“Embrace Chinese culture to get the best out of the East Asian market”

Zimbabwe’s tourism sector is losing thousands of dollars of potential revenue from the Chinese source market and needs to make a consented effort to fully grasp the East Asian culture into in their marketing strategies.

With a population of 1,4 billion which is around 20 percent of the world’s population, China occupies a special space as a major source of outbound tourism.

In 2016, the Chinese spent 261 billion in outbound tourism with 150 million travelling. At least 10 000 Chinese tourists visited Zimbabwe during the period.

“If we can tap into one percent of these outbound tourists then we are good to go,” University of Zimbabwe lecturer Tawanda Zimhindo told delegates during a Zimbabwe Tourism Authority workshop in Harare on Friday.

The workshop was being held to appraise the tourism sector players on the general Chinese cultural practices which impact on the way the East Asians do business.  

Zimbabwe is chasing an ambitious three million visitors by end of 2019 having received 2,5 million visitors in the previous year. 

“Making a first good impression is essential when working with Chinese audience,” director of Confucius Institute Herbert Mushangwe said.

“They are open to who they are referred to. They operate in a closed setting but they are open to those who give them the best results.

“Dress is not as formal in China as in some countries. Avoid white. The colour white represents death.”

Mushangwe said trampling on Chinese cultural practices knowingly or unknowingly can make or break a deal. The Chinese take four meals a day, the last one at 10pm, however many restaurants and hotels would have been closed by this time.

“Chinese eat as family sitting on a round table. They can choose a restaurant just because of the table, if a restaurant has a rotating round table that’s the best. In our tourism industry it’s something we should consider. At the moment it’s difficult to find a local restaurant with round tables. We are losing business,” he said.

“General cultural practices impact business. Don’t organise a meeting with them during a Chinese Public holidays. They will not come. Never argue about boundaries. Never talk about Taiwan and Hong Kong. Never discuss religion unless they initiate the conversation. Leave politics and religion.  Do not discuss business at meals.”

Mushangwe added that Zimbabwe’s best tourism asset to China was the country’s untainted nature.

“It is important for you to know the best thing Africa has to offer China is our nature and Environment,” he said.

“Chinese take pictures of the stars, moon, blue sky, the morning flowers under Jacaranda – its all an untapped market. But we are not utilizing this resource. Hotels are not offering these packages.  We need to show them the best of Zimbabwean culture. It’s a business we are losing.”

He encouraged Zimbabweans in business with the Chinese market to at least learn a bit of mandarin, a few compliments, and along the way teach them a few sentences in the local language – it’s a deal sealer!