Madrid Airport Is Adapting For Chinese Passengers – Here’s How

Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport (MAD) is implementing a series of changes to help make Chinese visitors feel at home. Changes include new food menus and the ability to accept mobile payments

Madrid Airport to become Chinese friendly.Photo:CSA

According to a recent report from The United Nations World Tourism Organization, Spain is the second most visited country in the world after France. It is extremely popular with British and German tourists looking for summer beach vacations.

With an abundance of cultural sights in Madrid and high-speed rail connections to nearly every other major city in the country, Spain has seen an uptick in the number of Chinese tourists. It wants to pull out the welcome mat so that these visitors feel comfortable.

Every country is looking to attract Chinese tourists

With around 130 million Chinese traveling overseas each year, Chinese tourists have become a hot commodity.

Under Madrid Airport’s plan, which has not yet been shared with the public, the airport authority aims to work with Chinese communication and relations consultant Henkuai to make Madrid-Barajas a Chinese friendly airport.

All the signs in Madrid-Barajas now have signs written in Chinese. Photo: AENA

When speaking to Spanish daily periodical El Pais a spokesperson for the Spanish airport authority AENA said,

“We are carrying out a series of refurbishments to cover their specific needs. They are highly valued visitors because of their growth potential and high spending.”

One of the priorities for the airport is to attract high-end luxury goods vendors to the airport that sell luxury brand names that are popular in China. Another is to have catering that reflects different Chinese regions and their eating habits. All of the food being offered will be studied to make sure it is to their taste.

Chinese like to pay for goods and services using their mobile phones

One other place where China is ahead of Europe is the ability Chinese have to make payments for goods and services by using their mobile phones. Paying with your telephone is so popular that many young Chinese never carry a wallet because they no longer need to have cash.

WeChat Pay is a multi-purpose messaging, social media and mobile payment app. Along with UnionPay, it is a popular way of paying for things in China and something Madrid Barajas is looking into.

General Director of Henkuai in Spain Carlos Sentís told El Pais what must be done if Spain wants to attract more Chinese visitors, saying,

“If they want to attract Chinese tourists they have to optimize Chinese tourism. This doesn’t happen just by translating the signs and menus. You have to have Chinese workers in the shops, hotel receptionists should speak Chinese, tour guides as well. Communication is key, without that they’ll feel lost. If we want to attract them, we have to accept their differences and make their experience here as comfortable as possible.”

As an English speaking tourist in Spain, you will have no problem, as the Spanish resorts and cultural sites have adapted to please their English speaking tourists. An English speaker can spend weeks in Spain without ever speaking a word of Spanish.

The first step AENA has taken to make Madrid-Barajas welcoming for a Chinese tourist was to introduce a space for Chinese food in the VIP lounges. They now plan on expanding this by adding Chinese food carts at the gates of aircraft flying to China and having hot water stations so that Chinese passengers can prepare warm drinks and noodles.

How will Chinese tourists know that Madrid Airport is going to all this trouble?

To get Madrid- Barajas better known in China, AENA has created a profile on big Chinese social media sites like Xiaohongshu and WeChat. However, it is having little success.

Sentís says the best way to get people aware of what the airport is doing is to use Chinese social media influencers to promote Spain to prospective Chinese tourists.

Chinese tourists must wait 72 hours for a Spanish Visa. Photo: China Eastern Airlines

At the moment, France attracts the most Chinese visitors because they only have to wait 24 hours to get a visa. To visit Spain, they must wait for 72 hours.

Perhaps Madrid Airport should lobby the government to reduce the visa wait time to be more in line with France if they hope to attract big-spending Chinese tourists?

What do you think? Please let us know in the comments.