Tourism Boards Strategize To Take Advantage Of Booming Travel Numbers
As a wide spectrum of international tourism-associated businesses including hotels and retail shops adjust their services to cater to Chinese travelers, U.S. tourism boards are getting in on the action. Major Chinese tourist destinations including Los Angeles, Seattle, and Hawaii have all implemented new strategies to further encourage a substantial influx of high-spending Chinese visitors.
The city of Los Angeles, for example, recently opened its second tourism office in China after seeing a rapidly growing number of Chinese visitors. The office, located in Shanghai, hopes to encourage this trend. China is the city’s top source of tourism, with 460,000 visitors in 2012, a 35.5 percent increase from the previous year. According to officials, the number is expected to grow by 70,000 visitors in 2013. Chinese tourists are also the city’s second-highest spenders with an average of $1,326 per visit.
“If we do what we should do, our share of the Chinese tourism market could be much higher,” said Ernest Wooden, Jr., the new head of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, to the Los Angeles Times. To further promote Chinese travel to the city, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa willl travel to Beijing from May 26 to 29. Los Angeles was the first U.S. city to open a tourism office in China when it started one in Beijing in 2006.
Another west coast city, Seattle, saw its lucrative Chinese traveler numbers rise after it was featured as the setting for the popular Chinese romantic comedy Finding Mr Right. The city’s China marketing team, i2i, is leveraging the film by referencing it in Chinese promotional material whenever possible. Seattle has seen its biggest increase in visitors coming from China in recent years.
Hawaii, which sees a large volume of Chinese tourists thanks to its proximity to Asia, has launched a tourism and shopping website to prepare for Golden Week in October.
The website, which was created by partners Affinity China, the Hawaii International Film Festival, and Luxe Travel Hawaii, is named 17HAWAII, which in Chinese sounds similar to “I want to go to Hawaii.” The Chinese-language website provides advice for visitors on attractions, shopping, and places to eat and stay.
For all of these locations, logistical changes including increases in direct flights from China and reduction of visa application difficulties are major factors in raising Chinese travel numbers. Seattle saw a significant rise in visitors in 2008 when Hainan Airlines began non-stop flights between Beijing and Seattle, and Los Angeles officials have expressed the need for more direct flights to China. In addition, the U.S. State Department has been making efforts to improve the visa application process to the United States by decreasing wait times and making it easier to schedule appointments.
With total Chinese tourist numbers to the United States expected to hit 1.7 million in 2013, both tourism boards and businesses alike are finding it crucial to understand this segment’s needs.