How Beijing’s tourism companies are dealing with the Coronavirus

The Coronavirus (or Covid-19, as it is now officially called) has been dominating the headlines around the world for weeks. For the most part, those stories have focused on the threat of the virus: threat to life, stability and the world economy.

But while there has been tragic loss of life and continued financial burdens for companies, very little has been said about how companies in one of the hardest hit industries, culture and tourism, are fighting on, and what they are doing to survive this difficult time.

Read on to hear from some of Beijing’s best-known companies, how they are coping and what you can expect from them next!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. No organisation in this post paid to be included, nor were they paid to be included. Some of the organisations interviewed are partners of Cultural Keys, some are not. Everyone was invited to share their and their company’s own experiences, with the assumption that everything their have shared is honest and reliable. Answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Amber Travel Tour operator

“We can work to help each other in this tough time. I have the confidence that in the near future our business will be back to normal or even better!”
Lily Shi, manager of Amber Travel

Amber Travel is a travel agency providing customized trips mainly to foreigners living in China. The company was started in 2017 and now has a team of 4 people.

“While our company is quite new, we have always striven to provide excellent service to our customers to make every trip an unforgettable experience. We try our best to meet their every need, as that is always our priority!”

What did your company have planned for this year before the virus hit?

Before the Coronavirus situation, we had a plan for 2020 and did a lot of up-front work in 2019. Our plan was to expand our market, including focusing on excellent weekend trips and themed tours to satisfy those clients who want to have a short getaway.

Have you heard anything from your customers about the situation?

We’ve had a lot of feedback from our customers. What we have heard most is our customers asking if the destination they want to go to is safe or not. In response to what’s happening in China now, all trips were cancelled in March and April. 

While no one would say it’s a good situation, I think the most positive aspect is knowing our customers support us as always. We see clearly from this how much they care. People who love travel will always travel! 

How are you dealing with the situation?

Now we are looking for some organizations and companies which we can work with in the future and are getting ready to do more marketing as soon as the situation gets better. Obviously maintaining cash flow to make sure we can survive this winter is of vital importance, since we still have fixed expenses every month.

Everyone in China is working in solidarity to fight the virus. I hope we can all get through this soon and if possible we can help each other in this tough time. I have the confidence that in the near future our business will be back to normal or even better!

Lily Shi, manager of Amber Travel

Website Address: en.ambertravel.com.cn
Telephone: + 86 13718131869

Black Sesame KitchenCooking classes in Beijing

“The internet has spread a lot of rumors about the disease. Unfortunately, many people don’t know what to believe. However, we believe we will overcome this period.”
Jen Lin-Liu, founder of Black Sesame Kitchen

Black Sesame Kitchen has been operating since 2008 and has 8 employees. They provide cooking classes and communal dining experiences and tourists are a large part of their market, about 50 percent.

“We provide a very unique dining experience and environment. We serve authentic Chinese cuisine in a beautiful courtyard and serve as a bridge between Chinese culture and the outside world.”

How has the virus situation affected business for you?

We have had to suspend operations for the time being, and have certainly had many cancellations and have been happy to offer refunds on deposits to guests who are unable to come. Guests of ours from around the world have reached out to us to ask how we are doing – thank you for your concern and support. We hope that it will not be long before we can resume normal operations at Black Sesame Kitchen and open our new, yet-to-be named restaurant!

How are you dealing with the situation?

We are constantly disinfecting our space and making sure that our staff stay healthy. We are actively looking for opportunities to help people affected by the coronavirus.

We expect that we will begin to resume normal operations once the government allows it. We will update our guests when the time comes and please do check in with us should you have any needs. 

What do you want people outside of China to know about the situation here?

The internet has spread a lot of rumors about the disease. Unfortunately, many people don’t know what to believe. Of course, it is a very serious public health threat to the world. However, we believe we will overcome this period.  I was in Beijing in 2003 during the SARS epidemic and China dealt with a very terrible blow then but the country overcame it. I believe we will overcome this as well. This requires international cooperation with the world and greater transparency. 

Jen Lin-Liu, founder of Black Sesame Kitchen

Email: [email protected]
Telephone: 86-1369-147-4408

Expats Holidays Tailored tourism operator

“How much you work on the self-improvement of either yourself or the company during this outbreak situation {directly affects} how much you will bounce back after Covid-19!”
Elisa Zhong – Expats Holidays

Expats Holidays opened in 2014. They are a team of young and diverse travel experts dedicated to providing travel consultations and customer service. They specialize in tailor-made tours for individuals, couples, families or groups of friends both inside and outside China.

“We are present in about 27 countries and over 90 destinations. Our mission is committing to deliver the ultimate travel planning experience for expats living in China. There are many travel consultants and customer services out there in China. We will not promise our team are the best in comparison to all of the other travel agencies, but we can ensure they have every client deeply in their heart”

Have you heard anything from your customers about the situation?

We are so lucky and appreciate our clients. Most of them are very calm and understand the situation. We have organized their questions into articles, which you can see below.

https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/q-_l_vh8Q1-B-vGSPcb_vA

https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/n2VqEEI81ICTrob8z_CFaA

https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/jNiSEYH_mIcUUQPyIhquFQ

https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/jNiSEYH_mIcUUQPyIhquFQe0ew

How are you dealing with the situation as a business?

We already have several actions in place.

1. We started to improve our product and adjust it based on the data we have for our client needs.
2. Travel consultants do a deep study into the destination they sell and improve their different abilities such as language, the insights into client needs, etc.
3. Customer services are planning to make a better feedback system and give to the client more valuable service, not only a flight check-in service.
4. The marketing team will continue to offer value travel content related to our client needs, and seek different opportunities to do company alliances.

5. We have improved the work effectiveness of the company, and tried to fix some problems to make work smoother and communication (more efficient).

Did you have a message you wanted to share with other businesses in the same position as you right now?

Both self-improvement of the company and staff is the most important thing we need to focus on right now. How much you work on the self-improvement of either yourself or the company during this outbreak situation (directly affects) how much you will bounce back after Covid-19! 

Elisa Zhong – Expats Holidays Product and Marketing Assistant Manager 

Website: www.expatsholidays.com
Email: [email protected]
Phone: +86 187 2197 8867
WeChat: ExpatsHolidays111

China Travel Service China’s largest travel service provider

“We wish to assure you that when China is free from travel alerts, our upgraded, even better and professional services will be provided to your guests to ensure a safe, worry-free, happy and unique travel experience.”  
CTS Newsletter

In their monthly newsletter published on February 12th to their partners and suppliers, CTS stressed that while difficulties were being faced by all in the tourism industry, everyone should maintain a positive business mindset.

The beginning of 2020 has not been easy, The virus has seriously damaged the tourism & tourism-related industries, yet, based on our past experience in fighting against 2003 SARS, we know that the virus will be gone when the weather gets warmer. Most importantly, with joint efforts working with the US, Japan, Canada and many other countries, we can have a profound impact to contain this growing threat.

Speaking of the support they themselves have received, CTS also wrote;

We are so touched and grateful to receive your messages of concern, condolence and support, which make us feel so warm and so close to all of you. We are safe and while working at home, we are taking time to do on-line training for our guides and our staff. We wish to assure you that when China is free from travel alerts, our upgraded, even better and professional services will be provided to your guests to ensure a safe, worry-free, happy and unique travel experience.

Website: www.hkcts.com/
Email: [email protected]

B Electrice-bike cultural experiences & rental

“Add some oil! We’re in this together. Just relax and do your best.”
Dominic De Couto – Co-Founder

B Electric opened about a year ago and currently have 2 main staff members and a few part-time guides. They refer to themselves as an e-bike cultural experience and rental company, offering tours in the historical hutongs (back alleys) of Beijing.

“We opened B Electric because our founders have a love for Beijing, the history, the culture and how much fun you can have here. We wanted to be able to show people this in a unique way, which is both exciting and educating. For us, it’s all about showing people what we believe to be the best of Beijing, like a local. And of course, a lot of our guests are tourists coming from other countries to visit the city or friends and families here. Our guests also include many expats that are living in the city and want to see more.”

How has the virus situation affected business for you?

Fortunately, we had planned for February to be quiet anyway as we thought it would be much colder than it was. We’ve had a couple of guests cancel through AirBnB because of the worry. I think that we are lucky with the guests we’ve had and that people that are interested in our experiences, because they’re usually pretty chilled, open-minded and reasonable people who understand the situation and don’t overreact.

While we mourn the the losses this virus has caused,  are you finding ways to focus on the future?

We’re starting an online channel where we will take people on eBike tours to places in the city so they can experience them and learn about them from wherever they are (both English & Chinese language). We’ve also had time to sit down and properly think about the future, whereas before it was all very busy. It’s also helped us to connect with other local businesses more which will help for the future. 

Do you have a message for potential customers and partners?

Add some oil! We’re in this together. I’ve learnt and am still learning to not stress. But just relax and do your best. For those with worries, right now, all of our tours are outside and away from any crowds of people. We can see these epic buildings and experience what it’s like riding through Beijing like a local in a fun and safe way. Plus, we would like to make some more business partnerships. So, if you’re interested in our business, add us and let’s talk!

Dominic De Couto – Co-Founder

WeChat: BElectric
Email:
[email protected]

Cultural Keys Chinese Culture CentreChinese culture workshops and presentations

And what of Cultural Keys ourselves? It has obviously hit us as hard as any other business. With no tourists coming into Beijing, and our village barring entry to any one who isn’t a resident, there has not been much we have been able to offer.

But of course, that doesn’t mean we can just sit around and count the days! Elisa from Expat Holidays said it best when she told us “”How much you work on the self-improvement of either yourself or the company during this outbreak situation (directly affects) how much you will bounce back after Covid-19!” That’s something we believe every company, no matter which industry they are in, should be taking to heart right now.

Keep pushing forward!

To that end, we are really keeping ourselves busy. We are in the process of updating this very website, adding more useful information with regards to Chinese culture, helping people find out more about the topics that interest them, while also letting them know about ones they may have never thought of.

We are also developing new products that we were originally planning on rolling out in the second half of the year, but now hope to be able to do so earlier. Those include lion dancing team-building workshops and several long-term martial arts classes, which we hope to start in April, depending on government advice.

Imagine doing this with your staff or students!

More immediately, in March we will be offering online presentations in a variety of topics related to Chinese culture, for free, via WeChat, with the first one being held on March 6th at 10am, and then every Friday after that for the rest of the month. You can sign up for once of those presentations by emailing us at [email protected] or adding AJDonnelly on WeChat.

At the end of the day, no matter how the situation looks now, we will likely all prevail; individuals, companies and countries alike. As Dominic from B Electric said “Add some oil! We’re in this together. Just relax and do your best.” Do that, and we’ll all be getting together again sooner rather than later!


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Are you interested in learning more about the traditional culture of China, and perhaps experiencing it for yourself?  Since 2013, Cultural Keys Chinese Culture Centre has been helping people doing exactly that.

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