I just returned from my family’s annual vacation and thought I would re-post this article from last year.
This picture of me was taken on our family vacation. If you had been in the Adirondack mountains with me when I climbed a telephone pole, stood on the top and then jumped to this trapeze, you would remember how terrified I was and how I kept saying ” I can’t do it, I can’t do it”. My family was encouraging me and I remember thinking to myself – I have to take a deep breath and just do this.
And after I grabbed the trapeze and was lowered to the ground, my heart was beating a mile a minute and I was so proud of myself. I have thought back to that challenge several times over the past year when I have had to try something new.
Why am I mentioning this to readers looking for information on tourism sales for your property? Because if you are going to pursue the growing and lucrative Chinese market, you will have to get comfortable outside your comfort zone.
When I was working at Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance in 2007, I knew that some of our partners and other tourism attractions around the state were pursuing this new market of Chinese group tours. Tradeshows for Chinese operators were springing up and people would come back from the show saying that they had translators for the sales appointments because none of the tour operators spoke English and that the meals featured ‘unique’ foods. I remember thinking that I would never be able to work in that market!
Times change, and so do jobs. As the Tourism Sales manager at the Corning Museum of Glass, I knew that I would have to become very familiar with our top Chinese tour operators. The first time I went by myself to Chinatown, I was a nervous wreck. I took a cab and stepped out into another world. There are fish markets next to stands selling clothes, people rushing around and signs in Mandarin. Even though the staff at the tour offices all spoke English, they would speak Mandarin among themselves. And sometimes I had problems understanding their English. But I knew I had to establish and build relationships, so I continued to go.
I have never been good at using chopsticks, but I persevered. My tour operator friends would smile and ask if I would like a fork, but I declined. I needed to be outside my comfort zone and figure out how to get food to my mouth with chopsticks. I also learned to try all types of new foods. Authentic Chinese food is actually very healthy and fresh. There have been a few items I have tried over the years that I didn’t love – chicken feet top that list, but at least I tried them.
The language differences can seem overwhelming as well. You have to become comfortable with standing in a group of Chinese and have them all speak Mandarin. In the beginning, I felt very self-conscious, but over time I am comfortable. Always someone will take the time to tell me what they are talking about.
Be willing to step outside your comfort zone to gain new business for your attraction. I bet you will look back in a few years and be amazed at what you have accomplished!
Notes by Catherine: When I read this I immediately thought of many people’s questions, reservations and sometimes even fears as related to social marketing. How can you use your marketing savvy and turn it into a comfort zone for your own social savviness?
Social Marketing Strategies for Travel and Tourism