With an estimated 66 million Chinese tourists who will travel overseas this year, China has become the world’s third-largest source of international tourism revenue. Unfortunately, most multinational hotels, airlines and luxury retailers are unprepared to handle the needs, expectations and numbers of Chinese tourists, according to travel and tourism experts interviewed this week on Thoughtful China. Bruce Ryde, general manager of InterContinental Hotels’ Hotel Indigo Shanghai on the Bund, said: “The biggest issue is language.”
The western tourism industry has only recently started to realize the importance of having collateral and hotel/restaurant information translated into the Chinese language. However, due to the cultural differences, a “direct” translation usually doesn’t work well. A careful approach to copywriting for Chinese menus and brochures is required.
Here are a few things that require close attention when translating tourism-related content into Chinese:
- Make sure you understand where the precise locale of the target Chinese market is and use an appropriate local copywriter who is familiar with the linguistic style of the required locale. This goes beyond the differences between simplified and traditional Chinese. Chinese in different regions of mainland China has its own style and special terms. Also, marketing content is much more area sensitive to locale-based differences than technical documents. The following list shows some of the differences in popular tourism-related words between mainland China and Singapore. Simplified Chinese is used in both locations:
- Chinese: 华语（Singapore）/ 普通话 or 中文（mainland China）
- Air Terminal: 搭客大厦（Singapore）/ 候机楼（mainland China）
- Tissue: 面纸（Singapore）/ 纸巾（mainland China）
- Be very careful with the “tone” selected for your Chinese translation. Chinese tourists are sensitive to “implied” meaning. The appropriate use of courtesy words will make them feel respected in foreign countries. When you translate a sentence like “Guests are not allowed…” , it should be modified to “Please do not…”. That way, Chinese travelers will feel more comfortable and be willing to follow guidelines and instructions. However, for anything that is legally “taboo”, a strong tone must be used. So Chinese travellers can sense the enforcement behind it.
- Conduct extensive market research for brand names. I’ve talked about the importance and general rules in this area in my previous blog Top 7 Tips for Effective Chinese Copywriting. Here, I list a few good Chinese tourist destination names:
Yosemite – 优胜美地, which means “fantastic views”. The name itself is attractive;
CHAMPS ELYSEES – 香榭丽舍, these Chinese characters stimulate a sweet and romantic feeling;
Jumeirah – 卓美亚, the Chinese name emphasizes the outstanding qualities of the property, which perfectly match the hotel slogan “Stay Different”.
- Try to avoid words that may bring negative feelings. “Junior Suite” is common in English. But the direct Chinese translation 小套房 sounds “cheap”. So we usually recommend 标准套房.
- Add some additional Chinese information when necessary. Due to the many differences between eastern and western cultures, the literal translation from the English content is usually not enough. Additional information added to shopping guides will help the Chinese travellers understand the local culture and market better. As a result, Chinese tourists and guests will then are willing to purchase more local crafts, as well as other products. Also, appropriate additional details about the chefs and food courses will influence Chinese tourists to spend more money in local restaurants.
In summary, Chinese is a rich language, layered with many meanings. The use of idioms or Chinese proverbs can enhance your message for the Chinese marketplace. Sentence and paragraph structure in well-formed Chinese may be starkly different than your source language materials. All of these issues must be carefully considered by your translation services agency or localization partner. Highly qualified Chinese linguists with an up-to-date grasp of current connotations associated with popular Chinese words are essential to successful Chinese copywriting and Chinese translation and localization.
Chinese market and language resources
For general issues related to Simplified Chinese, visit our webpage on Simplified Chinese Translation Quick Facts. To further explore issues specific to Chinese translation and Chinese localization you may wish to review two of our previous blogs: