Accor is set to introduce Optimum Service Standards in New Zealand at a range of its hotels to cater for the country’s fastest growing tourism market, China.
The move follows New Zealand Prime Minister John Key’s call to upgrade services to Chinese visitors in order to attract a greater share of the market.
It also follows the report of an Expert Advisory Group that released a report into the Chinese inbound market earlier this month which “confirmed the need for New Zealand to change the way it approaches this market, if we want to realise the full potential value for visitors and for New Zealand businesses”.
The decision by Accor to instigate the Optimum Service Standards program followed extensive consultation with leading China tour and travel operators, and complements a similar program that Accor introduced to its Australian hotels two years ago.
Accor operates 34 hotels in New Zealand under brands including Sofitel, Pullman, MGallery, Quay West, Sebel, Grand Mercure, Novotel, Mercure and Ibis.
Initially, eight of Accor’s hotels will introduce the China Optimum Service Standards in three of New Zealand’s most popular destinations – Queenstown, Rotorua and Auckland – for the Chinese inbound market. Other destinations will follow later.
Under the program, Accor hotels will provide a range of services specifically designed to cater for the needs of Chinese guests. These include particular foods as part of the breakfast buffet, Chinese speaking reception staff, Chinese language TV and newspapers, concierge assistance and other services.
A key component of the China Optimum Service Standards will be training and education of front-line hotel staff about the cultural background of China and the specific needs of Chinese guests.
The Optimum Services Program for Chinese Visitation is fully accredited by an approved Chinese external organisation.
Last year, Chinese inbound to New Zealand increased by 24.7%, while Accor hotels recorded a 59% increase in Chinese guests in 2012 compared to 2011.
Accor’s Vice President for New Zealand and Fiji, Garth Simmons, said that it was highly encouraging that the Prime Minister had made upgrading services for Chinese tourists such a priority and initiatives such as Accor’s Optimum Service Standards would address the issues he raised.
“There has been talk of building ‘Chinese hotels’ in New Zealand, but that is not what the Chinese market wants,” Simmons said.
“They want a genuine Kiwi experience, but with services that make their clients feel comfortable, well-informed and welcome when they visit New Zealand.
“Many of the provisions of our Optimum Service Standards program are fairly obvious, but they do require a fair amount of investment in additional services, training and implementation. There is little point adding a few services, without a comprehensive program to support it. We want to train all staff to say basic greetings in Chinese and, just as importantly, to understand their culture and practices.
“We are fortunate to have access to a good supply of high-quality Mandarin-speaking staff who now live in New Zealand and, in many cases, have grown up here. That is an invaluable resource because their experience enables them to talk about New Zealand from a local point of view but in a Chinese native tongue.
“A number of our hotels have progressively introduced these services over the past year and that explains why we have had such success with the Chinese market, but the formalisation and accreditation of the program across the group will allow us a more comprehensive and consistent program.
“Accor is fortunate to also be one of the largest hotel groups in China, so Chinese travellers are familiar with brands such as Sofitel, Pullman, Grand Mercure, Novotel, Mercure and Ibis, which in turn makes them feel comfortable when visiting.
“With growth in air travel between China and New Zealand reaching record highs, and with Christchurch progressively returning as a major gateway city for Chinese travellers, we are highly optimistic about the potential future growth of the business.
“We want to congratulate Prime Minister Key on his Government’s initiatives to assist the Chinese inbound market. Extending the length of visitor visas and enhancing the Chinese language component of the New Zealand Immigration website all help, and now it is for the rest of the industry to innovate in the way they approach the Chinese market.
“We can’t underestimate the competitiveness of the market – all destinations are actively pursuing the market – but with so many natural and man-made attributes and attractions, as well as innovations such as Chinese Optimum Service Standards, we are well equipped to compete with all other destinations.”