By Mike Bastin.

Once again China is witnessing another ‘Golden’ holiday or half-week with the annual May 1st Labour Day holiday upon us. But is this a further indicator of China’s economic development or a signal of distress?

Certainly, tens of millions of excited Chinese consumers are doing their best to enjoy the break from work and either travel to scenic parts of China or beyond or simply stay at home and mix shopping expeditions with relaxing strolls through the local park.

Despite these apparent benefits, however these ‘Golden’ holidays are receiving increasingly fierce criticism, mainly for the congestion and disruption to the transport and service sector generally.

Such havoc on the roads and railways is, alas, a similar tale in most countries where May Day (or International Labour Day to use the official title) is a national holiday. The first Monday in May is designated as the national holiday in the U.K.and motorists are always warned of probable delays and dangers of travelling any great distance at this time.

In the case of China, however, such pressure on the service sector, where brand building has never been more important, can only be a good thing for the long term development of an internationally competitive economy.  

Over the last 10 to 15 years manufacturing and exports have driven China’s incredibly impressive economic emergence. But over the next 10 years or so it is domestic consumption and China’s service sector which needs to step up to the plate. The leisure sector in particular needs to play a key contributory role in the next wave of development.

However, the service sector and leisure most definitely, and the building of competitive brands in this area is not the same as manufacturing. Service brands are far more people-oriented which includes consumer involvement often at all times during the service experience and customer-contact staff ever present too.

Brand building in the service sector is, therefore, first and foremost about investment in the staff that design and deliver the end ‘product’, particularly investment in education and training and the establishment of a contented, motivated service delivery team. This, above all, should lead to great efficiency in service delivery and customer satisfaction which will result in fewer congestion and related problems over these ‘golden’ holiday periods.

Of course service infrastructure, especially where the transport sector is concerned, also requires much-needed investment and enhancement.

May Day activities commonly include visits to well known tourist attractions across China.  This also places great pressure on these particular service providers. However, such pressure should be seen positively as it ensures attention to every aspect of brand improvement and customer satisfaction. Tourism branding building, or destination branding as it is also known, involves a few sector-specific challenges not faced by other service sectors and tangible product branding. Pivotal to any success in tourism branding is overcoming the intangible nature of the tourism destination experience. Intangible due to the fact that no preview or trial experience is possible and no tangible product ownership results from the experience. Overcoming this or somehow ‘tangibilising the intangible’ can be achieved through the personification of the service brand, i.e. firm and lasting association of the brand with a suitable, real life or imaginary, person. Such an association forms a tangible image and emotional impression in the mind of the consumer. Tourist attractions which target children should of course consider new and innovative cartoon characters in order to personify and therefore tangibles the service brand. In general, effective personification will take place according to the ‘fit’ between the target market’s desired brand experience and their image of the object (person) used to establish brand personification. For example, a relaxing holiday resort for middle aged couples requires not just an association (and promotion) with a famous, attractive person of a similar age but also someone who carries a relaxing, charming image too.

China’s Golden holidays are a definite force for good; an essential catalyst towards conversion of the service sector and service brand building. Necessity is the Mother of invention.

Mike Bastin is PhD student at School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Nottingham.

Opinions expressed in the CPI blog do not represent the views of the China Policy Institute or the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham. They are the personal views of the bloggers/authors.

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