Canada China Business
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       July/August 2000


Expert Advice

Tips from the Road: The State of
Business Travel in China

While all is not yet perfect, logistics for Canadian business travelers have improved significantly in the last few years in China. From the installation of data ports in hotels to designating domestic flights as non-smoking, business travel in China is becoming less stressful and more efficient

For people who do not want to carry their own computers, the price for using e- mail services on hotel computers ranges from RMB60 to RMB120 an hour in hotel business centres. You can try to negotiate with the hotel if you have a lot of work to do. But cyber bars and cafes are proliferating even in small cities with prices ranging from RMB4 to RMB15 an hour. Often they are located around the corner from the high-priced hotels.     Many of these can access programs in English and their services are just as good as those in the hotels. Many programs, however, are in Chinese, but there is usually someone around who can translate.
   Discounts for hotel rooms in low season have been ranging from 20-50% off published rates and these can be obtained just by asking about them. Corporate discounts are even better. Discounts, however, continue to be non-existent during holidays and during events like the Guangzhou
Trade Fair prices may triple.
More hotels are now providing non-smoking rooms and some hotels have good gym equipment, ideal for guests who might otherwise have to jog in heavily polluted air.
Hotels
Five-star hotels with helpful business centres are in most major cities. Some good four-star hotels are now operating too. Most of these have executive floors with lounges, free buffet breakfasts and fax and secretarial services. Most, but not all, have staff who speak English well.
    If language is a concern, care should still be taken when booking a hotel. There are many hotels, including five-star ones that cater primarily to Asian business people. If you ask your business partners in China to book your hotel be aware that they may not be as concerned as you are about the availability of English-speaking personnel. If in doubt, it is best to specify international chains
such as Shangri-La, Sheraton, Hilton, Meritus, Harbour Plaza, Marriott, Sofitel, Zenith, and Crowne Plaza. Among the four-star hotels there is the Holiday Inn. Some of these well-known hotels will also try to temp you with free meeting rooms and dry-cleaning.
    Business travel should be getting easier as telecommunication services at hotels improve. The top hotels have been putting data ports into guestrooms and a few are
thinking about putting Web televisions into all their rooms. Some hotels now have voice mail, and almost all of the five-star hotels have in-room safes and e-mail addresses. But
not all hotel reservation offices
are reading their e-mail and it is still wise to follow up with faxes if they do not respond in a couple of days.
    
Air Travel
Chinese and foreign airlines are currently adding trans-Pacific flights, making
getting to China easier. In some places, like Guilin and Guangdong, visas for tourists
will no longer be required for stays of perhaps up to a couple of weeks. These new
regulations still await approval, but tourism officials in those areas are confident
they will soon be the rule.
    It is now easier to get domestic flight tickets even before you leave Canada. The China Travel Service's offices in Vancouver and
Toronto can get you just about everything for a fee. It's cheaper if you book flights once you arrive in China, but you can't always
get what you want then. You can usually buy tickets on regularly scheduled domestic
flights from any ticketing service in four and five-star hotels in all but high tourist season, especially during Spring Festival.
   One recent problem I've had was getting a flight booking from Lhasa to Chengdu while I was in Nanning. The Tibet flight
was a charter and not a regularly scheduled flight. But staff at the business centre
at the Majestic Hotel in Nanning persisted, and after telephone calls to Chengdu and Lhasa, they managed to make a reservation with tickets to be picked up in Lhasa.

Flights are more often on time than not, but a few airlines still have planes with seats that are uncomfortable for larger foreigners. Domestic flights are now all non-smoking and many airports have separate smoking rooms.


-------------------------
Business travel should
be getting easier as
telecommunication services
at hotels improve. The top
hotels have been putting
data ports into guestrooms
and a few are thinking about
putting Web televisions into
all their rooms.

-------------------------


Ground Transportation
With the opening of four- and six-lane expressways has come an increase in comfortable American-style air-conditioned
buses, big enough for large foreigners. Luggage is stowed in lockers accessible from outside and most buses have a video monitor showing Chinese movies, frequently with English subtitles. A few even have tiny toilets and a steward or stewardess. 

Bus destination signs are usually in Chinese, but hotels can send along staff to help you with your luggage and to find the right bus. These buses are worth it for trips between Chengdu and Chongqing, and Yichang, and Wuhan, for example, because they are faster than the trains. Often, they can be booked on the day you leave and you don't have to carry your luggage up and down flights of stairs by yourself. The down side is that you may face traffic jams
going in and out of these cities.

Business Services
Handing out your business card remains an essential part of doing business in China. If you've forgotten to bring yours, hotel business centres can usually arrange for a printer to make these in less than half a day. Even in obscure Liuzhou in Guangxi region, the Jingdu Hotel can get cards printed for about RMB25 per 100.

Ruth Lor Malloy is the author of China Guide. This article was written while Ms. Malloy was traveling in China.

 For additional current information on traveling in China, please visit her Web site at: www.china-travel-guide.com.

 

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