So, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty makes headlines by tabling his budget and high-tailing it to Asia.
Good call. He’s following the money.
Yesterday in this space I talked about a VISA credit card study showing how China was leaping up the ranks of countries in terms of spending in the U.S. Today I can report similar findings for VISA spending in Canada; data surely Mr. Flaherty is aware of.
The U.S. remains number one by a huge margin, with more than half of that spending: $3.49 billion in all. But just as China jumped from fourth in the U.S. last year to second, so it did in Canada. Figures show Chinese visitors spent $379 million on their Visa accounts last year, up 15.2 per cent from the year before.
The Canadian Tourism Commission (as well as the province of Ontario and Toronto and other cities and just about every tourism board in the world with its salt) has been courting the Chinese market. Canada also introduced new visas to make traveling and staying in Canada easier, and it appears to be paying off.
No doubt the panda public relations could help, too, now that Toronto is home to a pair of beauties airlifted from China this week.
In a less than shocking result, Visa found most Canadians spend their money abroad in February, March and August, while visitors tend to come here between June and September. Smart visitors.
Here’s a look at the ten biggest contributors to inbound tourism spending in 2012 and the ten biggest outbound markets for Canadians, all based on Visa card spending. It’s not a perfect snapshot of overall trends, but it’s probably pretty close in terms of market share.
- United States, $3.488 billion (-1.1 per cent)
- China, $379 million (+ 15.2 per cent)
- UK, $348 million (no change)
- France, $343 million (-2.5 per cent)
- Australia, $171 million (-7 per cent)
- Japan, $144 million (+ 2 per cent)
- Brazil, $141 million (+ 1 per cent)
- Germany $123 million (no change)
- South Korea, $121 million (- 11 per cent)
- Hong Kong, $102 million (- 4 per cent)
- USA, $11 billion (+ 4 per cent)
- Mexico, $591 million (- 1 per cent)
- UK, $477 million (- 5 per cent)
- France, $400 million (- 4 per cent)
- Italy, $281 million (- 9 per cent)
- Australia, $234 million (- 3 per cent)
- Germany, $161 million (- 2 per cent)
- China, $151 million (- 2 per cent)
- Spain, $145 million (- 4 per cent)
- Thailand, $139 million (+ 7 per cent)
MAJOR PEARSON IMPROVEMENTS
In order to make connecting through Toronto Pearson easier, it will no longer be necessary for people arriving in Terminal 1 and connecting onward to the United States to collect their checked baggage.
Pearson Airport officials today said checked bags "will be directed to your onward flight to the United States without a requirement to claim your bag in Toronto before proceeding to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)."
Air Canada officials say it'll make the airline "an even more attractive option for travellers connecting to the U.S."
It's a definite improvement, as the "claim your bags and proceed through customs" bit was a real slog for folks on connecting flights.
HOTEL WORKERS GET EVEN
If you’ve ever been rude to a hotel worker, you know they have ways of getting even. But an interesting study by the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business? shows that workers in different parts of the world react quite differently to hostile guests.
The study found that North American service workers are more likely to sabotage rude customers, while Chinese react by disengaging from customer service altogether.
“Our research shows that culture plays a significant role in how frontline workers deal with customer abuse,” says UBC Sauder School of Business Professor Daniel Skarlicki, a co-author of the study.
“In North America, employees tend to retaliate against offensive customers – doing things like giving bad directions or serving cold food. In China, workers are more likely to reduce the general quality of service they provide to all customers – nasty or nice.”
In their paper, to be published in the journal Personnel Psychology, Skarlicki and former Sauder PhD student Ruodan Shao studied how frontline employees at a luxury hotel with locations in Vancouver and Beijing reacted to customer mistreatment.
Although the level of abuse was consistent in both locations, North Americans resorted 20 per cent more often to sabotage to get revenge. Abused Chinese workers were 19 per cent more likely to feel a lack of enthusiasm in their jobs, responding negatively to statements like, “I voluntarily assist guests even if it means going beyond job requirements.”
“North Americans take a surgical approach to abuse, zeroing in on individuals who mistreated them,” says Skarlicki, noting that managers must be mindful of these cultural differences when expanding operations across the Pacific. “Chinese don’t blame the transgressor. They blame the system – the company or customers they serve.”
Skarlicki says the implications are clear. “When service-oriented companies go global, they need to heighten their sensitivity to how culture in a new market can influence the performance of frontline staff and tailor their customer service operations accordingly.”
FREE INTERNET FOR IHG LOYALTY MEMBERS
IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) announced today that it will be providing free internet to all its 71m loyalty program members, worldwide. The announcement comes as IHG reveals the results of a global online survey which show that nearly half of adults (43%) would choose not to stay in a hotel that charged for internet.
IHG also is renaming its loyalty program from Priority Club Rewards to IHG Rewards Club and introducing new benefits.
It's a smart move in a very competitive environment for hotel operators. The rewards program is free to join, so there's no reason not to set up a membership.
IHG said it's "the first and only hotel group to offer free internet in all hotels to all loyalty programme members." But that doesn't seem to be true.
Fairmont has been offering free Internet to its Presidents Club members for years. Kimpton, not as big a chain but still a player, has free Wi-Fi in all rooms and the lobby for loyalty program members. I suspect a few other groups, too.
Not to take away from a good move by IHG. But they're clearly not alone.
JAUNT.CA DEAL OF THE DAY
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