To promote the establishment of English-friendly environment in Tainan’s hotels and hostels, Office of English as the Second Official Language of Tainan City Government (OEASOL) joined hands with Silks Place Hotel to hold the 2018 Seminar on Building an International Environment & Promoting International Marketing for Tainan’s Hotel Industry on Sep. 3.
The seminar featured two keynote speeches delivered by Ms. Gina Tsai, the Head of Public Policy in Hong Kong and Taiwan at Airbnb, and Mr. Rong-Tang Chou, Director of the Tainan Homestay Culture Association, respectively. The former addressed issues of achieving effective international marketing for local hotel operators; the latter drew on his personal experience to exemplify how to build an ideal hostel environment for foreign travelers. With the speakers sharing their practical experiences and know-how, Tainan City Government hoped to help local hotel and hostel operators establish a truly international environment and further highlight their advantages while marketing Tainan's distinctive features worldwide. The seminar was well received by the participating hotel and hostel operators with all the seats occupied.
Ms. Rebecca Lee, General Manager of the Silks Place Hotel, noted in her opening remark that the relationship between hotels and hostels should not be competitive, but cooperative. There are things for both sides to learn from each other. “The best blue ocean strategy for Tainan's tourism industry is for all the hotel and hotel operators to join hands to build an international environment.” Lee was happy to see everyone in the hotel industry gather together and exchange ideas.
Mr. Rong-Tang Chou shared his own experience of building an English-friendly environment for foreign tourists in his Caoji Book Inn. Such approaches included providing bilingual registration cards and signs, and offering a multilingual website with Chinese, English and Japanese versions, which enables foreigners to browse and make reservations easily. Chou said that although he does not speak good English, he is still able to host guests from more than 10 different countries. He encouraged fellow operators of hotels and hostels by saying, "Not only do we want to introduce Tainan to the world, but we also want to invite the world to visit Tainan.”
Ms. Gina Tsai began her speech by analyzing the trend of global tourism. She explained that over the past 10-odd years, the market of global tourism has been rising due to the ending of the Cold War and other reasons. At present, Taiwan's tourism industry only accounts for roughly 2% of our GDP, while some other countries have more prosperous tourism industries that account for 10% of their GDP. This sharp contrast means that Taiwan's tourism industry still has considerable space for growth. On a more optimistic note, there is still a large market to be explored. The government can serve as the role of the consultant for the industry, and the industry should also enhance cooperation to create more business opportunities. Gina Tsai emphasized that foreigners generally consider B&B as merely a place that provides "a bed for the night and a breakfast.” However, B&Bs in Taiwan are integrated with local culture, which is a great appeal to numerous international backpackers.
Gina Tsai remarked that although people from Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong might be able to communicate verbally in Chinese, that doesn't mean they are necessarily familiar with reading traditional Chinese. Therefore, hotel operators should reconsider if there are clear and sufficient English signs and information in their hotels and B&Bs. Gina stressed that the bilingual signs should also consider readers' cultural background. Many English signs in Taiwan are translated literally from Chinese, which is hard for foreigners to understand if they do not have prior knowledge of the culture. Take the Bawan (Taiwanese meatball) as an example. She asked, "How would you introduce this famous Taiwanese food to Korean travelers with its look far different from their impression of meatballs?" She encouraged the audience to start thinking from the foreign tourists' perspectives. Hotel and hostels operators should familiarize themselves with shops and attractions near their establishments so that they can tell young backpackers where they can tag themselves on Facebook and why these places are worth taking photos and sharing on social media.
According to a report by Airbnb, the average age of active users on its website is under 33, and most of the respondents are also users of social media. In addition to showcasing characteristics of their accommodation, hotel and B&B operators can try to combine unique local cultural events, such as the Mango Festival in Yujing and the Beehive Firecrackers in Yanshui, to provide visitors with experiences completely different from before, which will be an effective means of promotion through their sharing on social media. Posting visitors' English review on Google Map, social media, and online platforms also helps to increase the number of travelers from Europe, America, and Southeast Asia.
OEASOL noted that Tainan, well-known for its historical buildings and delicious food, is the cultural capital of Taiwan. Many foreign travelers consider Tainan as a must-visit place because it represents the Taiwanese culture. The hotels and hostels therefore serve as the ambassadors of Tainan, welcoming visitors from all over the world with their friendly and comfortable accommodation. They are the embodiment of the image of Tainan. Therefore, since 2017, it has been assisting hotels and hostels to create English-friendly environments, such as making bilingual brochures and signs. Up to now 28 hotels and hostels have earned the English-friendly emblems by upgrading their environment. However, OEASOL believed that "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. " With this goal in mind, OEASOL hoped that through its joint effort with Silks Place Hotel, the hotel and hostel operators in Tainan will recognize the importance of building an English-friendly environment and learn the ropes about marketing themselves internationally. The ultimate objective is to build Tainan into an international city through the combined effort of the government and the local hotel industry.