As the U.S. eases its visa policy, Chinese travelers heading to the U.S. continue to heat up.
California has emerged as one of the most popular destinations for Chinese travelers, reports the Chinese state-run Xinhua News Agency. Over 700,000 Chinese visit California each year, accounting for 46 percent of the total number of Chinese tourists who visit the States, said Leona Reed recently in Guangzhou, the capital of China’s Guangdong province. Leona is the senior director of international marketing at Visit California.
From 2002 to 2012, the number of Chinese tourists to California increased by 900 percent. China became the largest overseas tourism market for The Golden State. Reed expects that number to increase by 50 percent by the end of 2015. “The number of Chinese tourists visiting here in the first nine month has grown by 100 percent comparing with the whole of last year,” said a sales manager of SeaWorld San Diego.
Chinese tourists stay longer when visiting the States compare to travelers from other countries. They like to visit some of the iconic sites such as Golden Gate Bridge, national parks, Universal Studios, and Disneyland. They also spend more than tourists from other countries. They buy at regular luxury goods stores as well as at the outlets.
According to the latest data released by the U.S. Office of Travel and Tourism, Chinese tourists spend an average of $2,932 per visit to California, with 33 percent of their spending designated for gifts and souvenirs. Chinese visitors to California include professionals, executives, and managers who make $66,900 per year, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Reed highlighted two major trends among Chinese tourists: first, while the majority of Chinese tourists (70 percent) still travel in groups, the number of independent tourists continue to grow. Second, more Chinese tourists are selecting in-depth tours. In the past, Chinese tourists usually chose to visit eight or nine states, but now they may only visit two or three states and stay longer to see more sights.
California spent up to US$1.5 million annually to promote tourism in China. Many tourism organizations from the States have started to set up offices in China. Meanwhile, hotels, restaurants, outlets, and tourist attractions in California are going out of their way to attract more Chinese tourists. For example, Universal Studios is offering Chinese-language tours. Currently, they have four Chinese-speaking tour guides. They also offer Chinese food and beverage services, and has set up a Chinese website and a Weibo (China’s version of Twitter) account.
At the Desert Hills Premium Outlets in Cabazon, around 15 percent of the stores employ Chinese-speaking salesclerks. “Twenty percent of international clients are from China”, said Tricial Regan, sales manager of InterContinenal Los Angeles Century City. The hotel started to offer towel, toothbrushes, and other items which cater to Chinese consumers.