Here are three hot business opportunities for anyone entrepreneurial enough to take them. I’m not taking them because I’m an idea person, not an entrepreneur.
Beds: More and more Western tourists are traveling to China, yet the hotels still use Chinese style (i.e. very hard) beds. Many Western hotel chains are already here; I’ve seen a Holiday Inn and a Crowne Plaza, for example. All a hotel chain would have to do to attract a bigger proportion of the Western market is advertise that they offer Western-style beds. Since much of the tourist market right now is Chinese, all you would have to do is buy a few Western mattresses for a few rooms in each hotel. Then as the Western market share increases, designate more rooms as Western. So your investment would be gradual. My cut: 1% of your net increase in profits for the first ten years starting from the baseline profit of the year before you instituted the Western bed campaign. You don’t expect me to give these ideas away for free, do you?
Toilets: This idea would take significant initial investment, but would be sure to return large profits. Western tourists are begging for Western-style toilets and would be happpy to pay for them. They’re risking urinary tract infections by simply holding it in all day until they get back to their hotel rooms. Start by buying a concession in or very near the Forbidden City in Beijing. Install Western-style sit-down toilets. Publicize your guarantees: clean, non-smelly, sit toilets, supplied with toilet paper, with working flushes, hot and cold running water for hand-washing, and paper towels and air dryers available for hand-drying. Charge for the privilege of using them; Western tourists (especially women) would gladly pay a euro or so to use them over standard Chinese toilets. So would many middle-class Chinese women (I’ve seen them holding handkerchiefs over their noses and mouths as they enter standard toilet facilities.). Once the concession in Beijing takes off — and it will — open more branches near any site where tourists are likely to go. Publish flyers with lists of locations and the tourists will plan their days around where they can make toilet stops. Issue a card where visits could be checked off and every tenth visit is free. My cut would be 1% of net profit for the first 25 years.
English: This idea won’t make any actual profit, but would finance a long trip around China for anyone with fluent English and passable Chinese (Mandarin). You could travel from place to place with very little expenditure by trading your knowledge of English for room and board. Approach hotels with a CV of your credentials and offer to rewrite their signs, brochures, etc. into correct English. In exchange, require them to provide you with free room and board for a few days. Offer the same at popular tourist destinations in exchange for free admission. The only problem with this plan is that it would eliminate one of the greatest charms of traveling here: reading the garbled English on the signs. I can’t take a cut here, so this idea is free for the taking.