Hotel chains were some of the first large companies to expand into the global enterprise sphere, and their goals in doing so were consistent across the board: attract global and national travelers. Reaching out to potential consumers in their native language is a great introduction into a new market; however, building a loyal consumer base requires creating localized content that has been deemed culturally appropriate, and this extends far beyond a standard word-for-word translation of content.
The global hotel market flourished in 2013, and that growth is expected to continue this year. According to Ernst & Young, 2014 is expected to be “a signature year for the hotel industry.” Three key areas that will witness significant growth from the hotel industry are presented below, as well as some tips on how hotel chains can effectively target travelers within each of these geographical markets.
The next several years will present a major increase in the number of visitors, as Brazil hosts two major international sporting events: the 2014 World Cup, with venues dispersed throughout the entire country, and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. To support the millions of expected tourists, Brazil is investing resources into building their hotel and hospitality foundation. With the high demand for hotels and restaurants, in anticipation of these events, international chains are making it a priority to enter this market. In doing so, these brands must consider that, while Brazil’s native language is Portuguese, millions of visitors will be from nations across the world—and these hotels and restaurants must be prepared to interact and communicate with people in a wide variety of languages.
The Asia-Pacific region, particularly China, is in a great position for growth in the hospitality sector. China maintains a strong holding in inbound tourism; culture is a huge differentiator in travel, and China boasts some of the most culturally significant destinations in the world. With recent international events, such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2010 Shanghai Expo already requiring the groundwork for a massive influx of visitors, the landscape for growth persists. Growing domestic travel will continue to affect international hoteliers attempting to build their presence in China. While Standard Mandarin is the official spoken language, almost 300 dialects and sub-languages are spoken. As a result, newcomers to the Chinese hotel industry must anticipate the intricacies of these different languages, and any cultural implications of marketing in one language versus another. Another important factor to remember when breaking into the Chinese market is that consumers in the region are highly price sensitive.
The Middle East
Chinese nationals traveling internationally will also have an effect on the growth of the Middle East’s budding hospitality industry, with cities like Dubai becoming popular travel destinations for the wealthy Chinese. The UAE is among the top five countries in the world for new hotel openings in the past five years, and with global interest in this area as a travel destination continuing to rise, the region will most likely maintain this standing. However, consumers local to this area expect customer service to be targeted and specialized—in their language, and reflective of their customs. Digital communication targeted to customers native to the Middle East must reveal a deep understanding of its many regional languages. While Farsi, Arabic, and Turkish are the most widely spoken languages in the region, other unique dialects and languages are found in the Middle East. Outside languages are also integrated with more common local languages—such as the presence of French in Lebanon.
Due to the intricate travel patterns and complex linguistic nuances present, the most important factor to building a dedicated and loyal consumer base in these emerging markets is to create a thoroughly localized web presence, paying close attention to local habits. Brands should define their language and content strategy up front, including the use of technology to create and maintain multilingual content for use internationally.
First impressions still have a definite impact on a consumer’s decision-making during an online purchase. For global travelers looking to book a hotel room for an upcoming trip, this first impression relies heavily on the ability to search in their native language on a site that feels organically tailored to their needs. If they are unable to comprehend the content on a hotel’s site, there is a high probability that their site visit will not convert to a sale. However, a multilingual website that allows potential consumers to browse in their own native language will undoubtedly enhance their experience, increasing the probability of a successful visit.