US Tourism Mission Takes Social Media To China

In an era when Americans can learn a lot from the Chinese pertaining to various business practices, the Chinese are also welcoming new ideas from the West. A Tourism Mission scheduled for April 22- 29, 2011 will bring together educators and tourism professionals who are travel industry veterans. In addition to topics such as green energy, cost containment and management systems for the travel industry, the itinerary for this mission will also include the new field of social media.

Sunels International Inc. is a business consulting firm focused on building bridges between China and the U.S. Working with local Chinese and American governments, institutions, agencies, they help the U.S. and Chinese companies to establish and expand their business markets and presence in both countries.

Sunels InternationalSunels International
Under the direction of Sunels' president, Nelson S. Lee, the firm assists their clients to identify partners, raise capital, formulate development strategies, create value propositions and increase brand awareness to enhance value. Nelson notes that the company "prides itself in improving performance and delivering results as evidenced by our broad industry experience with driving high customer satisfaction."

International Social NetworksInternational Social NetworksWhile the the Great Firewall continues to present a challenge to those using social networks in China, hotels and airlines are beginning to utliize some of their home-grown local networks to engage users. Both Renren and Sina Weibo replicate much of the same functionality that Facebook and Twitter have to offer.

However for hotels to attract international travelers and expats who live in China, they also need to provide netizens with the opportunity to connect with Facebook and Twitter, in addition to their local services. Some users have set up virtual private networks (VPNs) to reach followers on Facebook and Twitter internationally.'s social media platform for the travel industry offers a service that can assist in this process.

And with over 50 hotels, airlines and restaurants on five continents already on board, will be reaching out to Chinese hotels and airlines during this tourism mission to explore the possibilities abroad.

Based on the premise that travelers can become a brand's strongest advocates, launched its 'confirmation' component to beta customers this past year.  Hotel and airline clients have integrated with to allow guests who book online to receive incentives for communicating with their followers on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. This month, the social media platform expands to include incentives for Web site visitors as well.

Engagement rates (ROE) for guests who book at a hotel online and then communicate with their social network followers and fans have ranged between 20 -35 percent (a very high conversion rate when compared to traditional advertising returns). confirmation confirmation page
Coming this month,'s new functionality will expand upon this success to offer similar incentives to anyone who visits the hotel's Web site, to essentially provide hoteliers with a trackable ROI utilizing social media. Offers such as guest room upgrades can be made available to all who connect through Facebook or post their name and email address.

Testimonials from existing guests or from a Web site visitor's social network following helps in the vetting process for a hotel with a trusted third party endorsement. (note below: Gil has already booked a room at this particular hotel).

Vouchers with one-time QR Codes are sent to all visitors and will remain valid based on the terms of expiration set up by the hotel.

Then periodically over the course of time the voucher is valid, the hotel can send out reminders that not only tell the visitor how much time remains before expiration, but also provides the visitor with the opportunity to pass the voucher along to friend if they don't think they will be able to use it themselves.

The new feature will be rolled out to all of's current beta customers that include the James Hotels in Chicago and New York, Tunes Hotels in SE Asia and UK, the Louis Group in Capetown, Africa, Aqua Resorts in Hawaii, the Divan Group in Istanbul, Turkey, The Talbott in Chicago, and the Eureka Casino Resort in Mesquite, Nevada.

While this tourism mission is exploratory, Sunels International has been very successful in surfacing "unrealized potential" for business exchange and cooperation between China and the U.S. In addition to this Tourism Mission, to date, Lee has been successful conducting previous missions that focused on both the banking and automotive industries. 

Jack Samuels, Ph.DJack Samuels, Ph.D

Dr. Jack Samuels, professor of Entertainment, Sports, Hospitality and Tourism at Montclair State College who has led many educational programs for the travel industryin the past was selected by Lee to be the coordinatng consulting of this mission. Joining him  are Harold Nolan, PH.D at Georgian Court College who will act as assistant coordinating consultant.  Anthony T. Catanoso, President of Atlantic City's Steel Pier is the amusement & attractions consultant. John Avella,  who will serve as the tourism/hospitality human resources & management consultant on the team was the Human Resource Director at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2001-02.  As a hotel marketing and social media consultant, I was honored to be asked to join this prestigious team of industry professionals.

"Coupling our broad multi-cultural experience and working jointly with our partners and clients, we can commit ourselves to identifying potentials between China and the U.S. and bring them into realization," adds Nelson.