When the huge global travel conference ILTM China opens at the Shanghai Exhibition Center on Oct. 31, among the first-time exhibitors will be the Canadian luxury railroad brand Rocky Mountaineer. The privately-owned train company offers an “all glass-domed fleet” to afford its guests 180-degree views plus “historic storytelling, world-class cuisine and a first-hand look at the vast and untouched wild beauty of the Pacific Northwest” on trips that range from a weekend to three weeks, according to its brochures.
Why is the Chinese market important to you right now?
China is the second largest source of tourism into Canada. So we started to look at that market and we’ve seen how outbound tourism is increasing and how important China is and the evolution of the Chinese tourist as well. …We have a long-term strategic plan that includes an approach into China…we, as an organization, have an aggressive growth target….We are taking a long-term approach and we are looking at China to build up to approximately 10 percent of our volume by 2022.
What are your hopes for the ILTM conference?
We hope to identify new potential partners and to strengthen the relationships with existing partners…We hope to create awareness of our product. We definitely have a sales presentation…a couple of short videos on the [company’s higher-end] GoldLeaf products and the two-day rail trips, and they really highlight the journey in the Canadian Rockies—from the dining experience, to the storytelling, to the scenery—that’s what we’ll be showing to our partners.
Have you created any special trips for the Chinese market?
We are taking a long-term strategic approach with the goal of ramping things up by 2022—we want to get it right. So we have some dedicated Chinese tourist departures. We started with two in October of 2017, five in 2018 and 18 are scheduled for 2019. We will be delivering those experiences in Mandarin.
It would detract from the experience of [our Chinese audience] engaging in the stories if you had to translate the stories from English to Chinese….When it comes to the wilderness, if a host was translating, and you saw a bear, you might pass the bear by the time you heard the translation!
Will you offer Chinese tourists new menus?
We will be making some modified tweaks with our food as well. In general, the Chinese do want to experience the local cuisine, but we’re giving them some additional options, [on some of the higher-end excursions] ….We will be offering Chinese comfort food like a noodle-type dish or dumplings.
Any other special accommodations?
[Guests take the train by day and check into hotels in the evening, so] in the hotels, they are offered two beds rather than one big one. We see multi-generational families come on board, which is different from Western markets. We’re getting to see grandparents, parents and children all coming together. It’s lovely to see that family connection… It’s heart-warming.