Tourism business from across the Scottish Highlands and Moray are signing up to a new online teaching course in an innovative bid to improve communication with the fast-increasing number of Chinese visitors.
Inverness-based Loch Ness by Jacobite, Brodie Castle in Forres and Johnstons of Elgin are just some of the high-profile names taking part in a pilot programme to learn Mandarin over the internet.
Backed by local tourism agencies, the ‘Instant Mandarin’ programme aims to help Scottish businesses capitalise on the huge influx of Chinese tourists to the Highlands during recent years.
Instant Mandarin is an online teaching platform supported by China’s most well-known educational institutions which is now going live to western audiences for the first time. The programme’s website www.instantmandarin.com provides one-to-one Mandarin tuition, linking users directly with a personal tutor drawn from a pool of highly qualified teachers all based in China.
As well as structured one-to-one teaching sessions tailored to business, conversational and tourism needs, the programme also provides insight and practical advice about Chinese culture, customs and traditions.
“We are looking forward to working closely with Scottish businesses to help them to easily learn and understand more about the world’s most widely spoken language,” says Kevin Diao, Instant Mandarin’s founder.
“Our structured one-to-one sessions establish a close student and teacher learning relationship which literally brings the language to life, as well as providing a much more in-depth understanding of the nuances, culture and traditions behind this most complex yet beautiful of languages.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to bring some of the world’s most qualified Mandarin teachers directly into the homes and workplaces of those who engage with Chinese tourists on a daily basis, improving both the visitor experience and ultimately business performance with one of the world’s fastest-growing consumer markets.”
Cruise boat operator Loch Ness by Jacobite is one of the first organisations to sign up to Instant Mandarin, enlisting its tour operators and ticket sales team onto the course.
Kelly MacKenzie, the company’s Marketing and Events Executive explains: “We’ve seen a huge interest in Chinese visitors to Loch Ness during the last five years, and the more iconic parts of the Scottish Highlands are fast-becoming a fashionable destination for Chinese-based tour guides.
“We all subscribe to the concept of ‘Highland hospitality’ and learning and respecting the Chinese language is very much a part of that – especially for our customer facing staff.”
As well as Loch Ness by Jacobite, some 15 companies from across the Highlands have signed up for the pilot programme. These include Brodie Castle in Forres, operated by the National Trust for Scotland, The Highland Club luxury self-catering apartments in Fort Augustus, Dolphin Bay Suites, Cobbs Café and Bakery at Loch Ness, tour guide Rabbie’s Trail Burners and cashmere retailer Johnstons of Elgin.
The Instant Mandarin programme is backed by local tourism agencies including Visit Inverness and Loch Ness and Moray Speyside Tourism, and follows the recent ‘China Ready’ workshops organised by development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
“We need to support more practical initiatives like this geared to supporting local businesses connect with the growing Chinese tourism market,” says Graeme Ambrose, Chief Executive of Visit Inverness and Loch Ness.
“The number of Chinese visitors to Scotland has increased by 200 per-cent over the last decade, fuelled by direct flights and increased cruise ship business. This is a fast-growing tourist market and better communication can only improve the visitor experience for everyone concerned.”
Laurie Piper, Operations Manager of Moray Speyside Tourism adds: “As the home of the best Malt Whisky in the World, Speyside is at the top of many Chinese visitors’ itineraries. We want to make sure that our tourism businesses are equipped to offer our Chinese guests the very best experiences and the warmest of welcomes.”
More information on Instant Mandarin is available on: www.instantmandarin.com.