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After graduating with a master’s degree in finance, Alex Wang founded his own company in 2002. Now, 15 years later, Chinatour International, Inc. continues to make strides as a trusted China operator.
We sat down with Wang and Ricko Tindage, wholesale accounts manager for the company, to learn about what makes their business so successful.
What is the story behind Chinatour?Wang: When I was working for the local travel agency in China, I visited almost every province in the country as a tour guide for all the international Chinese groups. That gave me a lot of firsthand experience on how each major Chinese city handles local tourism packages.
A few years later, we started serving the mainstream market, because a lot of Chinese emigrants have friends who only speak English. They were asking for recommendations. So, we got referred a few times and began to see how big the market was.
Where is Chinatour looking to grow its business?Wang: When we were a local tour operator, our business was mainly offline. For the future, I have several plans. The first one is to increase our business digitally. Second, we want to expand to different communities and demographics. For example, there are many people who speak Spanish here in the U.S. In China, the local hospitality industry is strong, so we can arrange different languages for tours with multilingual guides.
Tindage: We are also very aggressive in capturing the travel industry wholesale market. By networking with CCRA Travel Commerce Network, we are now one of their preferred suppliers. On top of that, we are trying to see what other groups we can join, while also financing marketing, online and in print media.
How important is feedback from travel agents?Tindage: It’s very important for us to get good feedback from the travel agent community because we are trying to break into the national scene. We want to make sure that we are travel-agent friendly, so we give as much as 12 percent commission on our online products and more on our customized itineraries. We also give bonus gift cards to the booking agents themselves, not to their agency. The agency will get that commission check, but to encourage loyal agents to book with us, we give them that extra incentive.
How does Chinatour differentiate itself from other tour operators?Tindage: We have offices in Beijing and Shanghai, but are headquartered in Los Angeles, so we are very flexible when dealing with travel agents. Not so many tour operators own their own operations in the country, so we have more flexibility with handling any problem or situation that arises during the trips.
We can also add in value. For instance, we handle a lot of upscale clients right now and provide limousine transfer from their home to the airport. Then we add value on the trips, like extra dinner or meals in certain places that are free of charge.
What role does customization play in your travel packages?Wang: We have a brochure every year, but that is mainly for reference. Customers can take a look at it but may decide that they will want to change one of the transportation options — to a train or a boat, for example. Maybe they want to stay longer or book a hotel by the Great Wall. We can design a new itinerary right away and provide new packages thanks to our on-the-ground resources.
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