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Paul Franson

Paul Franson

At a recent CANVAS (Concierge Alliance of Napa Valley and Sonoma) seminar on Chinese visitors to Napa Valley, consultant John Stallcup provided many useful hints.

First, acknowledge the oldest person in the group with a very slight bow or nod. In China, seniority matters: the oldest person gets the most respect, so address them first.

Have staff who speak Mandarin if possible. “Learn a few key phrases (hello, welcome, thank you and good-bye) but don’t try to speak too much Mandarin or Cantonese as it will sound like Ebonics or Spanglish to us,” he said.

Translate all tasting room literature into simplified Chinese. Most Chinese travelers can read and understand clearly spoken English, but they are unable or uncomfortable speaking English. Speak slowly and clearly using basic English and body language.

Note that the most outspoken person or the one who speaks the best English may not be the “boss.”

The unprecedented rise of the new China has given confidence and national pride to the Chinese. Don’t bring up old stereotypes. Don’t mention Tibet or Taiwan.

Personal relationships are more important than laws and written agreements. Guanxi is a social concept of relationships.

To develop good guanxi, send hand-written cards to Chinese visitors. Keep in contact by email or mobile messages. Provide small thank-you gifts like corkscrews or lapel pins to remember you and your brand.

The worst thing that can happen to a Chinese traveler is to lose face. It is fairly easy to unintentionally “slight” a tasting room visitor and cause them to lose face.

Thrift is a virtue, so expect Chinese visitors to ask for a discount or deal. Luxury spending shows status but if you pay retail with no discount you lose face. Instead of lowering the price, provide small souvenirs.

Chinese tourists try to do as much as they can with the time they have. Have easy-to-identify places for “selfies” and posed photos. Props like fountains, artwork and winery signs are helpful.

Free easy-to-access WiFi is mandatory.

Avoid saying “no.”

Don’t interrupt anyone, even if you completely disagree.

Do not criticize anyone in front of others.

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Address the person by their honorific title and their family name if you know it.

Handshakes are the most common form of greeting, not kissing and hugging.

Everything should be handed with two hands. When giving gifts, give an even number or quantity. Any souvenir, food, wine or spirits or local products are popular but gifts are opened privately.

He warns, “If you remind a visitor from China of the cost of the tasting after they have seen the tasting room menu, it can be construed as a slight.”

Numbers and colors are important: 2, 6, 8 and 9 are positive.

The number 4 is very negative. The Chinese word sounds like the word for “death.” Never use in pricing (also combinations like 14, 40-49, 400 etc.)

Red is the color of happiness and good luck. It is the favorite color.

Black and white are the traditional color of funerals.

Gold symbolizes prosperity and luxury.

Wines given as gifts are red, expensive, famous, limited-production wines. These wines are seldom consumed for pleasure.

The wine Chinese favor is primarily inexpensive red, fruit-forward, with tea tannins or sweet.

The most commonly selected generic descriptors are smooth, fruity, sweet, mellow and lengthy aftertaste as well as commonly eaten fruits in China like citrus fruits such as pomelo and lime for white and sparkling wines, red fruits such as yangmei and dried Chinese hawthorns for red wines and jackfruit and longan for dessert wines.

Another speaker at the seminar, Adam Ivor of local firm Gliding Eagle, arranges wine shipment directly to Chinese visitors’ homes in less than two weeks. It also helps with social media in China. Its website is eagl.co and phone is (707) 815-3155.

25th Wine Industry Financial Symposium

More than 40 wine industry experts and thought leaders will examine trending topics at the 25th annual Wine Industry Financial Symposium on Monday, Sept. 26 and Tuesday, Sept. 27 at the Napa Valley Marriott & Spa. One big topic will be mergers and acquisitions. Registration is open at WineSymposium.com.

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Contact Paul at paul@paulfranson.com

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