The Chinese Takeaway ¨C The Beijing International Travel & Tourism Mart
2005 Follow-Up ¨C Meet Manaca Travel & Tours CEO, Andreas Kristinus.
06-21-2005 4:55 am
by Mel Webster, http://www.eturbopr.com/
When Manaca Travel and Tours CEO
Andreas Kristinus (also Principal of United Fairfax Travel /
American Express) decided to reserve a stand at Beijing¡¯s first
BITTM travel trade exhibition (April 20 ¨C April 23, 2005), there
were a number of staff rolling their eyes and giggling at his
quixotic mission. The opening of a ManacaChina representative
office in Beijing under the name of ManacaChina on May 25th, just
one month after the BITTM closed its doors, has silenced them.
Manaca / UFX got off on the right
foot in Beijing from the beginning. They hit the ground running as
they distributed printed materials in Chinese and were one of the
few exhibitors to have a Mandarin version of that all-important
admission ticket to dialog in Asia: the business card. Staffers were
amazed at the sheer number of tour operators clamoring for
information on destinations, schools and tours in the US,
particularly in view of the fact that such travel still constitutes
a great financial burden for the average Chinese.
The presence of a skilled translator
at the stand assured Manaca / UFX access to Chinese outbound tour
operators and their clients very real concerns regarding travel to
the United States. It soon became quite clear that the primary
stumbling block involves the non-immigrant visa required for all
foreign tourists to the US (not only Chinese nationals as is
commonly believed here) and misconceptions surrounding the visa
process in general. Mr. Kristinus and his exhibition assistant Ms.
Colleen Stricker, now heading the ManacaChina office, were prompted
to personally visit the U.S. Embassy visa section for clarification
and found embassy staff optimistic and helpful.
Armed with printed visa applications,
facts and figures, the UFX stand at the BITTM 2005 became the
perfect venue to dispel many of anecdotal accounts circulating as
fact. Sadly the introduction of post-9/11 increased security
measures by the US government coincided with a sharp increase in the
number of visa applications filed by Chinese nationals. The numbers
are now recognized to be in the area of 800 per day, or 250,000 a
year and rising. The unanticipated influx of visa applications was
met head-on by a greater degree of scrutiny than in the past. New
staff had to be hired and trained to implement changes in procedure,
prolonging the waiting period. It currently takes 45-90 days for a
visa applicant to be vetted and issued with a visa, but local
agencies are reporting an average success rate of 75%, up 10%. Many
Chinese travelers are unaware of the need for a visa or the time it
takes to get one. Local agents are quick to point out most Chinese
are not inclined to plan far in advance. Many have paid their
non-refundable processing fee only to find themselves left behind on
the runway the day of departure.
visa applicants are so anxious about the mandatory interview they
feel that they need to misrepresent their intentions. In reality, if
they simply detailed exactly what they're planning, it not only has
the virtue of being the truth, but it comes across as more sincere.
People who are able to articulate who they are, what they do, why
they want to go, what they're going to do when they come home are
going to do well in their interviews. ManacaChina has proposed
conducting preparatory sessions with a native speaker.
Another main issue raised repeatedly
by tour operators at BITTM 2005 was travelers very well-founded fear
of the unfamiliar, fear of getting lost in a place where they can¡¯t
read the signs or ask for help, fear they won¡¯t be able to eat
familiar foods or communicate with family left at home. The
exhibition provided an invaluable lesson in the importance of the
human element in travel. Mr. Kristinus returned to his UFX offices
in Washington DC with a brave new plan ¨C to provide the Chinese
visitor to the US a safe and exciting first glimpse of the country
while being extremely sensitive to cultural differences in life¡¯s
most basic essentials such as food and communication. UFX and
ManacaChina are taking the company¡¯s fundamental policies of
altruism and conservation to the human sector, incorporating the
appreciation of cultural differences into every phase of group tour
planning and execution.
We will check in with ManacaChina and
Andreas Kristinus for updates on their commitment to China and the
success they enjoy targeting this immense outbound market. The
ManacaChina business model is bold and well thought out,
strategically addressing barriers and providing solutions that are
enabling them to intelligently target this vast market.