first things first: what is the Lunar New Year?

Simply put, it is the Chinese festival that celebrates the beginning of a new year with reference to the traditional Chinese calendar. Other commonly used terms to describe the festival are the “Spring Festival” and “Chinese New Year”. The first day of the Chinese New Year falls when the new moon appears between 21 January and 20 February. In 2020, this will occur on Saturday, 25 January, initiating the Year of the Rat. The festival is not only celebrated in China, but other countries including Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Cambodia.

The festival brings with it a variety of traditions and customs, some of which are carried out on specific days after New Year’s Eve. For example, it is customary not to use brooms on the first day of Chinese New Year, as good fortune is not to be swept away. Another common custom is the giving of red packets, “Hongbao” in Chinese, to immediate family members at reunion dinners. These red envelopes are then often passed to unmarried members of the next generation.

For the tourism industry, Chinese New Year marks a sudden increase in trips and an influx of travelers as people return to their hometowns to spend time with family. With studies estimating 2.46 billion trips will be made by car, 413 million by train, and 73 million trips by airplane, it is little wonder the festival is sometimes referred to as “the largest human migration” each year. There are more than 500,000 scheduled flights in China alone during the holidays!

And while the majority of all these trips are domestic, an estimated 7 million Chinese will travel abroad throughout the CNY period, with countries in Southeast Asia among the favored destinations. Statistics from Ctrip, China’s largest travel website, revealed the top 10 most visited countries by Chinese tourists will be Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Australia, Vietnam, Indonesia, the United States, Malaysia, Philippines and Italy.

What does this mean for hoteliers?

If you read this prior to the festivities, you may wish to arrange special welcome amenities that will help provide a warm welcome to your Asian guests and boost activity on your social media channels. It may also be useful to stock up on kettles and other items frequently requested by Asian travelers. 2020 is the year of the rat, the first of a repeating 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac system. Preparing stuffed animals or toys in the shape of a rat or mouse for travelling children, or referencing such animals within welcome packs, can demonstrate a cultural awareness that will assist in driving loyalty and return visits. As can displaying Chinese ornaments, and using red and gold colors to decorate common areas within a property. But perhaps don’t go as far as to showcase a live rat in the hotel lobby!

It may also be beneficial to have your culinary team prepare a wider variety of Chinese or Asian dishes on your menus. Dumplings are the traditional dish of the Lunar New Year festivities and usually the first dish shared to mark the beginning of a new year.

And while it may be too late to install our multi-lingual chatbot solution that will break through language barriers and allow any of your guests to communicate with the hotel in their native language, it’s never too late to start planning for next year. Because a truly personalized experience can only be achieved when all guests can speak with you in their own language.

But in the meantime, simply sharing this article with your front line staff will assist in elevating their awareness of different cultures and the importance of the Lunar New Year festivities to many of your guests.

The entire SABA Hospitality team wishes you and your families a healthy and prosperous Year of the Rat! Kung Hei Fat Choi! Gong Xi Fa Cai!