Post by Grace Chiao
PHOTO: The Grand Gift Box of the Grand Hyatt Taipei
January 23 was the Chinese New Year, the most important festival and the longest holiday for Chinese culture. This year is the year of the Dragon; the celebration was extremely significant and tremendous. While all my families were celebrating the New Year overseas, I tried to seek the familiar atmosphere to make myself feel at home. Besides the dragon parades performed in Chinatown, I finally found it in a place I believe can be considered as a second home for travelers: hotels.
As New York City is ranked as the most popular destination for Chinese tourists, hotels around Chinatown, N.Y., provided various packages to attract them. Special discounts, free room upgrades, welcome cocktails and Chinese style décor—hotels wanted to make high revenue in this peak season of Chinese travelers. In Las Vegas, Nev., the third most popular destination for Chinese, most of the casinos and hotels had more ceremonious and authentic events to welcome Chinese tourists. I was surprised when I found out the celebrations in Vegas were the most tremendous and authentic compared to other cities in the U.S. In Vegas, a variety of dragon and lion dances are performed with live firecracker shows at different hotels, providing guests multifarious choices. Chinese musicians performed original music with special instruments including the erhu, ruan and pipa. Though the guests came from around the world, they were influenced by the vivid Chinese atmosphere easily.
While I was searching pictures and information of Chinese New Year’s events in the U.S on the Internet, I could not help but remind myself of the New Year’s tradition we have back home. We always have the fanciest dinner on Chinese New Year’s Eve to celebrate the family reunion; we sit at a big round table with a “lazy Susan” in the middle so we can talk to each other and reach the dishes easily. (In Chinese culture, round shape is the symbol of completion.) After the dinner, the children are excited to get “red envelopes,” which come with elders’ money and represent their wishes, while we enjoy New Year’s pastry, such as rice cake and steamed cake. Once our stomach is stuffed with delicious food, we go out to play firecracker and stay up until midnight to welcome the New Year.
Celebrating Chinese New Year in hotels is another novel trend in Taiwan since the phenomenon of low fertility reduces the family size. Many five star hotels provide not only delicate New Year’s Eve dinner menus but also delivery and take-out service. As this market is booming and competitive, hotels create their signature dishes or package to fascinate consumers. For example, Grand Hyatt Taipei prepared an exclusive grand gift box. The select items included Cantonese preserved pork sausage, air-dried mullet roe, stewed abalone, XO chili sauce and even western sweets, such as chocolates and walnut candies. Le Meridien Taipei featured its high-end limited item “Blissful New Year—Exclusive Silky (black-bone chicken) Ear-shells stew” to amaze consumers.
If you have not experienced Chinese New Year yet, I strongly recommend you fly to Chinese speaking countries or at least go to the closest Chinatown to experience the atmosphere. Remember that “Xin - nian - kuai – le”means “Happy New Year” and the red envelope represents auspiciousness and happiness. Next time, when Chinese travelers visit your property during Chinese New Year, a coupon in a red envelope and some basic Chinese wishes will not only build the relationship but also increase the customer loyalty.