The year 2019 is destined to be a great year since Premier Li Keqiang made an official visit to New Zealand in 2017 and declared 2019 would be The China-New Zealand Year of Tourism.
Over the past decade, Hobbiton™ Movie Set has enjoyed a steady growth. Since 2016, we saw a sizable increase from the Chinese market, and as a result, decided to provide Chinese-speaking tours as a part of our standard tour product offering at Hobbiton in order to service this rapidly growing market. Our Chinese tours began in winter that year, with just two scheduled departures per day to meet demand, however, when it came to the following summer season, we increased this to four to ensure we were covering the majority of requests from agents and FITs.
To better cater to our China market, there are a few challenges to keep in mind:
With increased Chinese speaking visitors to Hobbiton, we had some difficulty with communications between customers and staff in different departments.
Chinese speaking customers were using different media platforms and payment systems, so our brand awareness through these specific channels needed to be enhanced.
Social Customs and Consumer Behaviour
The majority of Chinese travellers tend to travel to New Zealand within certain periods – Chinese New Year, Golden Week, Summer School Holiday etc; Payment methods have been changed greatly during recent years.
We’ve taken few measures to address these difficulties:
Build up Chinese Speaking Friendly Environment
Since we introduced our Chinese tour product, we planned to expand our front line Chinese speaking team from two Chinese speaking tour guides, to Chinese speaking staff assigned to major departments of the business. Our goal is to make Chinese speaking visitors feel welcomed and been taken care of through different touchpoints on the customer journey. For example, our fully functional Chinese website https://www.hobbitontours.com/cn(external link) provides our Chinese visitors with tons of useful information not just about Hobbiton Movie Set and its product, but about transport and driving, and other attractions across New Zealand.
Our Chinese speaking staff in the reservations team can help customers complete their bookings, answer any questions about Hobbiton and the surrounding area, and even address New Zealand related travel concerns.
Our Chinese speaking tour guides ensure the service delivery to our guests is smooth and enjoyable.
To make the experience consistent for our Chinese visitors, we increased our translated collateral to include an introduction to various products such as our Tour + Lunch Combo, FAQs about the tour, our Terms and Conditions as well as displaying dual language signs in Ticketing Office.
We have translated our drinks and cabinet food menus which are now available in The Shire’s Rest™ Café, and even added translated labels for our lunch buffet dishes in The Party Marquee.
And of course, most importantly, our Chinese Souvenir brochure which includes the story of Hobbiton Movie Set, and key facts about the tour. Each customer receives a copy of this souvenir brochure, which is also produced in 13 languages.
Chinese Cultural Awareness Training
To address Hobbiton staff questions and to educate them about Chinese customs, we hold Chinese Cultural Training events annually as a way to upskill our staff, and of course share some delicious Chinese cuisine! Within the session, we teach some of the easy but frequently used Chinese words in our premises, for example, 你好（Hello）, 谢谢（thank you）, 啤酒（beer）etc. As a result of this training, our staff gain a better understanding of Chinese culture, visitor behaviour and their expectations from Hobbiton.
Chinese Payment Methods
As cash and card have eventually stepped out of the main payment stage of China, consumers are now more inclined to utilise electronic payment systems like Alipay and WeChat pay through their cell phones. Hobbiton Movie Set increased their accepting Chinese payment systems form “UnionPay” only, to include Alipay and WeChat Pay both for website and walk-in sales. Chinese customers are now feeling much more at home since they do not have to bring large amounts of cash cash or different bank cards with them when travelling to New Zealand and visiting us.
Cooperation is the key
There is an old saying in China: “众人拾柴火焰高”, literal translation as “When everybody adds fuel, the flames rise high.”. For tourism businesses, not just Hobbiton, this is a chance for us to work together to look after our Chinese visitors and make the most of this opportunity.
Keep studying the China visitor market
To be able to continually improve our service for Chinese visitors, Hobbiton Movie Set needs to continue to research and improve our service offering where needed in terms of culture, language, regional development. A Hobbit’s work is never done!
Hobbiton Movie Set is committed to delivering the best experience we can and sharing our slice of real Middle-earth with visitors from all around the world. Just as it says on the back of our coaches, “Be transported to the enchanting village of Hobbiton”. We will be seeking continuous and incremental improvements through this special and meaningful year of 2019 China New Zealand Year of Tourism.