Shopping street Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. (Flickr/Sharon Mollerus)
Los Angeles may have seen a quadrupling of its Chinese tourist numbers in the last four years, but it is not going to rest on its laurels. According to a recent report from southern Californian economic development organization Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAECD), Chinese tourists have become the city’s largest tourism market, and the influx will only grow in the coming years.
According to the report, Los Angeles had 158,000 visitors from China in 2009. In 2013, that number was 570,000, a near fourfold increase, and a 21 percent jump from 470,000 in 2012. That puts China as the number one source of tourists for the city. That also means that nearly a third of the 1.8 million Chinese tourists into the United States, according to statistics from the National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO), stopped by the City of Angels in 2013.
“The futures of Los Angeles and China are inextricably tied together,” states the report, commenting on the impact that Chinese tourists and Chinese-Americans have on Los Angeles’ economy.
The state has embarked on several efforts to achieve its stellar draw to Chinese tourists. The California Travel and Tourism Commission, established in 1998 to promote California as a prime travel destination, opened offices in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou over the past year to capitalize on those growing markets.
At the city level, the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board has launched several initiatives to contribute to tourism efforts. The tourism board created a NiHao China program that includes training initiatives to help LA hotels, attractions, and businesses fine-tune their services for Chinese tourists, as well as an integrated consumer marketing campaign to increase the city’s visibility in China.
Such efforts paid off when a 7,000-strong group of Chinese tourists recently made Los Angeles their travel choice for a company reward trip, creating a windfall for the local retail and tourism industry.
The LAECD report cites a recent analysis by Asian equity brokers CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets that predicts the number of Chinese visitors to the United States will triple from 1.5 million in 2012 to 5.7 million by 2020. The report also says that Los Angeles County could see anywhere from 1.5 to 2 million Chinese visitors by 2020, a development that would benefit hotels, restaurants, cultural venues, tourist attractions, and luxury brand retailers.
Los Angeles’ China focus has not gone unnoticed by Chinese leaders. “In fact, the President of China Xi Jinping has called Los Angeles the epicenter of the U.S.-China relationship,” says the report, as it sums up the city’s efforts to make China integral to its development plans going ahead. China is also poised to overtake several major tourist sources to the United States. According to the NTTO, China is currently the seventh-largest source of tourism into the United States, but if its tourism growth rates sustain through 2018, it will jump to be number four.