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Serving Chinese tourists can be a challenge to restaurant owners

6/6/2017 4:31 PM

From Chinese point of view Finnish food often lacks variety, colour and spices. Restaurant owners do their best fulfil the demands.

 The increasing number of Chinese tourists to Rovaniemi in the recent years has created a demand for food favoured by them.

 Although there are three Chinese restaurants and a number of restaurants including those that serve local cuisine in the city, the question still remains whether Rovaniemi is ready to provide the Chinese tourists with proper food.

 The issues were raised by Xing Liu from Natural Resource Institute Finland (LUKE) in a seminar recently. In her paper on “Remember these things when serving Chinese guests”, Liu highlighted various characteristics of Chinese tourists and the necessity to pay proper attention to ensure food services for them.

 The paper said Lapland recorded a double rise in overnight stays by visitors from China and HongKong in 2016 and the total demand for travelling in Finland will grow by more than 30 per cent over the next couple of years. 

 The main reasons that attract Chinese visitors to Lapland, Xing Liu said, are the presence of Santa Claus, the unique natural features of Lapland such as aurora, pristine forests and lakes, ice and snow, many years of marketing efforts made by Visit Finland, Visit Rovaniemi, travel agencies and tourism industry participants in Lapland, and business promotion made by the Chinese e-commerse company Alibaba.

 Xing Liu, however, found a number of loopholes in service provision to the Chinese tourists, including lack of variety and very unattractive food, cold drinks served with meals, lack of spices etc, as Chinese consider good food to have three elements – colour, flavour, and taste. She said most of the Chinese are intolerant of dairy products and many Chinese want to have hot drinks (tea or hot water) during the meal.

 “At this moment, it is very difficult to fulfil the food demand of Chinese tourists properly. The important issue is not only the number of restaurants but the variety and styles of food and service offered in different restaurants. Chinese travellers are becoming increasingly interested in experiencing different local food culture as their 'life experience', while having Chinese foods in Chinese restaurants are still most common”, Xing Liu told our reporter.

 She said Chinese restaurants are highly demanded as the local ones are either not competitive economically or spatially available for them on time.

 “Local restaurants offering economically affordable Lappish food with fixed menus (such as 'Rovaniemi menu') are highly in demand, but their prices are 10–30 percent higher than the Chinese food menus depending on food quantity and variety”, she pointed out.

 Local restaurants with special-feature menus (high-premium, specially designed) and outstanding services are highly appreciated by these travellers as it is considered experiencing the real local culture.

Xing Liu said, at this moment there are not many of such restaurants in Rovaniemi due to a strong seasonal variation in tourism, adding that some high ranking restaurants are always fully booked in advance (such as Nili).

 The restaurant authorities, both local and Chinese, however claimed that they are paying extra attention to the Chinese tourists to cope with their increasing number.

 “We have given extra attention to the Chinese customers and introduced our food menu in Chinese language two years ago, following an increase in the number of Chinese customers”, said Katri Ruotsalainen, manager of Nili restaurant.

 Zhang Heng, manager of the Chinese restaurant Hai Long, told that there is a separate place in his restaurant for the Chinese people so that they can enjoy their meal here at their own ethnic atmosphere.

 “The number of Chinese restaurants has been increasing at a good pace in Rovaniemi and, at the moment, it matches the needs, but, of course, high season is pretty booked,” said Visit Rovaniemi Managing Director Sanna Kärkkäinen.

 She said in Jan-March 2017 the number of registered overnight stays by the Chinese tourists, including those from Taiwan and HongKong, was about 24700 accounting for approximately 15 percent of all foreign overnightings in Rovaniemi.

 Last year the growth was huge and China topped the source countries for tourists in Rovaniemi with almost 30000 bednights gained, she added.

 City of Rovaniemi - Daily Finland Report